How to apply green makeup on a temporarily red face?
May 15, 2011 3:01 AM   Subscribe

I'm a 20-something year old female that currently does not wear makeup. I know as much about applying makeup as this guy. I wouldn't waste the money and time applying and buying makeup if I didn't have to. However, I have mild Rosacea that comes and goes, which has left me suicidally depressed these last five years when it was more frequent (For reasons unknown the frequency of the flushing has reduced significantly since 2011 and I no longer struggle with a burning lobster red face on a daily basis.), and I would like to not have to endure the painful joke or comment about it the unpredictably rare times my face flushes and feels hot to the touch in public. It's for this reason I'd like to learn a few makeup tips for someone with mild Rosacea, sensitive skin, and an otherwise pale olive complexion. If it helps, the picture in my profile is misleading; my skin tone is closer to this shade on a good day. How do I apply the appropriate makeup (green makeup, apparently) when I'm not always red but know I will be at some point during the day? Wouldn't green makeup make me look, uh, green when I'm not flushing?
posted by Sara Bellum to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (47 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I have a friend with mild rosacea, and I find it makes her rather more attractive. Perhaps it's worth asking some trusted friends whether this is really something worth 'fixing'? Obviously you have to worry about your own feelings first though, so if it still makes you that depressed, I suppose it makes sense to something about it.
posted by vasi at 3:24 AM on May 15, 2011

Bobbi Brown's foundations are supposed to be good at covering up redness. You can read reviews at Makeup Alley. Also, Skin Alison Raffaele mineral makeup is good for sensitive skin, although mineral makeup takes some getting used to (if your face is oily, it can kind of "float" on top of the oil, making it impossible to get a matte look. Also, some brands are more irritating to sensitive skin than others).

Make Up For Ever makes a green-tinted makeup base. It's probably safer to use a tinted base (and/or tinted concealer) with a normal foundation for your skin tone; that way, you can adjust the amount of base and pinpoint the spots where you need it most. You could try using it at home to see what it looks like during the day; be sure to check it in natural sunlight to get an accurate idea of the colour.

I also recommend reading Paula Begoun's information about rosacea and tips for determining your skin tone.
posted by neushoorn at 4:20 AM on May 15, 2011

I don't know where you're based, but in the UK the Red Cross provides free tuition in exactly this - rosacea is one of the conditions mentioned on the website - and the creams they use are available on prescription. Even if you're not in the UK, it might be worth getting in touch with your local Red Cross to see if they do the same thing, or looking around for other charities near you who do the same. As well as knowing their way round the best techniques for covering up while looking reasonably natural, they'll also be able to advice you on specialist products that might do a better job than normal make-up. Good luck.
posted by penguin pie at 4:24 AM on May 15, 2011

advise you, not advice you. Please hope me.
posted by penguin pie at 4:26 AM on May 15, 2011

vasi: Thank you for sharing your perspective. Strangely I, too, find mild Rosacea on certain people attractive, usually the type with freckles or ivory pale skin and light hair or nicely balanced facial features.

Rosacea doesn't look or feel attractive when it gets to the point people are genuinely concerned about me (Bad sunburn? Ran a marathon? How much have you had to drink? Did I embarrass you? Whoa, are you okay?! YOUR FACE IS REALLY RED!) or making jokes. I'd love to be able to have a self-deprecating sense of humor about it (oh, how I've tried), but I already struggle with body image issues and have a difficult time being around people as it is, so having a sense of humor about it only makes the other person more comfortable, not me, and that approach thus far seems to make for more hurtful comments. Unfortunately, I'm too mentally unstable to be cool about it.

Everyone else: Thank you for the suggestions so far. I'm not sure mineral makeup will work for me: I have dry, flaky skin on the sides of my nose and near my eyebrows, an oily nose, and normal to oily skin elsewhere depending on how I care for my skin. I have to wash with cool water and not use soap for the best results, as I have yet to find a decent facial soap or cleanser. So far Natio is the only lotion that helps with the flakiness somewhat without irritating my skin but the areas still feel rough. Even though it's not the original question, any suggestions on how to care for my sensitive skin to make it less oily or dry would be appreciated since the better my skin is, the easier finding makeup will be for me.
posted by Sara Bellum at 4:48 AM on May 15, 2011

penguin pie: Now I'm wishing I lived in the UK. Thanks for the hope though. I'll look around for a similar product available in the States.
posted by Sara Bellum at 5:03 AM on May 15, 2011

neushoorn: Thanks for the link to Paula's Choice. I may have found an alternative to Natio.

(I'm commenting too much.)
posted by Sara Bellum at 5:10 AM on May 15, 2011

As for the dry/flaky + oily = problems with getting a mineral make-up on -- you want a foundation primer. I like Lorac Aquaprime, which is very lightweight and feels like nothing, but everybody has their own favourite.

