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Rosacea: How I Care for My Skin Naturally

My skin health has dramatically improved over the last couple of months and in this post I'm sharing my natural skin care routine and all the products I use.
Apr 23, 2021 | Joy McCarthy

Get ready, this is a long post. I've had noticeable rosacea since 2017. When I say "noticeable" I mean, I started having to cover it up about 4 years ago but when I look back at photos of my rosy cheeks, I realize I've had it even longer than that. 

I'm pretty much the poster child for rosacea - I've always blushed easily whether I'm embarrassed, stressed out or I've had a good workout. I'm of Celtic and Scandinavian descent and I'm fair-skinned, plus it runs in my family -- all of those things make me more prone to suffering from this skin disorder. 

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I saw a derm last year when it was really bad. I was just curious about a conventional approach because I was feeling hopeless and desperate. Suffice it to say, I was disappointed with the recommendations to manage it, but not at all surprised (more on that in another post).

I have spent more hours reading on Reddit, scouring over rosacea forums, rosacea blogs, and scientific papers than I would like to admit. The one thing I can tell you is what works for one person, doesn't work for everyone because rosacea is a skin disorder of many different causes. Since you are reading this, I assume you have rosacea and you already know what it is so I'm not going to spend time defining it for you - you're already an expert.

However, what I am going to do is spend time telling you what has worked for me from a natural approach and it's been a very long road of trying many different lotions, potions and therapies. The challenge with most products that claim to help rosacea is that they often don't account for the fact that there are different kinds of rosacea. Mine started out as a butterfly rash across my cheeks which I initially thought could be lupus but that was ruled out.

Slowly over the months and years, it morphed into a full-on sunburnt-looking face 24 hours a day along with acne breakouts, random bumps, combined with super dry skin and sometimes very hot cheeks. The only symptom of rosacea I've not experienced is ocular rosacea or disfigurement of my nose - thankful for that. 

My skin is better today than it's been in months. I cannot even begin to tell you how good it makes me feel to be able to share that.

I've cried so many tears over this. It's been an extremely humbling experience. I went from someone who seemed to have perfect skin up until I turned 40, to someone who is completely embarrassed to show my face in public without makeup on. I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my skin, so I'm still working on being okay going make-up free but I never go out without my tinted BB Cream (sunscreen) on. 

One thing everyone agrees with is that the root cause of rosacea is inflammation but it's as much a disorder of the skin microbiome and it is greatly affected by your gut health - research points to a link to leaky gut. 

If you haven't yet addressed your diet and foods to limit or better yet avoid please read this post first. Next, be sure to read this post about foods to eat for calm skin. Of course, not everyone is the same, so there may be a food on my list that you know is a trigger for you. If that's the case, avoid it. You may be like me and eating the perfect skin diet but develop rosacea. However, I know if my diet wasn't as healthy as it is, my skin would be far worse. 

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Okay now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about how I care for my skin. Please note, this is not the only way, but it what has immensely helped me. I've provided lots of options for products as well as a DIY magical serum.

In a future post, I will review all the natural health supplements I take as they are essential for gut health and healing rosacea. I'm religious with my supplements! 

Here goes, a detailed list of how I care for my skin. 

Make sure you're washing your face with filtered water, not tap water

Filtered tap water

Chlorine is an antibacterial chemical and it is extremely drying and irritating to those with sensitive skin. Water, even without adding a face wash, strips the skin of its natural oil barrier and can negatively impact the pH of your skin, especially if it's hard water. This natural oil barrier is everything and with rosacea, your barrier is already compromised which is why your skin is so darn sensitive to really cold or hot weather or even wind. 

In my home, I have a whole home filter that removes all the chlorine and ammonium that comes into our house. Before we had this filter, I would wash my face with the filtered tap water from my kitchen sink. This made a difference in the hydration of my skin within about a week. You can go to the hardware store and get a chlorine filter.

Important: When you shower, do not put your face directly in the stream coming out of the showerhead. This is traumatizing and stripping for your sensitive skin. 

