The author Estelle with Rosacea on the cheeks (Photo Estelle Erasmus)
As the co-author of Beautiful Skin: Every Woman’s Guide to Looking Her Best at Any Age, and a former beauty editor, having gorgeous skin is part of my job. I have reported on hundreds of beauty potions, lotions, and treatments, happily being the guinea pig. Try on a dozen tubes of lipstick and document how long lasting they were? I’m on it. Apply self-tanners on my legs to find the ones that best got me to (fake) sun-kissed perfection? Sign me up.
One week the assignment was to test glycolic acid skin products to see how well they worked. With my fair, sensitive, easily-flushed, dry skin, I should have been more cautious. The next day, I noticed that my skin had turned bright red. I tried moisturizing and applying cool compresses, and stopped using the glycolic acid cleanser, but the redness remained. Then I broke out in tiny pimples, mainly on my cheeks and nose. Between my scarlet face and newly bloodshot eyes, I looked like I had just come off a bender.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I had developed rosacea, a vascular skin condition, which according to the National Rosacea Society affects over 16 million Americans, although only a small percentage get treated for it. Rosacea is supposedly caused by inflammation, and the condition–which ranges from mild to severe—can be exacerbated by sun exposure—which dilates blood vessels and weakens collagen—plus a host of other factors like hot baths or showers, exercising, spicy foods and red wine.
I feel silly saying this but It didn’t cross my mind to see a dermatologist for two reasons: I didn’t think I had a “condition”, just pimples and redness, and I thought I had access to an arsenal of beauty tools to fix my face by myself. I started my self-treatment by applying a detoxifying mud mask, but the product made my already irritated skin even drier. Then to compensate, I slathered on rich moisturizer, which further clogged my pores, instead of calming my complexion. In an an effort to camouflage the redness, I applied layers of foundation, which caked, making my skin look flakey. It hid nothing, and fooled nobody.
One week later, despite my ministrations, the condition remained. I was embarrassed, wracked with insecurity. My co-workers didn’t say anything, but every time they looked at me I felt the question in their gaze: She is a beauty editor, how could she look like this? The harsh glare of the office’s fluorescent lighting highlighted in sharp relief the small raised, acne-like bumps on my beet-red cheeks. Interestingly, Fluorescent lighting has since been named as a contributor toward aggravating rosacea.
I stopped going out socially, unless it was very late at night—forever fearful that I’d be teased about my canary-red countenance.Three weeks after my initial outbreak, as I was researching antioxidant natural products for a story, I read about raw honey from bees, which is honey that hasn’t been heat-treated, refined or pasteurized. I learned that raw honey is humectant, antibacterial, contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, regulates the skin’s pH levels and has been used as far back as the Stone Ages—to heal skin conditions.
The Ancient Egyptians used honey for therapeutic baths. In fact, raw honey was said to be one of Cleopatra’s secret weapons in her bevvy of man-bewitching beauty tricks. If it was good enough for Cleopatra, I figured it was good enough for me. Perhaps raw honey was the secret ingredient I needed on my war against whatever was plaguing my skin?
The author Estelle post treatments. (Photo Estelle Erasmus)
So I went to the health food store and bought a jar. Then every evening I spread a thin layer of raw honey onto my face; left it on for thirty minutes, and rinsed it off. I noticed a difference immediately, in my cheek’s softness. Within a week, the honey helped my skin regain its pH balance, the redness toned down, and the little bumps disappeared.
Going into the past had led me back to the future—one, where I recaptured my glow.