Hi All:

I'm an only just embarking on a new path of what has been a long and confusing journey. I know on sites like this many of my questions and comments have been heard a million times by people who have been here for longer, so I hope you'll bear with me.

When I was around 15 or 16 I had acne. Never "severe," (no cysts), but significant and moderate. I treated it with many different things, both over the counter and prescription. My skin started getting better acne-wise at age 18 or 19, but the good "progress" of my complexion plateaued then and has never gotten any better since. I'm now 27.

At around age 17, I believe, my skin started looking really red. Whether or not I "flushed" as a kid I don't recall, although I wouldn't be surprised. I seem to remember getting red when embarrassed, in the sense that I could "feel" it being red (it wasn't painful, however.). In any event, starting at around 17 or 18 the redness was not flushing, it was permanent. And it was located in the face--365, 24/7--but nowhere else.

Okay. So in college through now I've never been "clear." I'm talking about small--often just red, sometimes whitehead, never blackhead--bumps. The redness was their too, but first and foremost the fact I could never, ever get clear has always driven me crazy. My breakouts are far from severe, but they are constant.

Anyway, from the age of 19-27, I either didn't treat it at all, used Proactiv thinking it was acne, and then ultimately got a prescription again at age 25 for Clenia, again for mild-ish "adult acne."

So, I used Clenia alone for about 2 years, and while it may have managed outbreaks to a degree (versus not doing anything, I mean), I was never, ever clear. So I went back to the first derm this April.

We switched to Brevoxyl wash (a 4% benzoyl peroxide). Then, a couple months later, we added Benzamycin gel. The Benzamycin gel made me REALLY red for the 1 week I tried it. It felt like I had a sunburn all day.

When I went back in for a consult, I asked him point blank: "Is this rosacea?" He said no. It was definitely acne, and rosacea was overdiagnosed for "high color" people.

Now to what my skin looks like: the acne-like bumps drive me absolutely crazy, but there's more to it than that. I'm not just "pinkish hued," or some other euphemism. My skin is RED and SHINY, all the time. I do have an oily skin problem, but even when totally dry my skin has this shiny quality. However, the redness is not contained in one area, but seems to be pretty much evenly distributed across my entire face. Also, sometimes I get a big itch on my face in one spot or another, and I look in the mirror and see a red raised area where the itch is coming from. It often goes away within a couple hours (the itching and patch), but often leaves one of these "red bump"/whitehead looking things. Over the last few years, I have developed one permanent half-a-dime-sized "blotch" on my cheek that upon closer inspection are a couple of visible capillaries. I also have a very small one on the bridge of my nose and a very VERY small one on the other cheek.

So I went to a new derm two weeks ago. Within 5 minutes he said "you've got rosacea," and prescribed sodium sulfacetimide 10%/sulfur 5% wash and finacea twice a day. I also layer Aveeno Ultra Calming Moisturizer/15 SPF over the dried Finacea during the day. Until I came to this board, I did not realize Finacea was even a contraversial product.

Anyway, I have conflicting diagnoses to begin with. Dr. #1: definitely acne, redness not rosacea. Dr. #2: defintely rosacea, never use benzoyl peroxide again (I only used it for a few months, anyway). And these ain't country bumpkin derms. When not seeing patient, #1 lectures at Harvard and #2 lectures at Tufts.

So, that's my basic story (sorry for the longwindedness), and I'll tack on a question. I've only been using Finacea for two weeks (actually, 13 days today). I haven't seen any major improvement yet (although I think my forehead looks significantly better--especially directly after application--but that's not a big trouble area for bumps compared to my cheeks), but will be back with the derm again about 6 weeks from now for some follow up, so he'll be able to see if the progress looks decent after 8 weeks, which is apparently a good sample size for this product. The drug says not to expect any major improvement before 4 weeks.

Here's the question: just as the package says, about 10-ish or so minutes after putting on the Finacea, it itches. I wouldn't call it a burning feeling, just a noticeble, almost "electric" feeling itch. It's completely gone after these 10 to maybe 15 minutes, and may have gotten less significant in the last couple of days. There is no further irritated feeling during the day, except once when exercizing when I guess it was running on my forehead with sweat and felt a little tingly.

For those who say Finacea was "too much" for them, was their discomfort more than what I've just described? Is this the sort of discomfort that I'm meant not to "fight through" (a/k/a should you not use anything that makes your skin feel weird, even if it's a temporary feeling you can handle)? It's not really bothering me, the 10 minutes of an itch has not been a big deal. But the idea of me using a product that is going to make everything worse is giving me nightmares.

I have a tentative appointment with a THIRD dermatologist in about 2 weeks. I figured I'd just cancel it, but maybe I need a tie-breaker here with the 2 previous derms coming to polar opposite conclusions. Firstly, I'd love confirmation on what exactly the real problem is with my complexion, and if it turns out to be rosacea (and I think it probably is), maybe a second opinion on treatment.

Yeesh. This has been a very frustrating few months. This has been going on for years (by which I mean a complexion I'm not happy with), but I've actively been trying to really tackle it with professionals since early April and feel I've made NO HEADWAY--not only in appearance, the ultimate goal--but even on getting a straight answer on what my actual skin condition is in the first place.

I'm sure many of you have been through the same.