by Tara O’Desky, D.C.
I’ve had rosacea for 20 years. Dermatologists have prescribed multiple rosacea treatments and medications over the years, none of which have helped. Most of the rosacea medications are not meant to “cure” rosacea anyway, they are meant to keep it at bay. I was always told rosacea was not curable.
My rosacea was slowly worsening and had gone from a general redness (Subtype I) to papules and pustules (Subtype II). Every day I would wake up and look in the mirror, not knowing what to expect. Most days it looked terrible and I had to wear foundation to cover it up, which would leave it dry and flaking by the end of the day. My cheeks started to feel like sandpaper and my temples had enlarged pores which would become very sore and then peel. What was worse was that I’d have to use cleanser at night to remove the foundation, which would set me up for a worse day the next day. I started to develop perioral dermatitis (thanks to a prescribed steroid cream which I later learned was not supposed to be applied to your face.) I was even starting to notice seborrheic dermatitis. The more prescriptions I used, the worse things got. I started to think my face had a life all its own.
The breaking point came when I walked up to the reception area at my office, with a waiting room full of patients. One of the secretaries looked at me and barked in a very loud voice, “Doctor, what’s wrong with your FACE?” I was mortified. I ran to the bathroom and my already red puffy face was covered with darker red marks, almost like little bites. There was no rhyme or reason to when this would occur. I guess I should have worn foundation that day!!
After that, I was determined to find a cure. Not a treatment, but a cure. I am a chiropractor and my background is in nutrition and holistic healing. I was taught to find the cause, not treat the symptoms. I know this. I know this with every fiber of my being. So it was time to dig deep, and once and for all figure out what was causing my rosacea.
The purpose of this website is to provide a detailed account of my own personal success story. Rosacea occurs in different people for different reasons, which makes finding a cure very difficult. Sadly, I often find people living with rosacea who have pretty much given up on ever finding the cause (and therefore a cure). I will tell you exactly what brands and products I used, because after a lot of trial and error, those are the ones that worked best for me. After four months of being rosacea free, I feel I must share what I learned to give others hope. For me, the medical community was only offering medications that did not work. If I really wanted my skin to be healthy again, I would have to figure it out for myself.
The information contained in this website and the resources available through this website are not intended as, and shall not be construed as, medical advice. The information contained in this website is not a substitute for medical or health advice from your personal medical provider who is aware of the facts and circumstances of your individual situation.
Here I am on the first day I started my official treatment. Note the bumpy texture of my cheeks and multiple red marks. I documented my journey with pictures while testing out various treatments, until I finally found my cure. These pictures were taken from November to December 2019 and clearly document my journey to have clear skin. These pictures are not touched up and I am not wearing any foundation in any picture, just eye makeup and lipstick.
The Journey Begins
The most useful online source I found with the most accurate information was a forum called rosaceagroup.org. The members on the forum are extremely knowledgeable and helpful, and I found discussions about things I would never have known about, such as the effectiveness of B2 and zinc in treating rosacea. There are a lot of published reports discussing this, yet I never saw anything about it in rosacea info sites, and I certainly never heard about it from my dermatologists. Since rosacea is often treated as a skin infection, treatments are often focused on topical creams and antibiotics. Antibiotics were never intended to be taken long term, yet rosacea is a chronic condition. In most cases when the antibiotics are stopped, the rosacea worsens. A growing number of experts are now focusing more on a gut connection. When you heal your gut, your overall inflammation goes down, and your body heals.
STEP I: GUT HEALTH
Most of the research I did early on talked about a gut connection, which I definitely believe in. If the gut is inflamed or irritated with chronic bouts of constipation or digestion problems, it could definitely show up in your skin. Due to my nutrition training early on in chiropractic school, I have always had a fairly clean diet. By that I mean no soda, no fried food, no fast food, only an occasional alcoholic drink and very little sugar. I basically eat salad, chicken, and tea. Boring, I know, but it keeps my stomach happy and I’ve never had to worry about dieting. I did however want to completely rule out the possibility of a food intolerance, so I ordered a test online from Everlywell and did a finger prick. A week later I got my results, and it turns out I am not allergic or intolerant to ANYTHING. I mean, nothing. No nuts, no dairy, no gluten, no wheat…. you name it, I’m not reacting to it. Now this is rare, and most people will find their body is in fact allergic, even mildly, to something. By doing this simple test and eliminating that food, it’s possible to see if your rosacea may be a result of your diet. Many people also find that eliminating gluten, wheat, or carbs of any kind does the trick. There is no exact science to this- its a guessing game, until you find what works for you.
