How My Perma-Flushed Cheeks Sent Me TikTok Viral
Main image – Courtesy of Writer
If you’ve tapped this article, chances are you’re seeking answers just as desperately as I was four years ago.
As a full time model who was not only reliant on some degree of skin “normality” for my income, but was also used to having easygoing skin (something which I only realised how fortunate I’d been to have once it was gone), when I suddenly broke out in burning red cheeks scattered with liquid-filled pustules in 2020 I was left completely lost.
Worse still, not only was my skin visually blemished, but it also came with a searing pain.
I spent hours scrolling through my phone, looking for a diagnosis. I was frustrated and confused; my skin had never behaved like this before and I didn’t know how to handle it.
A visit to the doctor swiftly revealed the culprit: rosacea. With that diagnosis came an unexpected journey of discovery; I learned my triggers and how to manage them. And my journey went viral on TikTok.
Here’s how I first realised I was suffering from painful skincare condition rosacea and what I’ve learned since.
I first realised something was amiss with my skin during lockdown in April 2020. It started with small raised dots on my cheeks, accompanied by a red burning flush that got worse with heat and alcohol.
I now know these are telltale signs of rosacea, but at the time I had no idea what was going wrong. Doctor’s appointments were hard to come by, so I turned to the internet for answers.
After self-diagnosing with a number of WebMD conditions, I decided I needed to find some products that would cool my cheeks.
Skincare TikTok accounts were gaining popularity around this time, so I turned to the app for product recommendations.
I was introduced to several products from La Roche-Posay’s Toleriane collection, including La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermallergo Soothing Cream for Sensitive Skin (£21 from Cult Beauty UK/ $30.99 from La Roche Posay US) and La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 (£18 from Cult Beauty UK/ $15.99 from La Roche Posay US).
I also began washing my face with cold water, primarily out of necessity, as it provided some relief for my cheeks, but it also seemed to help manage the flare-up. At last, I felt like I had some control over my skin, but I still didn’t know what was wrong!
About six months after my initial symptoms, I was finally able to see a doctor who immediately diagnosed me with rosacea.
I was relieved to have a formal diagnosis and told them about the routine I was using. My doctor prescribed me metronidazole cream but suggested that I try to manage without it, as my routine seemed to be keeping the condition under control.
Finally having a diagnosis meant my internet searches were easier, I came across several online custom prescription products that I added into my routine.
Thankfully, these products quickly made a difference; my skin felt more comfortable after two weeks, and became much more manageable after 6 weeks.
I began posting my rosacea flare up routine on my TikTok in 2021 and was shocked by the number of other people who seemed to be going through the same thing. Each time I posted about what I was adding to my routine my videos were getting hundreds of thousands of views and hundreds of comments from people sharing their own stories.
It did make me feel less alone knowing that thousands of other people were going through the same thing as me.
I’ll share the routine I used to manage my flare ups below, as I know how desperate this condition can make you feel when it pops up out of the blue!
Despite still regularly posting about rosacea though, I know there just isn’t enough awareness about this common condition.
That’s why I’ve spoken to two dermatologists, Dr Cristina Psomadakis and Dr Emma Craythorne so shine a little more light on rosacea. I also share the exact routine I use to manage my own rosacea below.
So, what is rosacea and what causes it?
I spoke with NHS dermatologist Dr. Cristina Psomadakis, who explained that “Rosacea is a chronic skin and eye condition that causes redness and inflammation of the face, as well as pimples, bumps, and visible blood vessels.”
“Rosacea can affect men and women, and people from any ethnic background, although it is more common in Northern Europeans, especially those of Celtic background,” she continues.
According to Dr Psomadakis, its cause is still unclear. “The cause of rosacea is not entirely known but it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. This includes things like the VEG F gene, and increased numbers of the Demodex mite on our skin.”
As well as confusion over what causes rosacea, its symptoms can also be hard to identify given that there’s so many of them.
