Rosacea: Dr. Obvious Strikes Again

Have you ever been shocked by something that shouldn’t have surprised you at all? Has your world ever been rocked by the most mundane, most non-newsworthy of details?


Last month, I– the Queen of Slow Learning– came to not one, but two, such ‘startling’ realizations:

1. I have rosacea!

2. This is not a new thing!

A few days after my birthday

Indeed, when I started scanning through old photos of myself, it finally dawned on me that my cheeks have sported a signature pink flush for the past 8-9 months at the very least. I was reddish when we got to be Honorary Lighthouse Keepers for a night. I was rosy-cheeked for our fancy foray into Vancouver’s performing arts scene. I was blushing when Marty whisked me away on a snowshoeing date, Bachelor-style. I even sported some splotches when a new-to-me hairdresser chopped off my mane and beat it into awkward muffin-top submission.

Yahoo! It’s a time machine rosacea medley!

Why had I never noticed this before?

I guess technically I had noticed a slight flushing in my cheeks before last month, but I had always found a clever way to rationalize it as a temporary condition rather than an ongoing affliction:

Oh, it was cold outside.

Yeah, I just finished working out.

It was hot and crowded inside.

I was nervous that night.

The air was dry!

I was wearing wool.

It’s just a bit of wind burn.

When it finally (finally!) became evident that my ruddy complexion was more than just a passing phase, I became gravely concerned. What hadn’t bothered me in the least before suddenly became a Very Serious Issue– not a life-threatening one, obviously, but one step shy of that. πŸ˜‰ (After suffering from terrible acne for most of my youth and young adulthood, I developed an overarching need for my skin to be nothing less than naturally flawless forever more. Call me vain, but all the skin cells must be perfect all the time now!)

Lest we forget

Anyway. Marty and I tried searching for the cause of my rosacea. Was it heat related? Diet? Stress? Standing in the sun (albeit lathered in evil sunscreen) for 14+ hours a day? It could be all of those things, some of those things, or none of those things at all. Obviously, the only way to find out for sure would be to turn myself into a human laboratory. Long live the scientific method!

First, I paid a visit to my awesome doctor, Personal Jesus, and in his humble, holy fashion, he prescribed me this:

I just want to kiss* my doctor every time he writes me a “prescription” like this. (*A non-romantic, European-style cheek kiss, that is.)

(Not pictured on the script was his recommendation to avoid caffeine, too, but I took that particular advice to heart and cut out the last of my caffeinated vices– chocolate– right after my appointment with him. I know.)

Next, I wrote my sister– the virtual fountain of natural health knowledge– a short e-mail to find out what she could add. My message to her essentially read, ‘Hey Wenz! Rosacea? xoxo’ and was responded to promptly with a mini-thesis on DIY Rosacea Fixes, ranging from specific foods to Bach Flower Remedies to affirmations I could say to my skin every morning in the mirror. I continued to chow down on raw sauerkraut after reading her e-mail and cut out my blessed fresh ginger, but I haven’t quite resorted to talking to myself in the mirror just yet. πŸ˜‰

My third step was to visit my acupuncturist, who asked me about my sugar intake (cough!) and then used a combination of needles and a tuning fork to draw heat away from my cheeks and down towards my feet. On her gentle but effectively panic-inducing suggestion, I also cut sugar out of my diet following my appointment with her. Yes, you read that correctly:

I … cut SUGAR … out of my diet!

If that doesn’t demonstrate my commitment to making my skin cells perfect once again, nothing ever will. I am a sugar fiend!

It’s been two months without chocolate now (gasp!), 1.5 months without favourite staples like fresh ginger, turmeric, and cayenne pepper in my morning tea (cough!), and just under a month without sugar, save for a solitary teriyaki box in a moment of weakness (choke! splutter!). I’ve been wearing a hat, sunglasses, and a good litre of the devil’s sun block every day to work, and I’ve also been saying no to even mildly spicy foods, just like a good little rosacea sufferer should. (I didn’t even have cake– or any sweet treat, for that matter– on my birthday! Marty bought himself a slice of cheesecake and asked me to blow out the candles in a symbolic birthday ritual, though. Does that count?)


So far, I haven’t noticed any dramatic (or even subtle) improvements in my skin, but my mid-section sure feels sleeker without my near-daily peanut butter cookie habit. πŸ™‚ Go figure, hey?