Wash your face gently preferably with organic bamboo cloths

Bamboo clothes

Do not scrub your face with any abrasive cloths or even washcloths that have too much texture. This includes konjac sponges. They strip too much of the natural oils and they are not soft enough. These are the organic bamboo cloths I use. The key is to be as gentle with your face as you possibly can.

Always toss them in the laundry after one or two uses (depending on how much makeup you use) and let them completely dry out before the second use. Make sure you're using a natural laundry detergent, I use these laundry strips, they are eco-friendly. 

Before we move on, let's get this out of the way.... 

I know it is super obvious, but do not, use any products with fragrance, even be cautious of essential oils because many of them do not work for rosacea.

I have spent a lot of money on products that claim to be formulated for rosacea and they have fragrance or irritating ingredients in them. This includes some natural health brands. I personally find that super frustrating but at least I have ruled them out. Feel free to ask me about brands in the comments section as I may have tried them. 

Use a non-comedogenic, natural and organic face wash that is soothing and healing

Fresh Face Cleanser

When I switched to the  Fresh Face cleanser my skin immediately felt better and less red from the calming organic comfrey root, chamomile and golden jojoba. The comfrey root is incredibly anti-inflammatory and super soothing (you can literally see the little brown flecks of the plant in the cleanser). It encourages healthy and fast regrowth of damaged skin cells which is important especially if you get those pustules with rosacea. All the ingredients are super clean and support a healthy skin tone. Plus it is rich in antioxidants and the jojoba oil will not clog your pores because it's so close to the sebum your skin naturally produces. 

There are zero additives or fillers and there are zero ingredients with the potential to irritate your skin. It makes my skin feel nourished, soft, supple and refreshed not stripped and dry. This cleanser is certified USDA organic

FRESH FACE Cleanser

Honorable mention goes out to Blume Daydreamer Cleanser as well. This is a safe cleanser for rosacea or eczema-prone skin but it's definitely heavier than Fresh Face because it's a cream cleanser. It's very gentle and totally non-irritating. 

You can read the reviews of Fresh Face here.  Use code 10FORFRIENDS for any joyous product. 

My favourite serums

Hella Hydrating Serum

My skin is extremely finicky when it comes to serums and oils. There are only 3 products I have found that don't make me break out but are hydrating enough that my skin doesn't look flaky. This Hella Hydrating replenishing serum nourishes and hydrates my skin while sealing in moisture for smoother, softer skin. I have found the power duo of ingredients being cold-pressed rosehip oil (a win for rosacea) and hyaluronic acid, work great for me. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich nutrients in this serum calm irritation and reduce fine lines.

To use, apply to a damp face or you can add a few drops of filtered water to the serum in the palm of your hand. Use code 10FORFRIENDS for any joyous product. 

I also love Hydrextreme and when I need extra moisture I put one drop in with my serum. I literally use one drop of Hella Hydrating and 1 drop of Hydrextreme. Use code JOY for Hydrextreme for 10% off. The key with the products you use on your face is to keep it simple!

Natural Moisturizer

I really like Iremia soothing lotion because the ingredients are very soothing and healing for the skin. It is an excellent and thoughtful formulation. It's best for those who do not have acne rosacea but great for dry skin. I can only use it in the winter if I have zero bumps. You can apply your serum first and then apply this moisturizer. You can also add water to the moisturizer if it's too rich for your skin. Use code JOYOUS15 to save 15%. This is best for rosacea type 1 - only redness, not bumps. 

Jade Roller

Jade Roller

This is a godsend if I have a flare-up. When I say "flare-up", I mean my cheeks are so hot you can fry an egg on them. This happens if something stressful happens in the day, I have too much green tea (caffeine) or I teach a webinar - basically as my cortisol goes up, my cheeks go red.

I keep this roller in the freezer at all times. To use it, I put my serum on my face and I get rolling. I only use the smooth side of the roller. The bumpy side is too stimulating for rosacea-prone skin. Make sure you run it underwater if you have it in the freezer before applying it to your cheeks so you don't damage your skin. I love this jade roller by Province Apothecary. Use code JOY to save 10%.

