Here’s How a Beauty Pro Keeps Her Rosacea Under Control

A makeup pro and beauty journalist shares how she uses skin care and makeup to manage rosacea flare-ups, boost her confidence, and be happy.

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Rose Gallagher RosaceaCourtesy Rose Gallagher

Managing rosacea flare-ups

Millions of people living with rosacea struggle with how to handle it, or even how to ask for help facing it in the first place. When Rose Gallagher, a beauty journalist and a makeup professional, was diagnosed with rosacea about two years ago, she decided she would not be one of those people—and that she would help others follow her lead.

A look into rosacea

I’ve worked in makeup for so long that when I started experiencing redness on my face a couple years ago, I was just adjusting my routine to cover it up. I really didn’t think anything of it—I figured everyone gets rosy cheeks from time to time.

But one day about two years ago, I was with one of my friends who has been working as a beauty journalist even longer than I have. I didn’t have any makeup on and she told me she thought I should get my redness looked at, that it might be rosacea.

Going to see a dermatologist

At the time, I knew next to nothing about rosacea. If you’d asked me what rosacea was, I would have told you about the type in which you get a bulbous nose and it’s very, very apparent. But after going to the dermatologist, I learned that there are actually four different types of rosacea and the one I knew about was just the most extreme (called erythematotelangiectatic rosacea).

I had two of the milder forms: the one that causes flushing and redness and the one that causes some texture on the skin. And just like I didn’t know that there were multiple forms of rosacea, I had no idea that rosacea was something you could treat.

My first rosacea treatment

My dermatologist prescribed me an azelaic acid cream, which really helped reduce the texture on my skin but didn’t affect the redness as much. To reduce that, she recommended a new skin care routine for rosacea that gave me a bit of whiplash—it was basically the polar opposite of what I was doing.

I used to love skin care products made with very rich formulas and a wide variety of ingredients and scents and I would exfoliate my skin a lot. But she put me on a very simple, gentle routine of mild, completely fragrance-free products.

She recommended the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Fluide, a very runny, light lotion, and the Effaclar Cleanser, which is a cream that will melt off all of your makeup. She told me to try to avoid using flannels and towels to rub the makeup off my face and instead apply the cleanser with my hands.

I’m very pale so I was already good about using an SPF-50 every day, so I stuck with that. But that was it—very simple and minimal.

Recognizing rosacea triggers

As I got more into the swing of my new routine, I began to identify foods that trigger rosacea flare-ups.

For me, white wine is something that will definitely give me a textured rosacea flare-up, as will sugary foods and some spicy foods. I haven’t cut these out entirely—I’m a big believer in enjoying the things that make you happy—but I’m more mindful of when I have them. So if I have an event or a party coming up for which I want to feel really nice, I’ll make sure I don’t have any trigger foods the day before.

If I’m feeling a bit more rundown than usual—if it’s the time of the month or I’ve had a really busy week—it will come out on my skin. But instead of beating myself up, I try to take it as an indicator that I need to slow down a bit or take a moment for myself.

At the same time, I’ve also noticed that sometimes nothing will trigger it. I’ll be eating healthy and sleeping well and doing everything I’m meant to do and the rosacea will still rear its head. So even though there is a level of being able to monitor it, I’ve learned that I also need to relinquish control and accept that it is going to pop up from time to time.

Makeup for rosacea flare-ups

I’ve always loved playing with makeup and I really enjoy the ritual of it. So in recent years, I’ve enjoyed finding ways to make my makeup work with my rosacea. The first thing to consider is that rosacea often makes the skin hot to the touch, so makeup is probably more prone to melting away than it would be on the average person.

My solution: I believe that if your skin is really hydrated, it’s not going to try and drink the moisture from your makeup. So first I prep and moisturize the skin with something really hydrating and fragrance-free. A lot of the French pharmacy brands that are relatively inexpensive are perfect for this. (I love La Roche-Posay and CeraVe.)

Then when I go in with my face makeup, I put a nice sheer layer all over and a little bit more in the areas where I have redness—it gives the illusion of a lovely, bouncy, hardly-there makeup with an extra bit of support where you need it.

Finally, locking it into place with a little translucent powder or a setting spray is so important. Since the skin is hot to the touch it’s going to be desperate to pull away at your makeup, so arming it with an extra bit of locking power makes a world of difference.

If I’m having a rosacea flare-up, I avoid anything too luminous and go back to neutrals, since anything too shiny will just accentuate the texture on the skin. And I always go for a nice bright lipstick. People will be too busy looking at your pout to notice anything else that’s going on. (Here are some more rosacea makeup tricks.)

Thriving and surviving with rosacea

I no longer use the prescription rosacea cream and I’ve been able to mostly manage my rosacea flare-ups with my simple skin care routine. I present on QVC for a makeup brand, and when I tape my segments, I always start makeup-free and build my makeup as I go along.

It’s as if something inside me knows every time that it’s coming up on my schedule because I wake up that morning with a flare-up. But to be honest, I’m glad that it happens. I feel like we don’t see rosacea an awful lot, but it’s a thing so many people have. I’m happy to be that person who someone might look at and think, “My skin looks like that too.”

I want people to know that the things that might make it better aren’t expensive, which is why I like to share my advice and recommendations on my blog. Often people assume the more money you spend, the better quality product you get, and that really isn’t always the case. I also don’t want them to feel guilty for worrying about their skin or asking for help. If you do, you can see a big improvement in a really small space of time.

Next, learn about the rosacea treatments that worked for this woman.