My name is Gabby, I’m 17 and I have rosacea. Put simply, rosacea is a skin condition that makes my face red, especially over my nose and cheeks, and can also cause a burning sensation. I have had it for most of my life, but the first time I really began to take any notice of it was when I started secondary school.
One day at school when I was walking between classes, I suddenly felt my face begin to get really hot. It felt as if I was on fire and my skin was hot to touch. Even the frosty winter wind wouldn’t cool it down – it just kept burning. I reached my next class and as I walked in, everybody turned to stare at me. There are no words to describe how embarrassed I felt at that moment – I just wanted the ground to swallow me up.
My skin flares up on random occasions, turning red and blotchy all of a sudden and I can’t cover it up or hide anywhere. I have lost count of the number of times somebody has said, “Your face is so red”, or “Are you embarrassed or something?”. There was even a time when someone said I looked like a ‘ninja-turtle’, because my rosacea had a goggle-look around my eyes.
My self-confidence was at an all-time low throughout school and I felt as if my rosacea was completely out of control. Even everyday things like talking to people became an embarrassment and I used to touch my face a lot to try to cover the redness.
Sport is a massive part of my life. I have always played netball and enjoyed keeping fit, but whenever I exercised, my face would burn up and I would end up looking like a tomato for the rest of the day. This discouraged me from taking part in PE at school and I would never really enjoy any of the sessions, as I knew it was inevitable that my skin would flare up afterwards and I would have to walk into my next class with a puffy red face.
It got to the point where my skin was physically painful. It felt like my whole body was on fire whenever my rosacea flared up, and I was beginning to develop rough bumps on the side of my cheeks that made me feel even more self-conscious.
During this time, I was struggling to walk around school without being filled with embarrassment, which would then make my skin become even redder. I would always try to cover up as much of my face as much as possible wherever I could, whether this was with a scarf or my hands in photos.
At the time, I didn’t feel like I could talk to my friends about it, as none of them have rosacea. I felt as if they wouldn’t understand.
I then decided to go to my GP about my skin. They prescribed me with tablets at first, but they didn’t really help at all. I then went back and was given a series of creams – none of which made any impact on my skin. It was frustrating and upsetting to me that nothing worked.
I felt as if I was just being pushed and pulled around the system, seeing different people and trying different treatments, but absolutely nothing was working. I was not provided with any mental health support for the emotional effects of rosacea. Instead, I was offered a small leaflet about the condition.
Eventually my GP referred me to a dermatologist, who officially diagnosed me with rosacea a few years ago. I told her all about the countless creams and tablets I had taken to try to hide the redness. I was happy to finally have an answer to the problem with my skin, but it wasn’t easy to accept that rosacea has no magic cure.
It shocked me to find that rosacea is actually a very common skin condition that affects a lot of people. This has encouraged me to talk openly about my experiences and urge others to do so as well.
I have come to realise that rosacea is nothing to be ashamed of and that I am not defined by my skin condition. I am now studying at college and have become so much more confident just through realising this. Nowadays, when people make comments about my skin, I try to embrace my new confidence and remind myself that not everybody understands what rosacea is.
My goal for the future is to change this lack of understanding. I want to tell as many people as possible about what rosacea is and fight for mental health support for those with visible differences. I think I will always be working on loving my skin for what it is, but talking to others about my rosacea has helped me learn to accept my skin.