August 31st 2018
Surprises make me uneasy, and it's for this reason that the first look in the mirror of a morning is something that I dread. But that initial bleary-eyed glance at my reflection is not hesitant because of the threat of a bad hair day (let's be honest, every day is a bad hair day. I want curly hair) or concern that my hips might seem a little bit wobblier in the cold light of day, but because there's always a chance of redness. Raging, angry redness that doesn't look like it'll calm down any time soon.
A red face is not something you want to wake up to. But thanks to my hypersensitive, oh-so erratic skin, it's always a possibility. Much like someone with a very short temper, the slightest thing can set it off. Perhaps I dared to try something new the night before (occupational hazard). Perhaps I didn't cleanse well enough. Perhaps it's a little cold out. Maybe it's hot and humid - yes, we Brits can blame the weather for everything - or maybe, as the news suggests, we're experiencing peak pollen levels which are sending hay fever sufferers into a red and itchy spiral of despair.
There are also more permanent forms; rosacea can cause even the most confident of people to wish for a bag to put over their head. I'm lucky that mine seems to be sporadic and usually clears up once I figure out the cause; recently, that's been a severe bout of hay fever causing bumpy redness all around my nose and a slight reaction to an SPF product which I shouldn't have put near my face. You live and you learn. But not all redness is as easy to diagnose, as cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting informs me.
"‘The red face’ is a common diagnostic conundrum for dermatologists as there are a number of conditions that can cause facial redness (or erythema, the medical term for this finding)," says Dr Bunting. "Perhaps the commonest is rosacea – but there are lots of people on the rosacea spectrum who have ‘high colour’, without the more classic findings like flushing and spots in the middle third of the face.
“The redness is due to reactive capillaries in the skin which dilate more readily than usual, leading to redness that can become fixed. Other problems like seborrhoeic eczema and irritant reactions to cosmetic products can also trigger redness. Aeroallergens like pollen can definitely trigger atopic eczema sufferers in delicate areas like the skin around the eyes; and if you have allergic rhinitis, the inflammatory response in the mucous membranes might spillover and also cause redness of the skin around the nose."
So if you're seeing red more often than you should, what do you need? First up, daily products that won't make the situation worse, says Dr Bunting. "For those who are on the rosacea spectrum I recommend a gentle non-foaming cleanser and non-comedogenic moisturiser," our go-to skin expert tells me. For once, that's something that is usually fairly easy to spot on a label. You should also protect yourself "with daily proper sunscreen," says Dr Bunting. "We know that UV exposure may well trigger exacerbations of those with rosacea, so it makes sense to safeguard against it. I like a mineral-based sunscreen for day – Obagi Sunshield SPF50, £59.12, is my favourite." That said, if facial redness is a major problem then it's worth seeking extra help. "Correct diagnosis can be tricky and wrong treatment can often make matters worse," warns Dr Bunting.
Red patches and the resulting redness from reactions need a careful skincare routine that calms and soothes while protecting, too; and a little cover up will get you through the days when the person staring back at you in the mirror is feeling self-conscious. Click through the gallery to find my suggestions for the best anti-redness products - and hold your head high…
My recent reaction left me in no doubt as to what to cleanse with - the Murad Gel Cleanser, £27, that I raved about last summer. Cooling, calming and wonderfully soft (imagine a cold dose of aloe vera on a hot day), it doesn't foam or irritate and leaves skin freshly, gently cleansed. Followed with the Sensitive Skin Soothing Serum of the same range, £49, skin looks less inflamed and feels less tight. A winning combination.
Certified by Ecocert and 80% organic, this serum by S5 £44, is one of my favourite finds. A targeted skin-soothing treatment that uses marine bioactives, ingredients such as sea fennel peptides and hyaluronic acid reduce the appearance of skin flushing and hypersensitivity while helping to repair and protect. Smooth onto cleansed skin, safe in the knowledge that it's free of allergens, parabens, SLS and SLES, mineral oil and synthetic fragrances.
Sometimes you just need something to take away some of the burning colour in your face, and this Redness Solutions powder by Clinique, £25.50, does the job nicely. A yellow pressed powder which is both oil- and talc-free, it doubles up as a finishing powder too - I've blotted away any high shine with it when needed. The yellow pigments counteract the flushing of cheeks as well as other patches; just make sure you're well moisturised first to avoid any dryness appearing.
If you need an alcohol-free toner (alcohol can exacerbate sensitive skin, and particularly rosacea) then look no further than Pai's Lotus and Orange Blossom Toner, £30. I would not be without this gentle, beautifully (naturally) scented toner. Lotus, a powerful antioxidant, helps to protect the skin while inhibiting the release of molecules which cause our skin to flare - ideal for combatting redness. Not only does it soothe the skin from within with the healing effects of orange blossom, but the very act of spritzing it on is positively therapeutic. Bedtime isn't the same without it.
Marketed specifically as an anti-redness product, the new Bioderma Sensibio AR BB Cream, £14.50, is a good cover up option for those with either temporary or permanent redness. Non-comedogenic and lightly tinted, it allows you to build up colour - although shades are very limited, it does seem to blend in well - to hide away imperfections and redness while protecting skin with SPF30. A great multitasker, it has a Rosactiv® patent which is designed to reduce redness at the source. A soft, matte finish and multiple benefits in one.
Whatever your redness trigger, be it stress or errant skincare, this Anti Redness Calming Night Cream, £20 by tried and trusted favourite Eucerin is a delight to use. The evening version of the anti-redness range contains a licorice extract to naturally soothe and hydrating panthenol so that inflamed, irritated skin is left calmed and moisturised while you sleep; a comfort blanket for distressed skin.
August 31st 2018
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