DIY Magical Serum 

lavender essential oil

I make this serum which is a combo of organic jojoba, blue tansy and lavender essential oils. I make my own because blue tansy is so expensive that any product that contains it is just outrageous. Blue tansy has a distinct smell but it's very delicate when you're using pure ingredients. It's anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory along with the lavender essential oil. 

Blue tansy and lavender are rich in antioxidants and bonus, do not clog your pores. I combine it with organic golden joboba oil because this is one of the most neutral carrier oils for all skin types. The brand I normally buy is out of stock but the brand I have linked is organic. 

How to make it: I put about 8mL of jojoba oil into this 10mL bottle and then top it off with half blue tansy oil and lavender oil drops. There are many great companies that sell essential oils, just make sure you buy organic oils. 

I combine this DIY Magical Serum with my Hella Hydrating Serum if my cheeks are especially red and I use it on the regular on my chin to keep those bumps tame. 

My two favourite natural sunscreens 

When it comes to rosacea, you must go natural for sunscreen. Conventional sunscreens contain too much fragrance or fragrance masking chemicals that can aggravate rosacea. 

I've been using this BB cream by Coola for a few years and I have tried so many other product samples on my skin. The challenge with many BB creams is that my face ends up looking chalky and flaky. This BB Cream has just the right amount of moisture and because it's tinted it does a great job at giving my skin a nice even tone. There are cleaner products out there (this one is rated 4 on EWG because of the "flavour" ingredient), but this is far cleaner than 99% of the products on the market.

I also love the Perfect Sunscreen by Consonant. I go back and forth between Coola and the Perfect Sunscreen depending on how my skin feels. 

Prosacea for those bumps

When I have a really bad papule that I just can't deal with I use Prosacea as a spot treatment. It is a homeopathic treatment with sulfur. But let's be real, it's not that natural. It's better than the prescription creams and it keeps me from completely losing my mind and obsessing over my skin. It's my last resort but let me tell you it works. This is only for rosacea that has red bumps and hurt (papules). I put the tiniest amount right on the bump. I use it only as a spot treatment and it goes away within 3-4 hours or after a night's rest. It is extremely drying to the skin so do not use this all over your face like the recommendations on Amazon. Side note: Tea tree oil has never worked for those bumps and my skin scars from that. 

Okay there you have it! My favourite natural products for caring for my skin. Before I go, here are some photos of my skin. As you can see, there's a remarkable difference. I honestly can't even believe my skin was like that for so long. 

Rosacea to healthy skin

Honestly, I really didn't want to share this because the 2 on the right make me cringe and I don't want them to show up on any rosacea product websites (that's happened to others) but I know everyone always wants to see this and now you can see how bad my skin has been. If you're curious about what my skin looks like right now, you can head over to my Instagram, as I show my face all the time! :) 

If you have a skin disorder like rosacea, big hugs go to you. I know how much it can affect your self-esteem and self-confidence. In fact, depression is very common in people who suffer from rosacea. When you need to cry, just let it out and cry. But then pick yourself back up and tell yourself EVERY SINGLE DANG day that you are beautiful inside and out. I have post-it notes on all my mirrors that say I AM BEAUTIFUL. Meditation has been so essential for my emotional wellbeing as well as the love and support from my hubby Walker. 

I want to make a special note to thank some people who have helped me along the way including my dear friends who are also nutritionists, Josh Gitalis and Brett Hawes, my girlfriend who is an essential oil guru Christine Russell and two naturopath's both Dr. Jennifer DelBelBellluz and Dr. Rachel Swartzman.

If you want to read about natural makeup I use, read this post here. 

I truly hope this post helps you because these products have helped me. As with any product, start with the smallest amount and go slow. The more minimal you can be with the products you use on your skin, the better. 

Big hugs,

Joy xo

Disclosure. None of the product discounts are affiliates. The only affiliate links are the Amazon links. 

