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Beyond the Blush

Do you have a blush that does't go away? Do you look sunburned even though you haven't left the office for a week? If you answered yes, you might be dealing with rosacea.

Rosacea, a facial skin disorder, might appear for a few hours or a few days. It might disappear for months and then reappear with no warning at all. Sometimes it shows up with pimples, flaking or small visible blood vessels. Sometimes it is just a splotch or two.

No one knows what causes rosacea. It’s a chronic skin condition, like eczema and acne, that looks worse than it is. It can’t harm you internally, but it can cause severe discomfort.

Yet rosacea is not rare—it affects more than 16 million Americans, according to the Rosacea Society, including former president Bill Clinton. Many suffer in silence or try to treat it themselves, usually with harsh cleansers or pore-clogging heavy makeup.

If you have rosacea, the first thing you should do is see a dermatologist. “Treatment options include avoiding the specific triggers, gentle cleansing skin care, topical medications that reduce redness and inflammation, oral medications that are more aggressive ways to reduce redness, and laser treatments to decrease redness and larger blood vessels that may form,” says New York-based dermatologist Dr. Michael Eidelman.

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The next thing you can do is identify your rosacea triggers. The most common are: sun and heat exposure, especially saunas or steam rooms; weather that is either very hot and humid, or very cold and windy; heavy exercise and sweating; alcohol, particularly red wine; spicy foods; hot drinks; and stress. It may be helpful to keep a trigger diary so that you can stay on top of what makes things worse.

After that, take a good look at your skin care products. You’ll want to use gentle products designed for sensitive skin; avoid toners, astringents, exfoliants and peels, especially if they contain alcohol or witch hazel. And choose products that are free of fragrance and synthetic preservatives. Look for a system like Paula’s Choice Hydralight Complete System, specifically designed to calm redness, and don’t forget the sunscreen.

Then, develop a makeup routine that will minimize the redness without causing any more irritation. Here are some tips:

1. Use a moisturizer designed to hydrate as well as calm your sensitive skin, such as Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Replenishing Moisturizer.

2. Look for a primer that has a green or yellow tint, as that will neutralize a lot of the redness. Try Smash Box Photo Finish Primer, or Jane Iredale Smooth Affair Facial Primer and Brightener for even coverage.

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3. Mineral-based foundations are gentle on skin and give the best coverage. “Because mineral makeup has more pigment than traditional makeup, it can be used to give opaque coverage while maintaining a natural, clean finish,” explains Jane Iredale global educator Shawne Towne.

4. Apply foundation and concealer with a soft brush instead of your fingers or a sponge. “Friction can also aggravate the condition, so using an abrasive cloth and buffing products on your skin won’t help,” adds Towne.

5. Be aware of your color palette, and stay away from any bright reds, particularly on your lips. Soft neutrals will look much better. You likely won’t need to use much blush, if any, and certainly not any bronzer. Using subtly dramatic eye makeup will also draw people to your peepers and away from your cheeks.

Finally, there is a tremendous amount of useful information on the National Rosacea Society website.

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