Covermark is the brand that comes to mind for serious concealing.

I am really dubious about that whole 'green = no red' idea and have never had it work for me, and I'm not even particularly red. Clinique has a Redness Solutions line which may be worth a look.

Have you looked into laser treatment...? Amazing things being done with lasers (etc) now. I ditched some ruddiness via PDT -- I was so creamy-looking afterwards I was almost in tears -- and part of it was covered by my insurance. Well worth looking into, especially if you are at the point where you are already going to be spending a lot of money trying to deal with this, and, 'suicidally depressed'? Definitely look into this route. Even if you have seen a lot of dermatologists; what they are doing in laser clinics is different from what they do in conventional dermatology offices. Good luck!
posted by kmennie at 5:11 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Unless your face is getting actively dirty, you're probably fine with just cool water (depending on the air quality near you). Many facial cleaners can be HARSHER than soap (many contain alcohol and/or sodium laureth sulfite or one of its cousins.) One soap-soap I have good luck with, as a very sensitive-skinned person, is Burt's Bees Milk and Honey. Which may or may not work for you.

Remember you don't have to wear make-up all over. In the picture your skin appears to be in good shape, and you don't need to apply an all-over layer to it unless you want to. Perhaps if very red cheeks don't bother you, you can let your cheeks flush if they flush, and apply makeup to your "T-zone" so the flushing isn't as obvious elsewhere. Or if your cheeks flush the worst, maybe just dampen it down a bit there. Whatever.

The staff at Sephora (a stand-alone one; I don't know how good the in-J.C. Penney ones are in terms of training) are really super overtrained for retail staff and they can help you choose products and colors. They may or may not be trained on rosacea specifically, but you can certainly tell them you have sensitive skin, with oil here and dryness there, and you're prone to fierce "blushing" from rosacea that you'd like to dampen down, what do they suggest? They have been great at helping me identify product lines that don't make me bust out in rashes or acne with my sensitive skin, and ALSO at choosing colors that look right and teaching me how to apply it properly, back when I was a n00b at application.

Really, in the pictures you have lovely skin. The one thing I would caution you against is becoming dependent on make-up, since it just creates a new set of body issues. I have friends in their 30s who now can't leave the house without make-up not because their skin looks bad, but because they're now dependent on it to feel "normal." I love wearing make-up when I want to wear make-up, because I'm going somewhere fun or I'm having a bad skin day or I just feel like it because I'm a girl and I can, but the level of dependence many women can develop scares me a little. (I had a friend who insisted on putting on make-up before taking pictures with her newborn! Because she thinks she looks "scary" without make-up. She doesn't.) For me, if I'm wearing make-up to school or work every day, that's fine, but if I have to "put on my face" to go to the grocery store (or, worse, the gym! where there's sweating!), I've gone too far.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:33 AM on May 15, 2011

Green makeup, properly applied, will not make you look ridiculous during your non-red moments. Ideally you want to use green concealer or primer under a yellow-based foundation. Concealer is thick, creamy, and more suited for spot coverage. Primer is more liquid, and appropriate for a larger area. You wouldn't wear either without foundation on top.

Although it's really overwhelming for a newbie, I second Makeup Alley, which has product reviews and message boards. Certainly it's good to check out the extremely detailed reviews before you buy anything. However, keep in mind that extremely popular products (with hundreds of reviews as opposed to dozens) tend to be lower rated as people are disappointed by expectations or hype.
posted by acidic at 6:01 AM on May 15, 2011

If/when you have insurance (or just money) you might want to see a dermatologist - they can give you a course of mild antibiotics that calm the rosacea down (for reasons unknown to science!). As I understand it (having taken my first course) you can repeat the process at intervals. It seemed to work for me - I finally went in because rosacea is progressive and what had been very occasional flushing was clearly (by my mid-thirties) becoming permanent.
posted by Frowner at 6:03 AM on May 15, 2011

You could fill in the Red Cross skin camouflage contact form and ask if they can recommend anywhere in the US, or if they'd be willing to email you a list of the proudcts they use?
posted by penguin pie at 6:03 AM on May 15, 2011

I'm going to second going to Sephora and asking the people who work there to help you. I had a similar makeup emergency a while back, and the nice young woman at Sephora helped me pick out products and application tools and then showed me how to put the products on. I would go to the Rosacea Foundation's page and print out their makeup tips, so the Sephora person will have a better idea of what could irritate your skin.
posted by craichead at 6:11 AM on May 15, 2011

I have mild rosacea and started using this Clinique powder. I was very skeptical, but it does a good job of toning down redness. You would look jaundiced if you tried to cover up everything with this stuff, but a light coat works wonders. (Although I'm not sure if this would be more or less suited to your olive complexion...) I also use their redness foundation (I think it's this one). HOWEVER, I find that their line of skin care for rosacea (including green-tinted moisturizer) to be very harsh on my skin, so don't let them sell you it without trying it out.