Rosacea is basically an inflammatory condition which appears on your face; your body is reacting to something, and it shows up, yup, right on your face. If you do a food sensitivity test, eliminate that food and find you are still dealing with rosacea, it’s time to move on to the next part: gut health. When your gut is happy and healthy, you are less likely to experience inflammation. Most of us in America have been eating processed foods for quite some time and have poor diets; we have lost a lot of the nutrients, minerals and good bacteria that the gut needs to be healthy. Adding fresh, organic fruits and veggies, probiotics, fermented foods and fiber will help tremendously. Eliminate soda, sugar, fried or fatty foods, baked goods and processed foods. When you go to the grocery store, shop around the perimeter of the store where all of the fresh food is- don’t go up and down the aisles where all of the pre-packaged food is. Read labels. If you see things you can’t pronounce, don’t bother buying it. Eat salads/greens at least once per day. Include bone broth on a daily basis. Include coconut milk on a daily basis. Include a powdered greens product daily (my favorite is Greens Balance by Arbonne). Take daily prebiotics/probiotics. If you focus on healing your gut rather than avoiding trigger foods, your body won’t react to trigger foods. Healing your gut will take several months, but it will change your overall health for the better.
Cleanses go a step further than just “eating healthy.” Part of the problem with rosacea is either leaky gut or SIBO. For us, it is not enough to simply eat better. The gut must be healed. You can start by ordering a simple pre-packaged kit which does all the work for you. There are many gut health/detox programs on the market which are easy to follow and provide you with the protein shakes, fiber, detox teas and vitamins you need to stay energized during the detox. The one I used is called 30 Days to Healthy Living and allows you to eat more “regular foods” while doing the cleanse, but they are very specific about the PH Level of the foods you are eating. Basically, you will not be starving all the time as in some of the other cleanses out there. I love that this cleanse has antibiotic resistant probiotics, greens powder, B vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and includes the liver detox towards the end of the 30 days. Each week supplies you with different smoothies and teas which initially purge chemicals, add fiber, and finally add “good flora” back to your gut. Clearly it was intended for those wanting to clean up their skin. There are some individualized choices to make (smoothies can be chocolate, vanilla, or cinnamon!) as well as high fiber vs. greens balance, so please consult with me before ordering! Also included with the cleanse is a link to the private Facebook group which will be doing the cleanse at the same time as you, so you can share recipes, tips, and not feel alone! The cleanse is a key step in the healing process. Using a cream or medication on your skin alone will NOT cure your rosacea! Please see Resources Page for ordering instructions, or contact me directly at Rosaceahelp@outlook.com.
So you did a special diet… and nothing changed!
I get this question a lot. If you’re like me, you’ve already tried everything. You’ve tried stopping sugar, you’ve tried Paleo, you’ve tried celery juice. Maybe your symptoms got better, but you clearly still have rosacea. The problem with most diets is that they don’t have a liver detox component. When you lose weight, toxins are released back into your bloodstream and must be processed by your liver. When you stop eating sugar or gluten, you are starving the bacteria which feeds on sugar and there is a massive bacterial die-off, called a Herx reaction. In both cases, your body must now purge these toxins and bacteria, which could put your liver into overload. Many scientists and doctors now believe rosacea can be directly related to the liver. If you do not do a specific liver detox following your weeks/months/years of healthy eating and weight loss, you will continue to have the same symptoms until the liver is cleared. Liver function is extremely overlooked in rosacea treatment. Doctors are just starting to get on board with gut health in terms of rosacea treatment, but any gut cleanse or change in diet should always be followed up by a liver detox.
