By Jennipher Walters for Shape.com
After struggling with acne for years as a teenager, when Cynthia Nixon began to notice her skin was breaking out again in her 30s, she began using the same methods she used as a teen to fight back: a strict regimen of cleansers, scrubs and astringents. But when those didn't help -- in fact, they made things worse -- she began to get frustrated. Turns out, no matter how many acne products she tried, no cream or beauty treatment was going to work. Nixon had rosacea.
Unlike acne, which is caused by bacteria, rosacea is a chronic vascular condition caused by inflammation. Common symptoms can include facial redness, pimples and eye irritation, and it can even lead to thickened skin and permanent visible blood vessels. Although unpredictable, triggers such as sun exposure, exercise, spicy foods, alcohol and hot and cold weather can aggravate symptoms, according to the National Rosacea Society. Just like was the case for Nixon, rosacea symptoms typically start emerging around age 30 in men and women. However, it can be tough to recognize as symptoms mimic acne, eczema or skin allergies.
It's estimated that more than 16 million Americans have rosacea, but 78 percent of Americans have no knowledge of the condition, including how to recognize it and what to do about it. That's why Nixon, who is best known as playing the feisty Miranda Hobbes on "Sex and the City" and is starring in the Broadway play "Wit", has signed on to star in a new kind of production: a public service announcement that encourages awareness and diagnosis of this skin condition.
For Nixon, receiving the rosacea diagnosis by a dermatologist four years ago was pure relief.
"I was glad it wasn't acne and that there were very simple things I could do," she says in a phone interview. "My triggers are things like spicy foods, red wine and hot baths. Now, I don't never do them, but if I have a shoot or an appearance coming up, I certainly avoid them the night before."
Exercise is another trigger that can cause rosacea symptoms to flare up, she says, though she doesn't let that stop her from working out.
"There are things to be aware of and things to do to help with that," Nixon says. "I try to have fans near where I exercise, and I avoid things like jogging out in the boiling hot sun. Stress can be a trigger, too, so things like yoga, not only help my body but they also help me have balance and calmness."
While she admits that having rosacea can affect your confidence -- be it having your skin break out before a big photo shoot or looking flushed after a glass of wine with friends -- the one thing she wants to tell women is that you don't have to deal with it alone. Most symptoms can be controlled by avoiding triggers and getting treatment or a prescription from a dermatologist.
"A dermatologist can help you, and it really helps to talk to an expert," she says. "Everyone is different, but there is help out there. It can't be cured, but it can be controlled."
Do you know someone with rosacea? Have symptoms yourself? For more information on rosacea, go here, and please share your experience in the comments!
Check out which other celebrities have spoken out about their skin problems, and the health lessons you can learn from their experiences in the slideshow below:
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