Good luck!
posted by oohisay at 6:14 AM on May 15, 2011

Also remember that when you go to Sephora, as opposed to a department store counter, it's usually so busy that the assistants won't be surprised or insulted when you say "thanks, let me look around a bit more" and then slip out. I don't know if there's any way to induce a flush but you could go home, wait until you get flushed, and then check to see how well the makeup worked.
posted by acidic at 6:24 AM on May 15, 2011

Oh, that's a good point! If you're going to Sephora, pick a time when they're not likely to be busy. A weekday morning or mid-afternoon is good, if you can do that. They get busier on weekends, during people's lunch hour, and after people get out of work.
posted by craichead at 6:27 AM on May 15, 2011

If you're looking for a mild cleanser, try Bliss Cleansing Milk. It's creamy and does not produce suds. I don't have rosecea, but "regular" cleansers irritate my skin and cause me to have the flaky patches you describe. I actually wear less make up now that my skin is calmer, due to using the Bliss. You can get it a Sephora or order is on Amazon.

And I second Bobbi Brown foundation. Find a Bobbi Brown store or counter, and have them do a foundation make over with you. I love reading how-to make up books and most of the professional make up artists swear by Bobbi Brown, especially for coverage.
posted by lootie777 at 6:44 AM on May 15, 2011

Another option, besides Sephora, is the MAC store, if you have one near you. I have sensitive skin and roseacea, and dig MAC cosmetics, and the people there are also super trained and very helpful. They will be able to help you figure out what's best for you.

(I don't use special green makeup to deal with my roseacea; I find that most of the time regular foundation -- the good stuff, not drugstore stuff -- is perfectly adequate, even for the worst of my flareups.)
posted by shamash at 6:47 AM on May 15, 2011

Not a makeup tip, but studies have shown that Niacinamide (vitamin B3) helps calm down rosacea. You could try using something like Cerave PM for 2 months (morning and night)...I have a feeling it would help you!
posted by 200burritos at 6:56 AM on May 15, 2011

(I love Cerave!)

Are you on any topical medications for your rosacea? My mom had a prescription for Finacea for a while and it really helped.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:29 AM on May 15, 2011

I'm sure Sephora and Clinqe are excellent but you don't know what will work for you unless you try it. The cheapest makeup can look great when skillfully applied, so two things, build skill, which is basically blending (possibly find a real pro for a lesson, say someone in the film or photo industry) and find what works for your skin.
posted by sammyo at 7:36 AM on May 15, 2011

Some people have great results from green primers. I know Smashbox makes one, and I've really liked their primers in the past.

I best thing to do would be to find a makeup counter or Sephora and talk to a sales associate about finding an appropriate foundation for you, and the best way to apply it. FWIW, I don't have rosacea but I am prone to redness, as my skin is quite sensitive and very, very fair. I'm currently using (and loving!) Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua, a very liquid foundation that I like to spot-apply with my fingers then blend out with a MAC 187 brush. I've also had great luck with Estee Lauder Double Wear Light. I'm not the biggest fan of heavy foundations, and I like to just apply foundation to my reddest areas. MAC SAs are SUPER knowledgeable and will really help you out.

Speaking of MAC, if you can get their SPF50+ primer DO IT. It's the only mineral sunscreen (zinc oxide) I've found that doesn't break me out, and foundation wears beautifully over it. I started using it after my skin stopped tolerating my beloved La Roche Posay. Their cleansing oil is also excellent, really gentle, and does a great job of removing all traces of makeup. Who knew MAC made great skincare?

Good luck!
posted by nerdfish at 7:42 AM on May 15, 2011

Just wanted to recommend Korres Wild Rose Moisturizer. I've heard good things about this one for people with rosacea.
posted by SarahElizaP at 8:03 AM on May 15, 2011

elsietheeel: What happened after your mother stopped using the Finacea? Did she move on to something else, get on antibiotics, or did her skin improve enough to the point she didn't need it anymore?

I have to admit I'm really nervous about seeing a dermatologist and trying topical medications. I've read too many horror stories in the past about how certain topical prescriptions made some people's skin condition worse.

sammyo: I've tried two products from Clinique: this gave me horrible acne in places I never had acne before, and this burned the living crap out of my skin and made it extremely red after using it. That's why I'm sort of "eh" about the Clinique suggestions. I'm worried their other products will do the same thing.