22 Comments
Lesley mcquarrie   •   April 25, 2021

Great post! Thank you for sharing products that have worked for you. I have been working through a related skin issue naturally as well ( Perioral dermatitis) successfully thank goodness but it’s something that mostly gets managed. It’s insane the number of products one will go through looking for the perfect match. I plan on making a post at some point of the products that have worked for me too! I will for sure be trying out some of the sunscreens you mentioned and the face washes!

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   April 26, 2021

Tiffany   •   April 25, 2021

Thank you so much for this information!! Do you have or plan to have videos/details on how you apply and what order you apply your skincare, sunscreen and BB cream etc and how often. And what you typically eat in a day on a rosacea diet? My rosacea has been quickly worsening lately and I am at a loss. It seems everything I use topically and consume makes it worse. Thank you.

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   April 26, 2021
Tiffany   •   April 26, 2021
Joy McCarthy   •   April 27, 2021

Nicole   •   April 25, 2021

Everything you said I’m experiencing,thank you for the info it was very informative🙏🏻

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   April 26, 2021

Shannon {The Glorious Kitchen}   •   April 26, 2021

Hey Joy! Thanks for your article. I completely understand how much it impacts your self-confidence. I struggled with terrible Perioral Dermatitis and it massively affected my emotional well-being. After trying a natural approach for quite a while, I ended up taking an antibiotic to get it under control. I literally couldn’t handle it emotionally any longer. Since then I’ve adopted a VERY minimalistic approach to skincare and continue to improve my gut health - both of which seem to actually be healing it for good rather than just temporarily “fixing it”. Anyways, just wanted to reach out and send you lots of love for sharing this! ❤️ Shannon {The Glorious Kitchen}

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   April 26, 2021

Lauryn   •   April 27, 2021

Hey Joy, Thank you for posting this. I have purchased the products you have recommended, and look forward to start using them. I have a really bad flare up on one cheek (I’m not even 100% sure it’s rosacea), I’m very self conscious of it and wear a lot of make up to cover it, typically a BB cream, as well as a powder cover up on top of that. I would like to try some more natural makeup’s and am wondering if you have any powder cover up that you use and would recommend?

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   April 27, 2021

Sarah   •   April 27, 2021

Hi Joy! Thank you for sharing this article! I was wondering if you can share a link of the company where you purchased your home water filter system ? Thank you! :)

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   April 27, 2021

Dina Talotta   •   April 27, 2021

So glad you shared these tips and the reality of rosacea. I also have the other condition, Perioral Dermatitis, so I really appreciate the tips in the comments. Even just a reminder to get a filter on our home water - was so helpful. Thanks!

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   April 27, 2021

Sandra O.   •   April 27, 2021

Hi Joy. Thank you for sharing this post and especially your honesty and struggles with rosacea. I also struggle with it and sensitive skin. Can I ask your opinion on the product Face Glow by Graydon. I find it's gentle and doesn't irritate my skin and also offers sun protection with non-nano zinc. Could this work as a BB cream as well?

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   April 27, 2021

Melissa   •   April 28, 2021

Thank you for sharing. I will try some of the products you mentioned. I have had this condition for many years, and mostly feel I’m managing it, though mask wearing irritation along the jaw hasn’t helped, and as a teacher I had no choice in the mask type. I switched to a mineral powder spf years ago, and on the plus side I have very few wrinkles! I also take the evening primrose oil. It seems to help. Thanks again.

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   April 29, 2021

Lyndsay   •   May 2, 2021

Hi, Thank you for sharing your story. I can't remember how I found you but I am glad I did. I am going through rosacea too and so many up and down and frustration. Exactly what you went through. I am glad I am not the only one and I have a battle to fight which you have given me some ideas of where to start. I am already seeing natrualpath for gut health but need help with the outside( my face) as I don't know what is best where to start and I don't like using products on my face cause o break out. Thank you for sharing your story.

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   May 3, 2021

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