The most common symptoms of rosacea include:
- Facial redness
- Visible blood vessels
- Skin thickening
- Eye irritation
But not everyone with rosacea may even be aware they have it, according to dermatology service Klira’s founder Emma Craythorne.
She explains that while Rosacea is a genetic tendency, some people might never display symptoms if they keep their triggers under control, “I have rosacea, you can see in my relatives, but I keep it under such strict control that people wouldn’t think I have it”.
The dermatologist explains that we’re more likely to see rosacea symptoms when we face common triggers, including cold weather.
Dr Craythorne tells me that the sunny winter weather we’ve been having “might make for a lovely day but is the perfect weather for rosacea.”
Dr. Psomadakis goes on to explain that common triggers include “sunlight, heat, stress, alcohol, spicy foods, and active skincare ingredients.”
My rosacea flare up formula
Now, I barely notice my rosacea anymore. But how *exactly* did I eventually get my own symptoms under control?
Here I set out the exact skincare routine I now use. But while many of the products I use are available at local pharmacists, I really do recommend seeing a dermatologist if you suspect you have rosacea. Online dermatologist sessions are generally available from £75 in the UK and from $59 in the US.
Seeing a professional is where I saw real change, and was able to not only recover from a flare-up but also maintain my skin as flare-up free as possible.
Here’s the daily skincare routine I now use.
- Wash face with slightly cooler water than normal:
Using lukewarm instead of hot water immediately cools my face. I always make sure that water is not too cold though as this can also trigger a rosacea flare up.
- Cicaplast Baume B5 La Roche Posay:
This cream is super thick, I apply it on my cheeks if I’m in a room with central heating and I use it as a night cream to this day!
- Prescription skincare:
This is where I saw the real change happen. I currently use Klira, a bespoke skincare service (£69 per month, currently UK only). To get any real development in the condition I really recommend investing in a dermatologist’s appointment to get access to any prescription skincare you need.
- NOIE custom moisturiser (€39 ships to UK and EU):
I initially did a paid influencer campaign with NOIE through TikTok and now continue to buy the product three years later! I sent them photos of my face and they identified ingredients that would help me control my concerns.
My moisturiser contains liquorice extract that helps to reduce redness and moisturise the skin, and Ectoin, known for its soothing and hydrating properties.
- Azelaic acid:
Azelaic acid in concentrations of 15% have been shown to be an effective treatment for mild to moderate rosacea. Again, a dermatologist can be helpful in finding the right product here.
Using a gentle unscented, non-comedogenic sunscreen has helped keep my symptoms at bay.
- Avoid triggers:
I constantly monitor my symptoms and see what triggers a flare-up. For me, it’s artificial heat, such as central heating or pub garden heaters, and alcohol, so going to the pub in winter is pretty much a no from me!
- Cover up:
Now my flare ups are a lot more manageable. I rarely drink alcohol and I do struggle a bit when the central heating comes on, but they are nowhere near as painful as before!
While going TikTok viral with my rosacea journey certainly helped me feel less alone throughout the whole process- and I at least felt I was possibly helping others identify their own rosacea earlier- ultimately it would have been easier if there had been more awareness around this condition from the start.
Knowing what the symptoms are, and being prepared to get professional help for them early on, are key here.
Mainly though, as my story shows, while TikTok may be useful for bringing issues to light, it definitely doesn’t always have the answers to solving them. Sometimes the best course of action is just to ditch the social media and head to a professional.
Meet the experts
Dr Emma Craythorne is a Consultant Dermatologist & Dermatological Surgeon and has become a household name with her team of experts on the Bad Skin Clinic TV, shown in over 100 countries around the world. She is also Founder of Klira, for which she developed the most advanced epigenetic skin typing – SkinSizes™.
Dr Cristina Psomadakis is a dermatologist for the NHS. She completed her registrar training at the prestigious St Johns Institute of Dermatology, Guys & St Thomas, London. She had the opportunity to work for the King’s College Hospital dermatology department for six months as well as do a six month Mohs fellowship at St John’s.