Everyone: Don't mind me. I worry a lot.

nerdfish: I've been using a parasol and a wide-brimmed hat the rare times I leave the house because I couldn't find a suitable sunscreen that doesn't irritate my skin, so I'll definitely look into that product. I've read zinc is also good for rosacea.

Thanks, everyone!

I still think the man in the video I linked did a better job than I could.

I have a lot to learn.

I didn't even know what a primer was until now... *hides*

posted by Sara Bellum at 8:07 AM on May 15, 2011

You might want to try a BB cream. BB creams are a kind of base that has been really popular in Asia over the past 6 years. It's basically a primer and foundation in one and depending on the formula you buy, may have medicinal/whitening/brightening/color correction/wrinkle prevention/spf properties as well.

They originated in Germany, where they were used to help patients recovering from facial laser surgery to recover. Then Asian cosmetic companies found it, adopted it (with crazy enthusiasm), and release new ones every year. Most of the popular BB creams come from Korean companies.

I think for your case, this BB cream might be good for you, in the shade "Natural Green" -- though it comes out of the tube green, it blends out really well and won't leave you with a greenish tint at all. (You can find reviews of this product on youtube. Also, I am not affiliated with that website. I do purchase from them, because they are an authorized seller of that brand in the US.)

Sephora released two BB creams from the Dr. Jart label, however, the formula of those was changed from a typical BB cream to something more of a tinted moisturizer. I don't recommend them for that reason. (I don't know whose bright idea it was to attempt to introduce something the US market doesn't have, but then completely change the formula to make it similar to something the US market is flooded with...)

Please be aware that as with any foundation or skin product, some types/brands of BB cream may break you out, even if they are okay on others. Everyone's skin is different and will react differently. Personally, I love BB creams and own about 5 different kinds, and I've never had issues with clogged pores/break outs, etc, however I do not have sensitive skin. Just be sure to do your research online and find out what's best for you :)

Here's a recent review of some BB creams by a white beauty blogger on youtube. I'm recommending a white blogger only because most of the bloggers on YT who cover BB Iream are Asians, like me, with yellowish undertones. In your picture, you look pretty fair, and I think you might benefit from an opinion from someone with a similar skin tone and who can tell you the benefits/disadvantages of BB cream with regards to that particular skin tone. (I promise I'm not being racist -__-)

Here is one review of the Dollish BB cream I suggested. (There are many more on YT)

Hope this helps!
posted by joyeuxamelie at 8:16 AM on May 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Don't be scared of the dermatologist! Prescription-strength products can be pretty full on, but they're almost always worth it. I still go and get a script for an isotretinoin gel when my acne gets out of control, and my skin looks incredible afterwards.
posted by nerdfish at 8:22 AM on May 15, 2011

Oh, I forgot to mention that Dr. Jart BB cream from Asia is very good -- just avoid the one they sell in Sephora, which, as I mentioned, had its formula changed for the US market (probably to make it more appealing/familiar...)
posted by joyeuxamelie at 8:26 AM on May 15, 2011

Look into powdered sunscreens, there are at least two on the market now that I know of. They are straight zinc and titanium oxide with some inert filler powder. They hide some of the red on my nose by virtue of being somewhat opaque when applied, and tinted powder or foundation can go on top of that, but you really want to practice your application so that you know you're applying enough and applying evenly.

Of course the parasol and hat are still a good idea, but as a pale person who has always lived in very sunny climates, I find the multi-pronged approach is the best way to get through the summer.
posted by slow graffiti at 8:47 AM on May 15, 2011

For information on how to apply all of these concoctions, I've really enjoyed the series on The Hairpin called "How to be a Girl". This episode is about all the face stuff and this is about different ways you can do eyeliner and this one is about putting in hair rollers. All very fun and informative.
posted by hydrobatidae at 8:56 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

On, Paula Begoun gives recommendations for which beauty and cleansing products are actually harmless enough for truly sensitive skin - and she goes product by product, not line by line. It's worth checking out.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:09 AM on May 15, 2011

joyeuxamelie: BB cream sounds too good to be true. Thank you!
posted by Sara Bellum at 9:10 AM on May 15, 2011

I have extremely sensitive skin and cannot tolerate any of the large commercial brands of foundation. (Make up for ever, bb, and (OMG) MAC break me out horribly and give me really unpleasant rashes).

I use Meow Cosmetics mineral make up. Three ingredients. Skin saved.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 10:01 AM on May 15, 2011

I have a ruddy complexion, sensitive/combination skin, and about 5 years ago was diagnosed with mild rosacea. Dermatological treatment has been stymied by the fact that flare-ups would subside by the time my doctors' appointments rolled around. It's really been trial and error for me. There's hope: the goods news is I haven't had a flare-up in about 3 years. I think a lot of it has to do with both improving my diet and ending an unhappy marriage and the stress that went with it.

