“When I stopped seeing my skin as my enemy, it changed my perspective”

Beauty & Me: Lex Gillies

Lex Gillies is a skin positivity campaigner and founder of the Real Skin Club. Diagnosed with rosacea at 21, she’s spent the last 10 years writing about sensitive skincare and myth-busting rosacea mistruths on her blog and Instagram - @talontedlex. Ahead, Lex talks awareness, acceptance, and how makeup has helped her regain control.

Lex Gillies aka @talontedlex

My skin changed forever when I went to university. The stress, change in diet and lack of sleep triggered my rosacea and it took over my entire face. My skin was purple, mottled, dry and sore — I was at a total loss and felt completely hopeless.

I was lucky I had an early diagnosis. My GP diagnosed rosacea straight away, which was a blessing because there’s a common myth the condition only affects people over 35. This can leave people suffering for years on end without even having a name for what they’re going through. This needs to change.

Lifestyle factors aren’t talked about enough. Aside from my initial diagnosis, I didn’t get a lot of help. There was no information about lifestyle, diet, skincare or stress reduction — so I turned to the internet for advice. Trigger management is key — it can be time-consuming, but it’s the one thing that helped me get my condition under control. Simple things like wearing SPF are so important — sun exposure is a top trigger for rosacea.

I wanted to write the articles and give the advice that I’d needed when I felt lost and alone. I’ll never forget those early days, trawling through forums and talking to fellow rosacea sufferers, just trying to understand my condition. It’s what inspired me to start blogging. I now have a post about finding your triggers, with a checklist to help identify them.

I used to rely on makeup to hide my skin. My self confidence was hugely affected by rosacea — I started therapy last year to address it. It’s difficult to explain how hard it is to wake up not knowing what your face will look like. Makeup was a way for me to protect myself.

I’ve grown to accept my rosacea. I understand it a little better. Now I can choose whether I want to wear makeup or not — it’s something that helps me take back some of the control rosacea stole from me.

I hope brands will normalise skin conditions. I want to get to a point where it isn’t shocking to see an advert or article featuring imagery containing spots, scars, redness, pigmentation, skin texture or facial hair. These are all things that we see when we look in the mirror at home, so it makes no sense that it’s not represented in the media.

I post updates about my skin in the hope that others see them and feel less alone. But also so that people who have no awareness of rosacea can understand it more and (hopefully) change their perceptions.

I used to see skincare as a chore… but now I love taking time to care for my skin and check in with how it’s doing. Every step of my routine is focused on soothing and limiting aggravation. A few times a week I use a Bakuchiol serum; it’s a great alternative to Retinol for sensitive skin types. I always finish my routine with SPF — this lightweight one from La Roche-Posay is my go-to.

My rosacea tells me when something’s off. I see it as an early warning sign — it helps me recognise when I’ve overindulged in food I shouldn’t eat, if I’m run down or tired — and it lets me try to rectify it. As soon as I stopped seeing my skin as an enemy, it really changed my perspective.

If I could give the young Lex some advice, I’d tell her that although this diagnosis feels enormous, it’s not insurmountable. You’re not weird or disgusting — you have a very common skin condition and it’s not your fault. Your skin does not define you. In fact, it’s the least interesting thing about you! And you will be okay.