Anyway, this whole post has been a long-winded back story to my short/anti-climactic announcement that I’m going in for food allergy/sensitivity testing later this afternoon. I know, right? Strike up the band! (Apologies for the huge build up to this meh announcement, but it’s been a long time since I’ve found an hour to sit at my computer and blog.) My instincts tell me that this newfound rosiness is somehow food-related, so hopefully my testing can shed some light on the foods that do my body good (as well as those foods that do it not-so-good.) It’s one thing to eat healthily, but even ‘healthy’ foods are tolerated differently by different people, right? (Cashew nuts and explosive intestinal issues, I’m talking to you!)

I’m optimistic about the magical secrets that my sensitivity read-out will reveal. As long as I’m not allergic or seriously sensitive to oats or cinnamon, I should be good. (And yes: I thought about this long and hard and decided that rolled oats would be the most challenging food for me to take out of my diet. I AM SUCH A GEEK.) Wish me luck!

42 responses

  1. Hey, hey, hey … first to comment !
    A wikipedia search suggests a mild reddening of the face is pretty much a normal result of being out in the sun and the wind. Just check the leather-faced Terry.
    Really can’t see this as a problem unless it expanded to ” a red lobulated nose (rhinophyma)” aka “drunkard’s nose” (my words), and I doubt if that is going to happen .. to you.
    A bit of outdoor ruddiness is a good thing in my books. Beats the heck out of the flawless sterile look of an indoor recluse.

    • The problem is, Dean– I have this reddening even in the off-season (when I am being a flawless, indoor recluse!) I get that standing outside all day is no good for my youthful complexion, but if it’s only sun related, why has it only cropped up now, in our fourth season on the causeway? Methinks something more is at play, though I do appreciate you trying to make me feel better about the redness. πŸ™‚

      • I understand and appreciate your concern that something may be wrong. But there may not be, it could be well within the ‘normal” range. You are wise to see if it represents something that could become more serious, but remember how many women make a point of adding blush as a complement to their appearance (or at least, used to).
        Change with age is inevitable, and the only thing worse than aging is not aging.

        • I’ve actually been seeing a lot of blush-wearing people down on the causeway this year, and every time I see one, I think to myself “why???????” I’d gladly donate a bit of redness to their cause. πŸ˜‰

          I just have a sense that something is off. It could be unfounded, but who knows? My gut instinct could also be correct. I guess we’ll find out sooner or later!

  2. Fun post, Dana. I suppose I have the same affliction–both in terms of skin and in slowly realizing the obvious. I personally loved the build up to the drum roll of medical testing. Good luck. May the skin win.

    • Thanks, Kathy. When my posts are few and far between, I feel like I have 8 million things to say and only about 1000 words to say them in. Hence, a super-long back story to get to the piddly little announcement about my sensitivity testing. πŸ˜‰

      I’ve never had an issue with reddening before. My skin browns easily, but ruddiness has never been a problem until recently. I think it’s diet-related simply because it doesn’t seem to get better or worse based on my outdoor time or exposure to the sun. My diet has stayed pretty consistent throughout all of this, but maybe one of my so-called healthy staples is causing a bit of inflammation in my body? (I have to give my body credit, though. If it was ‘just’ a problem with my digestion or even my weight, I probably wouldn’t be motivated enough to do anything about it. When it comes to my skin, though, I listen and take action!) My body has hit me exactly where it hurts. It did the same thing before I finally cut out dairy. πŸ˜‰

  3. Dana – I loved reading this post, and thoroughly enjoyed the photographs you sprinkled throughout.

    You’re absolutely accurate in your assessment: “It’s one thing to eat healthily, but even β€˜healthy’ foods are tolerated differently by different people.”

    If you’re not already familiar with it, there’s a wonderful book you may want to look into (perhaps your library has it?). It’s called PRESCRIPTION FOR NUTRITIONAL HEALING.

    • Thanks for the recommendation, Laurie. That book used to sit on a pedestal, open like a bible, when I worked at a natural foods grocery store years ago. Silly me– I never really checked it out before! That was actually one of the books on my sister’s “To Consult” list as well, so maybe the universe is nudging me to look under ‘rosacea’ there. πŸ™‚

  4. Good luck with the allergy testing. Having had a week with my daughter totally broken out in a nasty hivey rash I think I’d by okay with the rosacea, but she’d be with you 100%.

    • Thanks for the perspective, Lisa. Intellectually, I understand that rosacea is a walk in the park compared to many other bodily afflictions, but deep down, I DREAD having anything ‘wrong’ with my face! I guess I just see any changes in my complexion as a sign of underlying imbalance, so I want to figure it out and hopefully get my skin and entire body back on the right track to health. I’m thankful that my body has a way to let me know when something is out of whack, but I’m also upset that the whole world can see it on my face, too. πŸ˜‰

      I hope you were able to pinpoint the cause of your daughter’s rash. Oh, sensitive souls– we put up with so much!