Most concealers, foundations and powders irritated my skin during flare-ups, making the affected area worse. Same with sunscreens. For some of the make-up and other skin products that work for me, see this comment. I also like Cerave PM, recommended above. At the risk of not answering your make-up question, I'd like to share some other tips:

1. By far the worst and most immediate triggers for me are sun and stress. I think it's great that you use a parasol and hat. Reducing stress is easier said than done, but it sounds like you're doing a lot of good work on addressing the stressors in your life.

2. Dietary triggers are processed food, sugar, flour, caffeine and alcohol. They all increase redness and negatively affect the texture/tone of my skin. When I avoid them, my complexion improves dramatically.

3. I'm extremely gentle with my face: no hot water, rough washclothes or towels, rubbing, etc. I keep anything that goes near my face scrupulously clean. I change my pillowcases and use a fresh washcloth every other day.

4. Yogurt and honey (separately) as face masks. Apply in an even layer over clean skin, let sit for 15 mins or so, and then gently remove with a warm washcloth and lots of rinsing.

5. When I feel a flare-up coming on, I sometimes take a Benadryl (drawback is it makes me sleepy) or a Claritin-D. I'm still experimenting with this but so far good results.

Try not to be afraid to experiment with new products. You can always stop using them if they don't work and a lot of stores have generous return policies -- check with them before you purchase.

Unfortunately, there's no product to deal with rude comments. A co-worker once yelled -- across an entire line of office cubicles --"WHY IS YOUR FACE SO RED? DO YOU HAVE ROSACEA?" A make-up retailer once told me my face was "red like tomato." Nice.

Sara Bellum, I'll end this too-long comment by telling you that I admire your strength and perserverence. I follow your posts with great interest and commend you for reaching out for help. You've done so much to overcome extraordinary obstacles in your life and I think you're just amazing.
posted by Majorita at 10:07 AM on May 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

This might not apply to you at all, but I found my rosacea cleared up remarkably once I stopped eating gluten after I got diagnosed with celiac disease. I now believe that rosacea was my first visible celiac symptom. Friends literally have come up to me and asked what I'm using on my skin because it looks so much better. This is after trying Finacea and spending hundreds of dollars on special creams and such at Sephora.

I by no means think that the only cause of rosacea is celiac, but check out a list of symptoms and see if any others fit. It might be that there was a trigger in the processed foods that I can't eat anymore.

The keratosis pilarsis on my arms is also 99% gone, too, and I spent lots of money trying to get rid of that, too.
posted by sugarfish at 12:28 PM on May 15, 2011

Get to a dermatologist; Rosacea is a medical condition and these doctors are trained to treat it. I understand your concerns about reactions as it seems like it is one of those conditions that requires some to a great deal of trial and error to find out what will work best for you. However I would be far more concerned about reactions to products recommended by internet strangers and sephora sales help than by medically tested products recommended by a trained doctor. Do your research, try to find a dermatologist that specializes in rosacea. And I'm not saying that you shouldn't use make up or that some or all of the products recommended above won't work great, but it just wouldn't be the first line. At the very least you should talk to a dermatologist and do some research on what additives in make up might irritate your skin, both chemicals and all natural organic ingredients, such as essential oils that might trigger a reaction.
posted by kaybdc at 12:42 PM on May 15, 2011

If you haven't seen a doctor yet, go! I have the same thing and a prescription for Metrogel completely cleared it up for me in about a month.
posted by Jess the Mess at 12:45 PM on May 15, 2011

Do not be afraid of the dermatologist. I have been diagnosed with rosacea for some years now and go to the dermatologist when I have a flareup. I usually get a short course of antibiotics (30 days, although I've sometimes been on 60 to 90 days) which calms the flareup and then continue with topical medications. One thing, keep track of what works and doesn't work for you and be firm with the dermatologist regarding treatment that doesn't work for you. The standard topical treatment is Metrogel, which works beautifully for some people and causes skin problems for others. There's another topical treatment called Klaron, which is what I am on right now. I still get doctors wanting to put me on Metrogel but I have to firmly tell them no, as it caused me all kinds of skin problems. I've also been firm with a lower antibiotic dosage, as I've found it works well for the rosacea without causing the usual problems of antibiotic usage.

In terms of makeup, samples are your friend. For example, the Make Up Forever green makeup primer made me break out horribly as well as worsen redness. So try samples until you find something that your skill will tolerate. In general, unless the redness is really bad, I've found that some foundation and a touch of yellow face powder is enough to even out my skin tone. Currently I am using Bobbi Brown products, but I've also used Clinique in the past without problems.

