When Jennie McCollum began suffering breakouts of bumps and pimples about 15 years ago, she felt as if she were turning 16 all over again and reliving the angst of teenage acne. Fortunately, her dermatologist was able to correctly diagnose her skin condition as rosacea, and he started the now 68-year-old retired nurse from Alabama on rosacea therapy.
The medical therapy helped control her rosacea, but she still occasionally suffered from flare-ups of pimples. Some outbreaks were so severe that she hated to go to work, where she had to deal with the public all day long. Over time, Jennie also noticed she was experiencing more and more flushing and her skin began to thicken in small areas on her face.
Jennie saw a definite change for the better in her skin when she stopped taking oral hormones in 2008, but she also observed a marked improvement in her condition when she stopped drinking red wine in the fall of 2011.
“I stopped drinking red wine because I had read in the Rosacea Review that red wine was a top trigger,” Jennie said. “I had thought about stopping before, but my intake was so small (about one to three ounces daily) that I couldn’t imagine that being a trigger for me. Boy, was I wrong!”
Jennie has not had a severe flare-up since pinpointing and avoiding that individual trigger, and she now uses only topical therapy twice a day.
Although no one else in her family has been diagnosed with rosacea, Jennie noted that she does come from a family of fair-skinned redheads. In addition, she said she spent a great deal of time in the sun during high school and college and wasn’t particularly careful to protect her skin.
Nowadays, Jennie is much more aware of the need to shield her face and also to avoid certain foods that can trigger a flare-up, although not with the same intensity as the red wine. She mentioned raw tomatoes, chocolate and balsamic vinegar as some of her lesser triggers.
Jennie also said she has discovered that changing her pillowcase frequently has helped to keep her complexion clear.
“I tend to sleep on my left side and that is the side that would have a tendency to break out, but if I change my pillowcase every day, it makes a difference,” she said.
Jennie acknowledged that it took her a while to identify her worst trigger, and she advises fellow rosacea sufferers to keep a diary to pinpoint – and avoid – their own triggers.
"I miss red wine, but I don’t miss what it did to me.”