  5. Oh missy Dana, I feel for you sooooo much. Because, guess what? A few months ago a doctor said I had this TOO! Mine were more like breakouts of little red dots. Yours looks more like a generalized flush. I was wondering about food, too, but later discovered it was probably caused by stress in a certain area of this life. The stress abated and now the skin has (mostly) turned dot-free. Any areas of stress in your life? (Laugh! In whose life does stress not visit?)

    • Hahaha, Kathy. I have to laugh at this comment because my summer months basically involve stress with a bow on top! My doctor also talked about stress with me, and my sister asked if I was energetically “allergic” to certain situations, which obviously (as a human being), I am. πŸ™‚ Having such a huge workload during the summer is a big source of stress to me, but it’s also a source of motivation and pride (i.e. good stress!)

      I haven’t figured out how to navigate our summer selling season without stress just yet. Even when I’m not consciously or emotionally *stressed out*, on a physiological level, I’m sure my adrenal glands are still overworked. The sensitivity testing this afternoon will hopefully sort out one piece of the overall puzzle, but I’m going to have to find a way to chill out during the months when our business really heats up, too. Thanks for the insight!

  6. Funny, now that you mention it, your cheeks have been redder. I would not have given it another thought either. I was perversely disappointed when I went for allergy testing and discovered that I was not allergic to anything, even stuff I had previously reacted to as a kid. I like answers to the big questions in life like why are my cheeks flushed or why are there weird bumps on my upper arms. I hope your investigation is more fruitful. Cutting out sugar – that’s a serious step. Ginger though, I have to admit, that makes me plain sad. Would that mean you’ve moved your body too far out of the damp zone?

    • Excellent question, Rose! I’m sure I’ve talked to you (ad nauseum) before about my dampness issues. Turns out, although the two main meridians (spleen and stomach) are definitely related, they are not interchangeable, meaning that I’m dealing with both too much heat in the stomach and not enough heat in the spleen/intestines. Awesome. Fabulous! I need to find out which foods help stoke the digestive fire *without* aggravating the stomach meridian, too. Bah. Maybe I’ll just live on plain porridge and call it a day.

      PS: Here’s hoping that the testing will yield some results. I never even considered that my big questions wouldn’t find answers (or hints of answers). Yikes!

  7. No sugar?! You are amazing, woman. Well, I am glad you are finally on track to figuring out what it is and what causes it. I have super red skin on my cheeks all the time. I also blush
    easily and I can’t drink alcohol as it will actually flare up and burn red, like I’m flushing. I have always wondered what it could be…hm…

    • It sounds like you’ve got a complicated riddle on your hands, Darla. Alcohol definitely sounds like a no go for you. My ears usually flush when I have alcohol, so the only time I include it in my diet is as a base for my homemade vanilla extract. πŸ™‚ My testing this afternoon was pretty awesome– super informative, if a teensy bit soul crushing and devastating. I’ll try to craft a riveting post about it and keep you all in the loop!

  8. Dr Obvious strikes in our lives – it’s so much easier to see other people’s issues than our own! I hope your doctor is able to continue helping you and it’s good you are looking into this more. Take care hon xx

    • Thanks, Christy. What’s that old saying– we complain about the specks in other people’s eyes but fail to see the logs coming out of our own… Something like that. It’s funny that I never really noticed the redness before, but now I can’t stop paying attention to it! BAH! I have so many new leads after my appt this afternoon. I’m excited (but also nervous) to tailor make my diet to include only the foods that work for *me*. Spoiler alert: onions and garlic are out! (Say what?)

  9. I’ve never noticed that on you! How’s the no sugar thing going this time?? I hope it works, or do I? A life without sugar doesn’t sound like much fun. Wonder if it’s brought on by stress….?

    • It’s amazing how motivated a skin condition makes me in this latest ‘no sugar’ quest. In previous attempts, I would have fallen off the wagon long ago, but I am COMMITTED to getting this rosacea off my face. Vanity goes a long way, hey? πŸ™‚

      Stress could be another factor for sure, but it seems strange that the flushing would have first appeared in our off-season, when the most stressful thing I have to ponder on a daily basis is which movie to watch. πŸ˜‰

  10. Wow, Dana, you are a trooper. I’ve cut way down on sugar myself.

    I’ve done Atkins with virtually NO sugar several times. Now I’m down to very little. I’m probably under 100 grams of carbs per day. Though I prefer to be under 30 g when I’m being strictest.