Certain odd things which have worked for me but may not work for you: zinc ointment (yes, the drugstore kind used for diaper rash) when I have a bad flareup and my skin is so sensitive it won't tolerate even the rosace medication; vitamin D; allergy medication such as Benadryl or Claritin; drinking a lot of water; and cutting down on sugar and white flour.
posted by needled at 12:55 PM on May 15, 2011

Have a look at Lisa Eldridge for excellent guidance on how to approach make up for skin discolouration - the tutorial talks about acne specifically but it also addresses balancing our redness and preparing skin etc.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:50 PM on May 15, 2011

I've got mild rosacea too, and seborrheic dermatitis (yay). There is TONS of misinformation floating around about both conditions, and even dermatologists are often woefully uninformed. (I was diagnosed with seb derm 3x before I finally saw someone who recognized that I've got rosacea too, despite the fact that having both is extremely common. That kind of thing happens all the time.)

I've spent 1000+ hours researching both conditions and experimenting with products. Here's some info that may help you:

* Go see a good cosmetic dermatologist and get them to prescribe for you. Don't waste your time with a non-cosmetic derm: they don't understand rosacea and they tend to be dismissive, particularly about the psychological effects. A cosmetic derm may feel like a bad fit, especially since you don't wear makeup --- their offices look like spas, they treat lots of barbie doll ladies, etc. So it may feel strange to be there. But they are the experts in treating these kinds of conditions. Depending on your insurance they may be expensive but they are totally worth it: I spent years futzing around pointlessly with GPs and ordinary derms: the cosmetic derm fixed my problem immediately. You want to be prescribed antibiotics (e.g., doxycycline), plus maybe sodium sulfacetamide lotion, plus maybe Elidel. This is the kind of treatment that will clear up your skin sufficiently that you'll be able to skip makeup without feeling self-conscious.

* Nothing over-the-counter will clear your skin when it's flaring: you need prescription-strength stuff for that. But there are over-the-counter products that will not make your condition worse, and which may soothe and calm a little. Look for products that contain zinc oxide, zinc pyrithione, tea tree oil, glycerin, shea butter, mineral oil, vegetable oils, sulfur, sulfacetamide, arnica and aloe. You want products that are super-simple: the fewer ingredients the better. Cetaphil is too mild to remove makeup but it should work for you since you don't wear any. it's a classic. It is extremely important to avoid products containing alcohol, AHA, salicylic acid (BHA), physical exfoliants, eucalyptus, peppermint and menthol, witch hazel, any strong scent, any astringent, and cornstarch. Bar cleansers are bad for rosacea too.

* There have been billions of food and lifestyle triggers blamed for making rosacea worse: alcohol (especially red wine), smoking, spicy food, oily food, coffee, chocolate, tomatoes, soda, cheese, vinegar, citrus, hot baths and showers, stress, winter weather, saunas, sugar and so forth. I've always been a little skeptical about this: it feels to me suspiciously like healthcare professionals using the vehicle of rosacea to persuade people to adopt lifestyle changes they should be making anyway. Regardless, my derm says he thinks life is too short to give up everything that's pleasurable, and I have to say that I agree.

* Avoid the sun and use a good sunscreen containing titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. Sun is good for seb derm but bad for rosacea.

* To your main question: I've tried the green foundations and they don't work for me: I can't get them to blend properly, and they settle into my pores. What works best for me is just a well-formulated good quality foundation such as Laura Mercier or Bobbi Brown, with Tarte flush cheek stain on top of it. It sounds counterintuitive to cover up red with foundation, and then add red on top of it, but it seems to work for me. The cheek stain is extremely natural looking --- it's not at all like powder blush which visibly sits on top of the skin. It draws the eye away from residual redness elsewhere, and overall (I think) I end up looking healthily, appropriately pinkish on my cheeks, rather than blotchy everywhere. That's not an extensive makeup routine: it takes about three minutes.

* Personally, I wouldn't bother getting help from people at the makeup counters, especially if you don't wear makeup regularly. My experience with those people has been the opposite of posters above: I find them alarmingly uninformed, particularly about cosmetic ingredients' effect on skin conditions. They're just pushing products, whatever's new and trendy: they really have no idea what they're talking about. If you're into makeup they can be fun to chat with and some will have a good eye aesthetically. But if you're on a mission for information, they are useless.

Good luck! And really, the best advice I can give you is to see a cosmetic dermatologist. I wish I'd done it years before I did!
posted by Susan PG at 2:56 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just read your followup input, Sara Bellum.

I have dry, flaky skin on the sides of my nose and near my eyebrows, an oily nose, and normal to oily skin elsewhere.

