Dear Face,

Let’s talk about your rosacea.

I’ve been thinking of writing to you for a while about this, but I’ve put it off. Then yesterday, an acquaintance’s Instagram post about her own rosacea got me thinking more about your struggles.

I remember the shame I felt the first time I realized that strenuous exercise would turn you redder than hot lava. I was almost fourteen, and I was trying out for the high school cheer squad (team?). In addition to Lungs sucking wind because they weren’t used to so much intense aerobic activity, you flushed a deep purply red.

I castigated myself as an overweight, uncool loser with no business cheering if you were going to signal my distress to the world with such a loud broadcast. When I didn’t make the team (squad?), I made it your fault rather than my lack of skill.

But as time progressed and you flushed red at every athletic endeavor, I realized this was just your thing. Once, during my short running career, a little girl in the neighborhood stopped biking to ask if I was okay because you were so red. Remember that? She must have thought Heart was in danger of exploding. I was embarrassed but not as ashamed as I’d been back in that high school gym.

Now, as more years have progressed, you are tinted some variation of pinky red most of the time. It’s been eons since I’ve worn blush because you don’t need any help adding “color” to Cheeks. Summertime is nice because I can attribute your color to kissing the sun. Although it aggravates me to no end when someone assumes I’m sunburnt. Do I explain? Do I leave them to their assumption? Do I care? Why do I care?

Heat and alcohol are triggers for your rosacea, as is exercise still. Wearing a mask really revs up the redness. Makeup is great to tone down the scarlet show, but it also seems to aggravate you.

You’re flaming as I write this, your heat warming Hand when she touched you.

Perhaps, you’re thinking about the debacle that medication was. When I finally decided that I had lived with the redness long enough and asked the dermatologist for help, she confirmed your rosacea diagnosis and prescribed medication. The first medication was expensive and had little effect. The second medication was more expensive and caused you to break out in a rash that traveled down to Neck. The third medication prescribed cost hundreds of dollars. I didn’t even fill that prescription.

I decided that your redness is a part of who you are, as much as Freckles are. I don’t love that you’re red, but I accept it. I know that a consistent skin care routine with gentle, organic products makes you feel best and does a darn good job of controlling the worst of rosacea’s symptoms of breakouts and dryness. I’m committed to your care, and I’ve got plenty of compassion for you.

On that same IG post, another acquaintance shared additional ideas we can try to soothe you. I’m most excited about moon bathing. You too? Let’s make a date under the next full moon.

Nicole C. Ayers

Artwork by Mica Gadhia