Expert / 4 April, 2023 / My Baba
Rosacea Awareness Month takes place in April every year. Rosacea is a tricky topic with much contention as to the triggers and the best ways to relieve its symptoms. Lots of our readers experience the onset of rosacea during pregnancy, while others find their existing condition exacerbated during pregnancy or after childbirth.
Rosacea is a chronic skin disorder that often results in sensitivity, flushing, redness, broken capillaries, and breakouts.
Skincare expert Cherry Woods shares her advice for mums and mums-to-be suffering with rosacea, and My Baba editor Ellie Thompson reveals her skincare secret weapons to combat the skin condition.
During pregnancy, your body is flooded with hormones which can lead to skin conditions being exacerbated or even appearing for the very first time. My Baba recently published an article explaining the most common ways in which your skin can be affected by pregnancy and offering some advice on how best to manage these changes.
Some My Baba readers have been in touch asking specifically about rosacea and pregnancy and rosacea so I’m back with some tips on how to manage this specific skin condition. I personally suffered from an outburst of Acne Rosacea around ten years ago, which I believe was initially triggered by my sudden caffeine addiction after moving to the US. I have since adopted a low G.I. (glycemic index) approach to healthy eating, which has kept my skin calm, my energy levels high and also served me well in the anti-ageing stakes too.
Recent clinical studies and research show that consuming sugar and refined carbohydrates (high on the G.I. scale) creates more free radicals and can damage your collagen resources. Big portions of high G.I. foods also burn energy quickly, producing heat in the body and skin, and speeding up the ageing process. Low G.I. foods, on the other hand, help protect your skin from damage by keeping cell inflammation to a minimum. This is particularly good news for acne and rosacea sufferers whose skin is often irritated below the surface.
Rather than eating three meals a day, I tend to opt for five or six small portions to allow my body to keep inflammation and ‘flush’ to a minimum. This method is also great for avoiding post-meal energy dips, which often leave us feeling tired ad groggy. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can reduce the dryness that rosacea causes while avoiding hot meals during the daytime can keep skin cool and calm while you’re on the go. My typical food diary for a day might look as follows:
Breakfast: Glass of water, two scoops of plain yoghurt, dessert spoon of organic nut muesli
Mid-morning: Decaf coffee with goats milk, a couple of oatcakes and some hummus
Lunch: Spinach and rocket salad with quinoa, beetroot and grilled chicken
Mid-afternoon: Raw vegetables or fruit, such as blueberries, packed full of antioxidants
Dinner: Blanched vegetables with chicken, turkey or fish
As I believe that caffeine was the sole trigger for my Acne Rosacea, I can’t emphasise this point enough. If you’re dealing with pregnancy and rosacea, it’s definitely best to ditch caffeine altogether.
As a stimulant, when caffeine surges into the body, it stimulates your adrenal glands to produce, amongst other things, adrenaline, and then it sets into motion a series of chemical triggers and reactions. This releases cortisol which signals for a massive increase in blood sugar levels, causing a huge inflammatory state in the whole body and specifically the skin.
Prolonged and sustained stimulation of the adrenal glands can lead to a suppression of the reproductive, immune and digestive systems which, as you can imagine, is not just catastrophic for the skin but is also thought to contribute to a number of other health issues, so there are lots of reasons to choose decaffeinated options whenever possible.
If you are a real caffeine addict, start by drinking a tall glass of water before and after each cup of coffee, it will take the edge off this adrenaline release and it’s a good starting point as you move towards reducing your caffeine intake if you feel unable to go ‘cold turkey’ immediately.
In addition to replacing caffeine with decaf, try cutting out certain food groups to see if this helps with your rosacea. It may have unexpected benefits in other areas, too, including your overall energy levels and quality of sleep.
Milk: I now only drink goat’s milk. It’s less allergenic, so gentler for my skin, plus it generates less heat during the digestive process and therefore causes less inflammation. Cow’s milk can aggravate eczema, rosacea and even sinus congestion, resulting in puffy eyes and skin.
Red meat: I haven’t eaten red meat or pork for more than 30 years. This helps me to keep a clearer gut and reduce the stress placed on my digestive system, resulting in clearer skin.
Chocolate: This is obviously very much a dairy treat so in line with my non-cow’s milk diet, it’s not for me. In fact, I haven’t had it for 20 years now. Maybe someone will invent a goat’s milk chocolate and I could indulge a little… Here’s hoping!
Fruit juice: It’s shocking to think that apple juice contains 42g of sugar per 12 ounces. I stopped drinking fruit juices a few years ago, as they are off-the-chart when it comes to the G.I. index. Whole fruits, however, I eat in abundance, as I benefit from their wider goodness, including fibre.
I’m a firm believer in supplements as they are such a fantastic way to integrate specific vitamins into your diet in order to manage your personal needs. If I had to suggest a must-have supplement that I could never be without, it would be Omega 3, which contains both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
For those dealing with pregnancy and rosacea, always check with your midwife, doctor or health practitioner before using a new supplement.
EPA regulates oil production to boost hydration, which can give great comfort to dry, itchy skin conditions and soothe redness. It can also help block the release of UV-induced enzymes that destroy collagen supplies resulting in lines and sagging skin. It reduces inflammation, which is great, but it reduces inflammation mostly by interfering with Arachidonic Acid (AA), which also turns on the cellular machinery that activates DHA, to bring inflammatory responses to an end. This means it’s important to focus on the balance of EPA and DHA to ensure you don’t depress growth and immune function.
For me, the most exciting element of Omega 3 supplements is DHA which, in addition to keeping the brain functioning properly, also has an incredibly powerful role in quickly resolving inflammation when it is no longer needed. In terms of skin quality, this reduces redness over a period of months and helps skin become less reactive to environmental (heat) change and internal heat fluctuations showing as flushing on the face, neck and chest.
The key is to optimise the ratio of these Omega 3s to pro-inflammatory Omega 6 fats. The rub is that if the inflammation-provoking Omega 6 fats aren’t sufficiently balanced by Omega 3s, your immune system goes on a mega inflammation rampage, which could result in a faceful of acne or rosacea-like eruptions. So while it’s vital to do your homework before trying a supplement, trust me – once you find the one that suits your individual skin, you’ll never look back!
If your skin is getting you down and you’d like some personalised advice from an expert, then why not book an appointment with a reputable facialist.
Advice from Cherry Woods, Cherry Woods Clinic Richmond
There are lots of products popping up that promise to be miracle solutions to rosacea, but it’s wise to manage your expectations. I remember being so excited to purchase Mirvaso, the cream the Daily Mail championed back in 2014. To be honest, I personally didn’t find this product as groundbreaking as it claimed to be, and I was so disappointed.
3 in 1 Anti-Redness Miracle Formula SPF50, Rosalique
Rosacea Treatment, Dermalex
Rosaliac UV Riche, La Roche-Posay
These products have been tried and tested and are effective at managing the symptoms of rosacea for many. Please remember to always check before using during pregnancy and breastfeeding.