That is classic seb derm. You may have rosacea too, but I'd say you've definitely got seb derm. Knowing that should help you find solutions -- e.g., using ketoconazole shampoo (Nizoral) will sometimes clear up the flakiness. Use Nizoral if you can't afford a derm, but if you can a prescription strength (2%) ketoconazole will work much better.

Good luck!
posted by Susan PG at 3:04 PM on May 15, 2011

My rosacea first flared up in my 20s. I went to a dermatologist because I didn't know why my face hurt and felt hot so often, and why it was sunburn red when I hadn't been out in the sun. I guess it was pretty severe, and unusual at that age.

My dermatologist prescribed a low dose of antibiotics (I'm sorry that I can't remember the specific kind) that I took for thirty days. He also told me to stop using anything on my face except cetaphil cleanser (liquid). He told me to rub it on gently all over, and then just wipe it off with a soft cloth (not a nubby washcloth, but something less harsh like a rag made from an old tshirt). Cetaphil can be used completely without water if you choose to, and it isn't drying nor is it greasy at all. I have used nothing else since then, and in 20 years I have only had to repeat the antibiotics course two more times.

My rosacea shows up either as red skin all over my cheeks and nose or as a small red bump which looks like a zit is forming but doesn't feel like a zit. I was prescribed Finacea cream for the red bumps. I paid for one tube 5 years ago. My doc wanted me to use it all over daily, but I chose to just use it on the bumps themselves as they appear, and usually they don't last longer than a day. I still have that same tube and it still works. I know it is expired, but, there it is. Still working.
I have found that as long as I use cetaphil cleanser, I can use whatever 'sensitive skin' moisturizer I want to. I've found that sunscreens with zinc oxide work very well at preventing rosacea flare-ups: if I use the other sort of sunscreen I end up with stinging skin after I exercise, especially in hot weather.

Now, I am most likely to have a flare-up if I have a cocktail or beer, which I rarely do. When I know I am going to be drinking, I have found that using this Almay skin tint gives me enough coverage that I don't end up feeling like my face is glowing red. I'm sure there is some color, but I like to think it just makes me look happy and engaged in the social occasion. I just apply it all over my face like a moisturizer, making sure not to leave harsh, unblended edges at my hairline or jawline.

I have tried the mineral make-up, too, and I love the way it feels on my skin, but I have dry skin in some areas of my face and the mineral make-up just exacerbates the flakiness. Maybe there is a way to moisturize to avoid the flakes, but I haven't found it yet.

Oh, and I guess I'll add that I recently started taking Celexa and one of the side effects is that it makes existing skin conditions temporarily flare up. You mentioned the suicidal depression, so I thought I'd throw that our there in case you go the anti-depression route.
posted by Brody's chum at 3:15 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've gotten good ideas on products to try from this Rosacea forum. However, like you, I haven't found a cleanser that doesn't make my skin flare up. I had the best results with Aveeno Ultra-Calming Cleanser--got through a bottle and a half before I reacted to it--and I also liked their Ultra-Calming Moisturizer. Right now, I'm trying Neutrogena Extra-Gentle Cleanser because I've had good results with the sunscreen they make.

I've had generally good results with Physicians Formula and Almay products, especially the makeup. I used the PF Extra Rich Rehydrating Moisturizer for years, and that might be a good choice for you, since your skin is oilier than mine (it was a bit light for me). PF also makes a Self-Defense Color Corrective Moisturizing Lotion (green moisturizer, essentially); be sure to use just a little, though, and blend it well or it will look green (my supervisor asked me if I had a bruise on my face!) I found it to be more trouble than it was worth, but YMMV.

Recently, I found that my PF moisturizer was making me flare up, so in desperation, I made my own, and I've been pretty happy with it. It's a variation on this recipe, adjusted to make a smaller amount and have a higher proportion of oil. I make mine with 1/2 c. water, 1/8 c. wax, and 1/4 c. olive oil (BTW, I had trouble with it separating, so I keep stirring it until it's cool, and it winds up with a nice, creamy texture).

As I wrote above, I haven't found green products to be worth the trouble. I usually just rinse with tepid water, pat my face barely dry, put on some of my homemade cream, put on a bit of the Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunscreen (not too much or I look like a ghost), then cover with PF liquid foundation (put on with a damp makeup sponge). The sunscreen and foundation cut down the redness enough for me. Unfortunately, you'll have to try and try things until you find products that work for you; it can be VERY frustrating (and expensive!) and I find that people don't really understand how stressful it is. All the best to you and memail me if you'd like to talk more.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 5:03 PM on May 15, 2011

BTW, Sara Bellum, I'm 46, have been wearing makeup for 30+ years, and I never knew until now that there was such a thing as "primer" for your face. :)
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 8:04 PM on May 15, 2011

I don't have roseaca, but I have suffered from dermatitis and adult acne for years. I had Nizoral on prescription and it helped a bit, as did using shampoo without SLS.