The Arbonne 30 Day Cleanse which I used actually includes a liver detox to be used in week 3 of the program. Here is some more detailed information about this amazing program.
LIVER DETOX- 7 DAY PROGRAM
This is so easy and tastes delicious. The kit comes with 7 premixed packets. Please contact me directly to order this kit. (Rosaceahelp@outlook.com) It tastes like a lemon ginger tea, and you drink it throughout the day at room temperature. You would eat normally, so it’s not difficult and you can bring the drink mix packets to work if needed. I plan to do this detox quarterly throughout the year.
There is one more issue of the digestive system which should be addressed when dealing with rosacea, and that is the spleen. Think of the spleen as a filter for the immune system. It filters the blood and keeps bodily fluids balanced. When your spleen is not working optimally, your immune response is reduced. Many people believe rosaceans suffer from a compromised immune system. Standard Process makes a supplement specifically for spleen detox called Spleen Desiccated. (It is intended for short term use, to clear out the spleen. After 2 months if further support is needed, there is a spleen support product which can be taken indefinitely.)
HEAVY METAL DETOX
I also did some research on heavy metals and the possibility that my body was overloaded with toxins from heavy metals. I’ve certainly had my share of chemical exposure, pesticides, amalgam fillings and aluminum. While I don’t have the resources to go have all my amalgams removed, I was able to do a heavy metal detox which is outlined in this article. It involves some very specific foods such as cilantro and wild blueberries from Maine, but I loved it and felt amazing after just 3 days. While I was doing this cleanse, my silver rings on my fingers and my gold necklace actually tarnished from the toxins pouring out of my body. I was initially shocked, but that’s just another explanation as to the level of chemical toxicity I had going on inside my body…. hence, rosacea. Medical Medium also has a wonderful recipe for a heavy metal smoothie!
I have also created my own version of a heavy metal detox drink because I hate making smoothies in a blender! See Resources Page for my recipe!
STEP II: PURE PRODUCTS
The second part of treating your rosacea involves examining the products you are putting on your face and tossing out anything with parabens, petroleum, formaldehyde, mineral oil, lauryl sulfate, animal by-products or basically anything not plant-based. I was told by dermatologists for years to use Cetaphil or CeraVe. I used them to moisturize (out of desperation) but they never helped reduce my symptoms and often would leave my skin feeling hot and itchy. Then I read the ingredients and realized I may as well have been putting gasoline on my face (well not really, but if you read my page on “Petrochemicals” you will understand how these products were actually damaging my fragile skin.) I experimented with pure coconut oil, pure aloe, argon oil, etc, all of which I liked but either left me too oily or would make me break out. Two years ago during a particularly bad flare-up, a friend introduced me to Calm moisturizer by Arbonne. I was afraid to try yet another brand, but when I read the ingredient policy of the company I realized their products were all vegan, petrochemical free, paraben free, sulfate free, with no artificial dyes or perfumes and all plant based. Plus they’ve never tested on animals. The new SuperCalm Line offers a moisturizer, cleanser and serum that are extremely gentle but have probiotics in them which are extremely beneficial to problem skin. These are currently my favorite facial products and they even make a hydrating eye cream (Bio-Hydria) which I have started to use daily, along with a Retin-A cream. (Never thought I’d see the day!) Another great thing about these products is that you can try whatever you want for 45 days and then return anything (even half empty bottles!) for a full refund. They also sell their products internationally so if you live outside of the USA, you would go to Arbonne.com and click on your country. They have a complete line of PURE makeup which covers very well but does not cause any irritation! The products don’t have fillers they are very concentrated so a little goes a long way. I was so impressed with the Arbonne products (and I was buying so many products) that I decided to join as a member, which means I get a great discount and can also offer free sample sets to people. So if anyone wants to try a free sample of the Calm products (moisturizer, cleanser, toner and eye cream) just let me know and I’d be happy to send it out to you. 🙂
I would caution you not to buy any vitamins, supplements, or skin care products on any website other than the actual brand website. A lot of these products are tampered with or expired and re-sold as “original” on websites like Amazon and Ebay, which is not only illegal but potentially dangerous. These products are to be used medically, and should be treated as such. Please don’t take any chances and purchase these products only through your doctors, nutritionists, or other licensed medical professionals. I have listed all the websites on the “resources” page with links to my contact information.
