How to Care for Rosacea
Rosacea is a common skin condition that causes redness and inflammation of the skin. It's an inflammatory skin condition that mainly affects the face but can also affect the chest and upper torso.
The cause of rosacea is unknown and there is no cure. However, a proper dermatologist led diagnosis and treatment plan may help to reduce the redness and inflammation of rosacea-prone skin.
In people with rosacea, during a flare up, small blood vessels, called capillaries, that supply the skin with nutrients and oxygen become inflamed, causing general skin reddening and inflammation.
Other symptoms of rosacea include small, red pus-filled bumps on the skin, visible blood vessels and skin thickening. Symptoms often occur down the central part of the face and spread across the cheeks.
If left untreated, rosacea may progress to form acne rosacea papules and pustules. Oil-producing glands on the nose can also become inflamed, resulting in a characteristically red nose.
Rosacea is most common in women over the age of 30, but it can affect anyone, of any age. Developing rosacea can make your skin more sensitive, and as such, gentle skin care products that are suitable for sensitive skin will help to protect the skin on your face and help to reduce flushing and redness.
In this article, we're going to explain in detail how to look after your skin to calm rosacea symptoms and what skin care ingredients to look out for. But first, let's take a look at some of the triggers that may make rosacea worse.
Learning What Triggers Irritate Your Skin to Manage Rosacea Flare-ups
Rosacea flare-ups can be caused either by environmental or lifestyle triggers. It's essential to determine the precise triggers or causes of your own rosacea flare-ups as everyone is different. Then you will be able to avoid or reduce them, which may help reduce your symptoms.
Your own personal triggers may be difficult to pinpoint as rosacea may have many different causes. A great way to learn about your rosacea triggers is to keep a short lifestyle diary. For a couple of months, take notes each day that include:
- The outside temperature and wind strength
- How much sun you were exposed to
- What type of physical activity you’ve had and for how long
- The food you’ve eaten
- Whether or not you consumed alcohol or caffeine
- Your stress levels
- Your skincare regime, paying particular attention to any new skincare and bath products
After you've had several flare-ups, you should be able to notice any common triggers or patterns that may make rosace symptoms worse in your own skin.
The best products for rosacea and the best way to control flare-ups is to determine their cause(s) and then avoid them.
Common Rosacea Triggers
As we've learned, rosacea is a common skin condition that mainly affects the facial skin, causing redness, flushing, acne spots and thickened skin. There is no cure for rosacea and whether you have mild rosacea or moderate to severe rosacea, it can be upsetting. Therefore, avoiding the triggers that make rosacea symptoms worse will help to improve the appearance of your skin.
Here's the most common lifestyle, dietary and hormonal factors that can cause irritation and aggravate rosacea. Think about each one, how they may be affecting you and what you may be able to do to protect your skin.
Drinking alcohol relaxes and widens the blood vessels, including the small capillaries found in the face. This increases blood flow, and explains why after consuming alcohol, some people experience rosacea-like symptoms, i.e. the skin becomes red and hot.
Therefore, drinking alcohol can worsen rosacea. Over time, alcohol can cause permanent damage to the capillaries in the face, causing them to break, leading to visible spider veins, another common symptom associated with rosacea.
Hot Baths and Showers
Hot baths and showers raise the temperature of the body, and one of the body's mechanisms to get rid of the excessive temperatures, is to widen blood vessels.
This increases blood circulation and heat exchange with the environment. But in doing so, the wider blood vessels cause a reddening of the skin and the skin may become inflamed which will also worsen rosacea.
Hot and Cold Weather Conditions
As human, we're very good at maintaining our same temperature within a range of conditions - to a certain point. One of the ways our body maintains its core temperature is by regulating heat exchange through the skin.
In hot weather, blood vessels widen, increasing blood flow which causes increased heat exchange with the environment. On the contrary, in cold weather, the exposed skin vessels narrow down regulating the heat exchange. As a result, both hot and cold weather put a strain on the blood vessels close to the skin and may trigger rosacea and the tell tale rosacea bumps on your face.
