Managing rosacea can seem like a daunting task sometimes. Between finding a skin care routine that works, using prescriptions and avoiding triggers it can feel like a lot. Luckily, there are tools available to make building a rosacea management routine easier. One is James Clear's bestselling book, Atomic Habits, which breaks down the science behind building good habits and breaking bad ones.
According to Clear, the first “law” in building good habits is to make it obvious. Get specific about what you want to do and think about how your environment can support it. For rosacea sufferers, good habits to have include following a gentle skin care routine, applying sunscreen daily, and using medical therapy consistently. To get started, identify one thing you can accomplish in under 2 minutes to improve your rosacea management, then set up your space accordingly. For instance, to reinforce washing your face every night, try placing a reminder note by your bedside and putting your cleanser and moisturizer front and center on your bathroom counter.
The second law in building good habits is to make them attractive. One way is to pair an action you want to do, like drinking your morning coffee, with something you need to do, like taking a pill. Your brain will start to make a positive connection between the two habits. The third law is to make it easy. If you’re trying to use sunscreen every day, decrease the number of steps needed to make it happen.
“Putting a sunscreen on your shelf right next to the moisturizer may help remind you to apply it every day — or you may be able to combine the steps by replacing your current moisturizer with one that contains at least 30 SPF sunscreen,” suggested Dr. Julie Harper, president and owner of Dermatology and Skin Care Center of Birmingham. “Patients can also integrate their topical medication into their skin care routine by applying it immediately after cleansing, but before applying moisturizer."
The fourth law is to make it satisfying. Give yourself credit every time you complete a new habit by tracking your progress with a checkmark on your calendar or to-do list. While clear skin is the goal, the path to get there may not be linear. You deserve recognition for the effort you’re putting in, even if the short-term results aren’t yet what you would like them to be.
While introducing good habits is essential for rosacea management, breaking bad habits is just as, if not more, important. Avoiding rosacea triggers is key to long-term remission. Common rosacea triggers include sun exposure, emotional stress, hot or windy weather, alcohol and spicy foods. Identifying your personal triggers is the first step in avoiding them and breaking any habits associated with your exposure to them.
According to Clear, breaking a bad habit is like building a good one, but in reverse: make the habits invisible, unattractive, difficult and unsatisfying. The closer the association you can make between a trigger and a flare-up, the easier it will be to avoid it because of the unpleasantness the flare-up causes. Making your triggers invisible may mean clearing the refrigerator and pantry of certain foods or ingredients or always carrying a hat with a wide brim and travel-size sunscreen to avoid the sun.
Habit hacking uses what is known about how the human brain works to create strategies with the best chance to build new, positive habits to improve our lives and break old, unhelpful patterns that no longer serve us. Managing rosacea takes time, but the good news is that doing a lot of little things can add up to a big improvement.