The Good Will Hunting Paralegal: Raging Menopausal Pimples

Or Struggling with Acne Rosacea at Age 50 ~ Part 1

I’m not really trying to be the face of middle-aged acne rosacea, but I want to talk about it because I know I’m not alone in struggling with this painful and often painfully embarrassing disease. It’s not uncommon among women of a certain age, but many remain untreated. I know I want to be a big girl and not care about something as trivial-seeming as a few zits, but acne rosacea, especially during severe flare-ups, is much more painful and disfiguring than the occasional pimple. It’s hard to ignore, because frankly it hurts, itches, and burns. From my perspective, pimples are not better than wrinkles.

I remember having some pretty unsightly acne when I was in my teens. I was (and still am) acutely shy, and preferred not to be noticed, but sometimes classmates made rude comments about my bad skin. My elders would comfort me with, “Just wait until you’re out of your teens, your hormones will settle down, and you’ll have lovely skin!”

If only those elders could see me now, with much more severe acne rosacea, that in many cases just gets worse with age, especially with the raging hormones of menopause. If I could hide in my office, great, but I frequently meet the public, and well, have this thing called a budget style blog. Taking pictures of myself required shedding some self-esteem issues over time, because I was always the one never in photos. Recently, I’ve started avoiding photos again because my skin has gotten so bad.

I took some self-portraits with and without a new mineral foundation today, at the clearing up stage of a bad breakout (couldn’t work up the nerve during last few weeks) on a new skin care plan, and with my typical orange makeup face (because I haven’t found a foundation that doesn’t make me look orange). I can’t just not wear make-up at all. Well, I guess I could, but uuummmm, no. I like light make-up and won’t wear multiple heavy layers, so forget the layering of the green, the white, etc. often recommended for acne sufferers.

Acne rosacea has various degrees of presentation and severity, some of it pretty darned gross, including facial redness, bumps and pimples, red patches, eye irritation, and even recurrent styes.

I enjoyed some relatively acne free years in my 20s and 30s, but was diagnosed with adult acne in my late 30s. I was prescribed topical antibiotics that had to be kept refrigerated, and seemed to take about six months to clear up my increasingly bad skin.

Although no one diagnosed it at the time, I had signs of ocular rosacea in the form of repeated styes, one even requiring eye surgery (super gross). What stopped the recurring styes was my eye doctor’s suggestion to wash my eyes every day with baby shampoo, plus my primary care physician prescribed a topical antibiotic (one that didn’t have to be kept in the fridge) for what was still being called adult acne.

Then about two years ago, all hell truly broke loose on my face. No matter how gentle I was with my skin care, I had huge angry-looking break-outs that would not resolve within a few weeks, to the point my skin sometimes became cracked, bumpy, and very red, especially my nose and cheeks, but also my forehead, chin, and jawline.

I finally saw an dermatologist who correctly diagnosed acne rosacea. He prescribed a topical antibiotic, as well as a special oral medication that cleared up flare-ups extremely quickly – but also costs a fortune and has quite the set of embarrassing side effects of its own. The co-pay was high, too. I only took it for the very worst flare-ups, but I found out last week that my insurance won’t cover it any more – when a pharmacy associate asked, “Are you sure you want to pay $460 for this?” Which almost caused a heart attack right there at the cash register, and she rightly gathered the answer is no.

Next week, in Part 2 of this series, I’ll talk about some of the new skin care tips that really seem to be helping me – and my search for a new mineral makeup that doesn’t turn my face orange. My dermatologist’s nurse recommended the drugstore brand I’m trying now, to save some money, but also urged me to try MAC Cosmetics mineral foundation, swearing that the higher cost of the makeup is absolutely worth it.

If you’re a fellow acne rosacea sufferer, I’d love to hear some of your tips for keeping flare-ups to a minimum – and whether you’ve found the perfect foundation yet.

Source: National Rosacea Society

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