    I love oats as well, but don’t have them much because I tend to over-indulge once I get started.

    I hope you get down to the bottom of the issue with the rosacea. I personally like the rosy cheeks! πŸ˜‰

    • Thanks, MJ. That sensitivity test was one of the most interesting things I’ve experienced in a long time. I can’t wait to grab a moment or two to write about it, but in the meantime, suffice it to say that I feel even stronger about the connection between my diet and this rosacea. My body reacted negatively to a TON of healthy foods, so I’m going to craft a new eating plan and see if anything changes as a result.

      PS: I appreciate the compliment about the rosy cheeks, but I’d rather have a ‘healthy glow’ than a ‘post-workout flush’ 24 hours a day. πŸ˜‰

  11. I have it too, and my secret weapon, one that takes about 6 weeks to kick in is… hot chocolate. Yes, that’s right. Hot chocolate. 1 cup of almond milk, 1-1/2 tsp. natural (not dutched) dark cocoa. I use Scharffen Berger’s Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder. Undutched cocoa powder isn’t always easy to find. The original recipe calls for 2 tsp. of sugar, but I find I don’t need much more than a teaspoon, if that.

    I can’t locate the original study where I got the recipe (it was a skin study and the hot cocoa was found to clear up a number of skin conditions), but did find this:

    • Can I kiss you, Robin? This is possibly the greatest thing I’ve ever heard! I’m going to rustle me up some un-dutched cocoa powder ASAP and get these rosy cheeks off. Thanks so much for this tip! πŸ™‚

      • Sure, Dana. Go ahead. I was excited when I heard the news too. πŸ˜€

        I stopped drinking it when the weather got so hot, and have noticed a difference. I think I’ll make a batch of it and try it over ice, or at least just let it cool to room temperature.

        • Sounds yummy! I just picked up some non-dutched cocoa today (after looking on the internet to find out what the heck non-dutched even meant!), and I’ll hopefully try a batch tonight or tomorrow. Do you drink a cup every day? (Haven’t yet clicked on the link you provided in your last comment. I read the word “cocoa” and was instantly convinced of the merit.)

  12. Oh goodness, Dana! Your skin looks so beautiful even with the pretty red flush. You know, many women apply a pink powder to their cheeks to give them just that look every day and you’re being gifted with it naturally. πŸ™‚
    But if it’s bothering you from how it looks to being concerned that you’re potentially consuming something that has adverse affects on your body, I can understand the desire to figure it out. How did the allergy test go? I’m always skeptical as to how effective they areβ€”in terms of giving us any kind of useful information.

    • If the flushing was something I’d always had on my skin, it probably wouldn’t bother me so much. However, because it has only cropped up recently (and because I’m still experiencing various GI issues), I thought it would be best to check into the possible role my diet was playing.

      The allergy testing was actually very interesting! I’m still trying to find a few moments to post about it, but it turns out that a lot of foods I was eating *every day* are not tolerated especially well by my body. I guess I need to switch it up a bit and see if that makes an improvement. (Though I am pretty stoked to read Robin’s comment about drinking hot cocoa! Sounds like a perfect prescription to me…) πŸ˜‰

  13. Wow you cut all those things out of your diet. You go girl! I hope it does help. And yes another great post by dana! Love reading. great photos. Cheers and hope summer is going well. Weather is awesome on this side.

    • Thanks, Lesley! I was actually hoping to have seen more of an impact by now, but as it stands, the *rest* of my body feels (and looks!) great, whereas the rosy patches on my cheeks haven’t subsided whatsoever. I’m hoping it’s one of those “six weeks” things, but still… I want the rosacea to disappear overnight!

  14. Hey Dana
    Good luck with the food thing but I think most people who are prone to Rosacea just are! I definately dont think its a food thing believe me I’m Irish and a lot of us are prone to it – the best solution is laser treatment and the added bonus of getting rid of the veins/redness is you can go back to enjoying your food too.
    Best of luck with whatever treatment you decide upon.

    • Thanks for the comment, Imelda. I agree that rosacea isn’t necessarily a food sensitivity thing, but in my case– going from an olive complexion with zero redness to a flushed-cheek situation– it just seemed diet-related to me.

      I am learning about my specific food sensitivities and working around them to see if I notice a difference in my cheeks before trying other treatment alternatives. So far, I have definitely noticed an improvement in the redness, but it’s not 100% gone yet. (Who knows– I might not even have actual rosacea. I haven’t experienced any veins or puffiness in my cheeks, just a generic flushing. Can you tell I’m not a doctor?) πŸ˜‰

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