STEP III: DEMODEX MITE TREATMENT
Demodex mites were discovered in 1841 and are tiny little microscopic mites which live all over our bodies… all of us. This may seem gross but it’s not, it’s just part of our evolution and part of life. We never see them or know they are there. They eat our dead skin cells and for most of us never cause a problem. Many years ago, scientists discovered a connection between rosaceans and a higher population of demodex mites on their faces. Now they don’t know for sure if the mites are causing the rosacea or if the mites are there because of the rosacea, but either way, if you have Subtype II with red marks, papules, pustules, and enlarged pores, chances are you would improve tremendously by controlling the mite population on your face.
I must caution you that this type of treatment for rosacea is considered “controversial.” While many people, including myself, have amazing success addressing the demodex mite population on their faces, there are dermatologists and medical doctors who don’t believe there is any relation between rosacea and demodex mites. The prescription medication Soolantra is meant to address demodex mites using ivermectin. Ivermectin is considered a reliable treatment of demodex mites, but it may take a while (up to 6 months) and doesn’t work for everyone. It is also very expensive. I was told it would not be covered by my insurance and it cost over $700. Since I did not have that kind of money to spend on a single tube of medication and the reviews were so-so, I opted to search for other alternatives. Please keep in mind that ANY demodex mite treatment works by killing the population of mites, and this will cause your rosacea to get worse before it gets better. Many people give up before giving the treatment a chance because of the week of die-off.
Since I am a chiropractor, I cannot recommend a topical “treatment” for your rosacea. That is the job of your dermatologist. However, I am telling you the product I used, because it did work for me. It does not work for everyone, and some of the demodex mite creams are not approved by the FDA. If you choose to try one of these options, you must do your own research, understand that your rosacea may get worse before it gets better (during the die-off period) and understand that your dermatologist may in fact advise against this form of treatment. The following resource is a collection of testimonials of rosaceans who had excellent results when they treated their skin for demodex mites: https://irosacea.org/forums/topic/8291-zz-cream-anecdotal-reports/.
That being said, there are a few different options for a sulfur based demodex treatment. I used ZhongZhou Cosmetic Cream by Demodex Solutions. I found out about it from the Rosaceagroup.org forum and was fascinated. A telltale sign of a demodex mite problem is that your skin will get better and then worse every 3 weeks or so. After starting ZZ cream, I noticed a difference in about three days. My skin stopped getting the red bumps and the pores became smaller. My cheeks got smoother and the papules stopped. Over the next three weeks I continued to use it religiously and soon the sandpaper feel of my skin improved. The only issue I had with the cream was that it was extremely drying so I had to moisturize twice a day. If you choose to try a demodex mite treatment, be prepared to invest in a very hydrating moisturizer which DOES NOT have petroleum or mineral oil listed in the ingredients. If these products are in your moisturizer, the demodex cream will have difficulty penetrating your skin. The Arbonne SuperCalm Moisturizer is my favorite brand to use.
The main ingredient in ZZ cream is sulfur which is what kills the demodex mites, or at least reduces the population. It also contains zinc, lanolin, menthol, and Chinese herbs. If you are allergic to sulfur, lanolin or zinc, obviously you would need to find another alternative. I am not recommending the Zhong Zhou treatment to anyone without first trying other medications approved by your dermatologist. Many people have contacted me to tell me their dermatologist doesn’t know what demodex mites are, and doesn’t know what Soolantra is. Again, this treatment worked for me, but it will not work for everyone, and you will have to decide for yourself (with the help of your doctor) if this approach may be right for you.
I have learned so much over the past few months, most importantly that I need to trust my body and do my own research. The human body is quite capable of healing itself when it has the right tools. In my case it was a gut cleanse, liver detox, spleen detox, plant based products, and demodex mite treatment.
I do hope this information has been helpful to you. I would be happy to answer any questions in more detail if needed or help you with ordering cleanses and detoxes.