During humid weather, heat exchange slows down because it slows sweat evaporation. This is why temperatures can feel more extreme if the humidity is high. As our body tries to regulate heat exchange, the skin becomes affected, again by the blood vessels and therefore, humid weather may trigger rosacea.
Sun and UV Light
Apart from causing high temperatures that can trigger rosacea for many, the UV light from the sun can damage the skin, leading to inflammation and common rosacea symptoms.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety lead to the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn causes an increase in general inflammation. This can then cause rosacea flare ups. Frequent flares can lead to the overall exacerbation of rosacea.
Menopause can trigger rosacea in one of two ways (or both). On one hand, a reduction of the female hormone oestrogen during the menopause causes dysregulation of heat exchange and hot flushes which can trigger rosacea.
Secondly, stress, anxiety and other mental health problems common during menopause can also lead to rosacea.
Rubbing Your Skin
Rubbing, scratching or pulling at the skin causes irritation and can trigger an immune system response, which in turn will switch on inflammation pathways. This can make the skin sensitive and people with rosacea often find that touching their skin too much can trigger a flare up.
Products that Dry the Skin
Some skincare products can cause rosacea flare ups. Products that dry the skin, for example, those that contain harsh astringent ingredients can irritate the skin which can lead to inflammation that can trigger rosacea. If a product causes symptoms of rosacea, immediately discontinue using it. The skin will not “get used to it”, on the contrary, its condition may become worse.
In general, physical activity is good for your wellbeing in general and your skin. However strenuous exercise can trigger rosacea. Small muscle tears are inevitable during exercise, and give the immune system signals for repair causing inflammation. The body also has to reduce body heat by widening the blood vessels causing redness.
Foods to Avoid to Help Reduce the Symptoms of Rosacea
More and more research shows that there is a direct link between our gut and general inflammation. Rosacea is one of the conditions where this link is quite clear.
Rosacea is an inflammatory disease. Therefore, foods that are not easy to digest or that encourage general inflammation will be detrimental for those with rosacea. In general, a high-fat, high-sugar diet that is typical for fast food, and certain types of takeaway foods, triggers inflammation.
Apart from fat, some food compounds are potent triggers of rosacea because they also cause inflammation:
- All types of pepper
- Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, fenugreek, cloves, mustard, horseradish
- Spicy foods in general.
Temperature change often triggers rosacea. It’s no wonder then that hot drinks can cause rosacea. Especially if the drinks contain caffeine, but it’s better to avoid caffeine even in cold drinks such as coke and cold-brew coffee.
Alcohol dilates blood vessels. Regular alcohol consumption causes inflammation. Alcohol is one of the main types of drink to avoid if you have rosacea.
The Best Diet for Reducing Rosacea Redness and Flushing
If pro-inflammatory food is detrimental for rosacea, anti-inflammatory food is recommended to alleviate the condition. The Mediterranean diet that avoids animal fat using olive oil is good for rosacea. This diet also includes oily fish shown to regulate skin cell turnover, as well as green leafy vegetables such as spinach and different types of salad.
Probiotics - fermented food - can supplement the Mediterranean diet. Probiotics can be milk-based (yogurt, kefir, soured cream) or plant-based. Plant-based fermented food includes sauerkraut and pickled (not just salted) vegetables and kombucha tea. However, these mustn't be spicy as spices trigger rosacea. Thus German-style sauerkraut is beneficial, while Korean-style kimchi may not be.
Drinking plenty of water will ensure that your body isn’t overheated and stressed. High temperatures and stress are two of the main causes of rosacea so staying hydrated will help to control rosacea symptoms.
How to Manage Rosacea Flushing and Skin Redness
Sudden skin redness or flushing is the first sign of rosacea. Removal of the cause will reduce it. For example, if the flare up is caused by an embarrassing social situation, a brief meditation or deep breathing may help to reduce the stress level and in turn, to subside the redness. If the redness is caused by temperature or exercise, taking a break or going into an air-conditioned building will help.
Redness that is caused by food or drink is more challenging to control. Drink plenty of water as it will help to flush spices and alcohol from the body. Avoid the ingredients that caused redness in the future - treat them as you would have treated a cause of allergy.
