A new product may offer hope to ease an inflammatory skin condition, which affects one in ten of Irish people.
IT has been called the curse of the Celts and it affects one in ten of us.
An inflammatory skin condition, rosacea causes unsightly redness of the central part of the face and, very often, red bumps and pimples. It’s mostly seen in people with fair, sun-sensitive skin.
Prof Frank Powell, consultant dermatologist in the Mater Private Hospital, Dublin, says it’s socially stigmatising for three reasons:
* It’s on the face
* The redness — as well as distortion of the nose, which occurs rarely— can be a source of amusement for others;
* Facial redness is associated with alcohol misuse.
“Not only do sufferers have an unsightly skin condition on the most prominent part of their body, some of their friends may wrongly suspect they’re abusing alcohol,” says Prof Powell, who considers rosacea worse than acne, which he describes as “accepted within the range of normal in teenagers”.
Rosacea usually strikes 30 and 40-somethings and is more common in women, though men generally suffer more severely. Cause is unknown —– 20% of sufferers have a family member with the condition, suggesting a genetic factor.
It may start with small red spots on the nose, forehead or cheeks. “These aren’t really itchy, sore or uncomfortable though there may be a slight stinging sensation. The spots gradually flatten and merge into the skin, leaving behind a slight red blotch like a footprint of where they’ve been,” says Prof Powell. New spots frequently appear as old ones settle. If untreated, the process continues.
Symptoms can be triggered by sunlight, wind and cold, by stress, alcohol and spicy foods.
The spots/bumps element of rosacea is usually treated with antibiotic cream but, for the flushing, rosy-cheeked aspect, sufferers traditionally cover with heavy make-up or opt for laser treatment, says British-based consultant dermatologist Dr Nicholas Craven. He was approached by German company Pro Bono Bio when it wanted a product for skin conditions not fully served by existing treatment options.
Using nanotechnology, they produced Rossoseq, which is drug-free and can be used for inflammatory conditions including rosacea, psoriasis, eczema and acne. According to the company, research published in April in a leading European dermatology journal found four of ten rosacea patients trialled with Rossoseq showed at least 33% reduction in redness. Half showed a similar reduction in flushing.
Pro Bono Bio is behind successful arthritis pain relief Flexiseq. The same Sequessome technology behind Flexiseq is used in manufacture of Rossoseq. The pioneering science was awarded Innovation of 2013 by the Federal Association of German Pharmacists.
Dr Bill Henry of Pro Bono Bio explains: “Redness associated with rosacea is due [largely] to accumulation of chemicals within the affected tissue [because of] malfunctioning of lymphatic drainage. Rossoseq exploits Sequessome technology, which is based on tiny spheres of hydrophilic phospholipid that have been engineered to penetrate the skin and improve the functioning of the water-based lymphatic system.”
Basically, Rossoseq improves local lymphatic drainage, clearing and relieving the redness.
Dr Craven, who was involved in an advisory capacity rather than in developing or trialling the product, says he’s excited about a cream that appears to reduce redness. “It doesn’t seem to have any active ingredient that could cause side-effects. Some people find antibiotic creams and lotions can irritate or cause allergy. And having to take antibiotic tablets opens up a whole range of side-effects, such as tummy upset. I doubt the product will cure rosacea — it’s likely to give short-term improvement.”
Prof Powell says people with rosacea have very sensitive skin. “They need to be careful what they apply. I’d caution people to be careful about using unconventional treatments until they’ve gone through the testing process and proved not to be irritating or cause inflammation.”
Applied twice a day and then let dry, Rossoseq spray has been launched in Ireland first and costs €25.49.
Rosacea - our experience
ANDREA PORTER For Balbriggan-based mum of two Andrea Porter, it’s like a red butterfly on her face, spreading over cheeks, chin and sides of her nose.
“I had three years of rosacea,” says the 36-year-old choir singer, who had “always flushed quite easily”. Mum to Conor, six, and Anna, four, it was during the last stages of pregnancy with Anna that she became really conscious of the redness.
“I’d got quite heavy with Anna. I thought it was due to the pregnancy. There are photos of me the day after I had her and I’m very red and that stayed.”
Because she was breast-feeding and prefers to use natural products, Andrea — who works as a pharmaceutical educational officer — felt she didn’t have a lot of treatment options. “I’d wear make-up, be dressed for work everyday. I’d be presentable but rosacea is extremely annoying and made me very self-conscious. It always seemed to flare up when I was performing or dolled up for a big occasion. I’d never have been able to go out without coverage from very heavy make-up.
“You want to be totally focused when you’re singing, not worrying about whether your cheeks or chin is glowing in the dark. There’s nothing worse than getting ready for a night out, having the hair done, only to go out with a face that looks like I’ve just run a marathon.”
Andrea started using Rossoseq, keeping her expectations in check. “I got disappointed on day 12 of taking it because I noticed no change. But on the next day, I woke up and I looked really pale and clear. I’d been at a wedding the day before and I’d had a few glasses of wine and I’d have expected to be really red.”
Now in a twice-daily treatment routine, Andrea “feels really good” about her appearance, doesn’t suffer flare-ups and is using tinted moisturiser and light make-up. In her experience, Rossoseq controls but doesn’t cure rosacea. “I came off it to see if the redness would come back. On the fourth day, it was back.”
CAROLE ANNE HENRY
When people told 50-year-old Carole Anne Henry that her face looked a bit red, she’d distract them. “I’d say: ‘oh, my skin gets stressed but I don’t’.”
In fact, Carole Anne’s rosacea – which she first noticed 10 years ago as redness on the tip of her nose, across her cheeks and under her eyes was stress-induced. She got it after caring for her seriously-ill mum and after changing jobs.
“It got progressively worse over the next few years. I got little tiny pimples under my skin and my skin was so shiny, it was impossible for any liquid make-up to stay on.”
Unable to ignore it any longer —“your face is the first thing people see, I felt so self-conscious” — Carole Anne went to her GP five years ago and got referred to a dermatologist. Topical creams did nothing for her so she went on a low-grade antibiotic tablet for over three years.
“It really worked. It cleared up the pimples and took away a bit of the redness. But I do a lot of shifts — long hours, odd hours — and sometimes I’d forget to take it,” says the biomedical scientist, who lives in Ballymena, Co Antrim.
After hearing about Rossoseq from a friend, she came off the antibiotic. “I wasn’t taking it regularly anyway.” The new treatment has taken away the redness and the shine. “When I put on make-up, I can now expect it to stay on all day..
“And even though it’s been a very stressful time at work since I started Rossoseq, the product has really worked for me. Especially around my eyes and nose — they used to flare up very badly. After a week or two I could see the difference and it kept improving.”
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