I've been trying out mineral foundation recently and my skin is looking a lot better. It's a very light but covering powder, and there are tons of brands out there - Joppa, Lumiere, Meow, Lily Lolo, Everyday Minerals - who will sell or send you samples for very little. Everyday Minerals has a shade called Light Olive that might suit you. It's very natural looking (a loose powder that you kind of buff onto the skin with a kabuki brush) so is perfect if you don't want to wear makeup other than to even out your tone a bit.

I also find Revlon Colourstay and Benefit's concealers to be quite good.

You also need to have something to take off the foundation or anything else you use. A hot cloth cleanser might be good for you - this is a thick cream that you smear on the face then remove with a hot, damp muslin cloth. Lush do one called Ultrabland which some find too heavy but others with skin conditions like a lot as it's very gentle.
posted by mippy at 5:26 AM on May 16, 2011

I'm back to +1 Susan PG's good foundation + Tarte stain. Also unfortunately +1 not so reliant on sales clerks; I can't tell you how bad Sephora staffers have been with just simple stuff like "Can you find me a liner that matches this" or finding a foundation.

Needed when you are spending a lot of cash on make-up: cheerful willingness to put a usable quantity of product in a wee container to take home, good return policy. Don't be too embarrassed to be greedy about asking for samples. Sephoras are well-stocked with wee containers; go in, say you are looking for a new XYZ and would like them to recommend XYZs and give you a day's worth of each to take home, and you will come back in a week and purchase the winner, etc. For foundation, definitely leave the store with swipes of the shades on your face and go and look at yourself in daylight.

If you are interested in mineral make-up I cannot say enough good things about Korres' -- I had previously hated mineral make-up until I tried the Korres, which I tried because (1) every other Korres thing I'd tried had been great, (2) fantastic reviews on and

I am scared of BB creams given reviews mentioning break-outs. YMMV!

In re. "A cosmetic derm may feel like a bad fit, especially since you don't wear makeup --- their offices look like spas, they treat lots of barbie doll ladies, etc" -- yeah, this can be problematic; I kinda loathe "spas" and had to do a little work to find a place that was a good fit, which...well, it sees its share of well-heeled 'barbie doll ladies' (hee) but it also sees a lot of people with serious skin issues, disfiguring congenital stuff, and looks like a plush doc's office, and (importantly) has never ever tried to sell me any sort of product. The dermatologist's recommendations for post-procedure products? Vaseline, olive oil. So they are out there. I initially got a recommendation from a GP I did not like or trust, and dealt with a lot of weirdness just trying to get info on the phone, and thought: if they are like this now, how will they be if I am flaming red and oozing pus and need urgent help post-treatment? Huh, and went elsewhere. Listen to your gut on selecting a place, don't be afraid to flee based on "They do permanent eye-liner here too?" or "Why was she so interested in chatting up $35 lipsticks? That's not what I went there for" knee-jerks. (I think I may have actually found mine via a long-ago anon Ask MeFi question...!) Lots of good places out there though, and I absolutely promise it will be an in-tears-for-not-having-done-it-long-ago sort of experience. And they will also be quite in tune to the emotional side of skin problems, so don't worry about that.

You can also ask your derm for recommendations on OTC products -- looking at the Clinique stuff you linked to I thought "But of course those wouldn't have worked for her!" and help in that area is, well, a big help. A derm will save you money there, too, being more likely to steer you towards better drugstore things (Complex 15!) than pricey department store.
posted by kmennie at 7:30 AM on May 16, 2011

i love LOVE sephora so much because you can go in and ask for as many samples as you want, and more importantly, the ladies that work there are always super happy to help you pick out something great AND to teach you how to apply it. they don't look down on you or get judgey when you admit you have no idea how makeup works—they actually get really excited to share their knowledge about something they love with someone interested. the fact that they have so many brands to choose from in-store makes the process way different from getting help at a makeup counter in a department store or say, at a mac store, because they aren't under pressure to sell a particular line or product and will pick and choose from different lines to find what's right for you. i've only ever had really positive experiences at sephora.

also! if you'd like to learn more about makeup, i am currently completely obsessed with jane feltes over at the hairpin. her tutorials are basically like having your best really cool girlfriend explain how makeup works, she takes questions and answers them either in the comments or in future tutorials. so best.
posted by lia at 9:01 AM on May 16, 2011

You can't return make-up in the UK, not even if it's never been opened. This and having to pay more generally for US products makes me jealous of all you Sephora-totin' Americans.
posted by mippy at 9:16 AM on May 16, 2011

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