Redness on the skin doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem. I’ve met folks with naturally red or pinkish skin tones. But redness on a Latina woman with a naturally tan/caramel complexion — is straight up confusing. I’m tan enough to be brown all year long but light enough where blushing and redness is still very noticeable on my face. But I’ve never before had to deal with this kind of redness though. This year I experienced a strange case of red bumps — particularly on my cheeks and nose —that wouldn’t go away no matter what I did. It wasn’t acne and it wasn’t a reaction. This annoying redness was caused by what dermatologists would refer to as rosacea but who knew brown people could even get this?
Close to 16 million Americans suffer from rosacea but before this year I had no idea that rosacea was something that could affect someone as tan as myself. Growing up I remember my mom struggling with it but she’s also a good few shades lighter than me. My mother has an olive complexion that during the colder months appears almost pale. It’s during this time of year that her rosacea would normally kick in. But according to the experts, rosacea is not exclusive to lighter skin tones.
“While rosacea most commonly affects lighter skinned individuals, rosacea can occur in darker skin types,” Dr. David Shafer tells Hiplatina. “The typical redness may appear more violet as the red vessels are seen through the darker skin. One study found 4 percent of rosacea patients are Hispanic/Latino, 2 percent African American and 2.3 percent Asian.”
In other words, rosacea DOES affect brown people. In fact, a 2014 study found unusual features of rosacea in Saudi Arabian women with dark skin. The study proved that the skin condition, which was once believed to only affect faired-skinned people of European descent, could easily impact people of color with darker complexions.
Okay, so now I know for sure that I struggle with rosacea. But how did I develop it all of a sudden? Well, apparently there are a number of things that can cause it and genetics is one — thanks mom!
“While there is no clear link to rosacea and inheritance, about 40 to 50 percent of rosacea patients do have a direct relative with the skin disorder,” says Dr. Shafer. “Also, because rosacea often occurs in middle age, it’s not uncommon for you to start noticing signs even though you previously did not at a younger age.”
I’m clearly not middle aged. In fact, I just turned 32 a few weeks ago but that would explain why I struggle with it now and didn’t in my 20s. I also noticed that the rosacea first developed this winter, which was particularly brutal in NYC. It was so brutal in fact, that two other friends of mine — with much fairer complexions though — also developed rosacea this year. Cold weather PLEASE be gone!
“Many environmental factors can trigger rosacea from sunlight, heat, stress, alcohol, dairy products, spicy food and even various products such as hair spray,” says Dr. Shafer. “As patients identify these triggers for their own situation, they can help maintain remission by avoiding these situations or products.”
Fortunately for me and other rosacea suffers, there are ways to treat this. “There are several approaches to treat rosacea. Redness reducing medications such as brimonidine can be helpful by constricting the blood vessels,” says Dr. Shafer. “This medication often requires continual application as the effect is temporary. “Other topical medications include azelaic acid and metronidazole, which help reduce inflammation but may take 1 to 2 months to start working. Oral antibiotics such as doxycycline can be helpful in reducing inflammation. Laser and light treatments such as IPL or V Beam Perfecta (Syneron Candela) which specifically targets rosacea vessels. While more than one treatment may be needed, the results can be remarkable.”
Dr. Shafer also recommends making lifestyle changes including switching up your skincare routine, which is what I opted to do. I only use skin care products that are specifically formulated for sensitive skin. Even my exfoliators are gentle.
“Most rosacea patients would do well by only using products labeled for sensitive skin,” he adds. “Also, minimizing the number of products and switching between many products can help avoid exposure to triggers.”
I look for skincare products with soothing ingredients like seaweed, chamomile, white tea, rose water, and aloe vera. Moisture is also key here, so look for ultra hydrating products that work to repair a damaged moisture barrier like water-gel based facial creams or masks. The Laneige Water Sleeping Mask, Nyakio Chamomile Soothing Sleep Mask, and the Glo Skin Beauty Vita E Essential Cream have been saving my life these days— my skin at least.
There might not be a “known cure” but with the proper treatment and skincare regimen — there are definitely ways to combat rosacea — even for us brown girls!