Living with Rosacea Symptoms
Rosacea affects many people, and having rosacea doesn't mean you have to struggle with your skin on a daily basis. Like acne prone skin, rosacea prone skin can be managed, by knowing and understanding your personal triggers.
Although rosacea has no cure, there are still steps you can take to even out skin tone and manage your condition. A good skin care routine, using products that are less irritating to the skin is also essential.
Skin Care for Rosacea Itching
Regular areas of rosacea flare-ups can become itchy because the associated inflammation irritates skin receptors. In this case, it’s possible to use over the counter preparations that contain soothing ingredients.
A mild cleanser and a moisturiser applied at least twice daily can help relieve itching. Avoid skincare products and brands that contain harsh, chemically derived ingredients and instead opt for natural, plant based products and ingredients.
The main types of moisturises that can be beneficial if applied to the skin every day include shea butter, sunflower seed oil and glycerine. Rosacea can often make the skin dry, so moisturising to prevent dry skin after each cleanse is essential.
Reducing Blood Vessels and Spider Veins
Spider veins are small red (and sometimes blue) blood vessels (capillaries) that are visible through the skin. Spider veins are one of the main rosacea symptoms. To reduce spider veins, try to avoid rosacea flares, eat a healthy diet and take steps to maintain a healthy weight.
However, the number of spider veins often increases with age and at some point, natural treatments may not be enough. You can consider cosmetic procedures such as surface laser treatment with pulsed light or radio frequency occlusion. Collapsing spider veins with electric impulses (electrocautery) is yet another way to get rid of spider veins. Speak to a skincare professional experienced in these techniques for more information.
How to Treat Rosacea Acne Spots and Pimples
Permanent rosacea spots and pimples mean an advanced degree of rosacea. If treating rosacea naturally doesn’t help, it’s possible to try some medications. Antibiotics such as tetracycline and sometimes derivatives of erythromycin can be prescribed. They reduce general inflammation and alleviate rosacea.
Other standard rosacea treatments include metronidazole, azelaic acid, and sulfacetamide-sulfur formulations.
How to Reduce Swelling Caused By Rosacea
Face swelling is a frequent symptom of rosacea. There are several ways to reduce swelling:
- Use topical products that contain azelaic acid.
- Applying products that contain an active ingredient brimonidine. An example of a product with brimonidine is gel Mirvaso.
There are also more systemic treatments such as taking a prescription course of antibiotics or vitamin A derivatives. However, a significant improvement in swelling is not instantaneous and will take time. Again, speak to a qualified dermatologist for more information.
Rosacea Treatment for Dry, Rough Skin
Rosacea is a skin condition that can lead to dry, uneven, rough skin. To smooth any dry patches, your skincare regime should promote skin cell regeneration and growth. It’s crucial to protect the skin from the UV damage by using sunblock or covering your face with good quality sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat.
Using Makeup as a Treatment for Rosacea
Because rosacea symptoms visibly affect the skin, especially on the face, it can harm your confidence and self-esteem. In turn, this increases social anxiety and stress levels leading to worsening of rosacea symptoms. Using makeup to cover rosacea is a relatively easy way to mask rosacea symptoms. The additional benefit of makeup is that it will reduce your skin exposure to UV that ages skin.
Try a green-tinted base as it will visually compensate for the excess redness in the skin tone. Use an oil-free foundation in the tone that matches your natural skin tone (ask at a makeup counter for help finding your shade). Concealer should be one shade lighter than your own skin.
A good foundation for rosacea does not contain irritants and has ingredients that help rosacea prone skin. Vitamins A and C are helpful, as well as aloe and alpha-lipoic acid.
How to Apply Makeup to Cover Rosacea
Makeup is a useful tool to mask rosacea symptoms. But makeup application and the makeup itself mustn't make rosacea worse. Follow these simple steps for successful makeup application:
- Before applying makeup, cleanse, and moisturise your skin using your usual products. The preparation stage will not only help your skin but will make makeup more stable.
- Prior to using any makeup product, test it on an invisible area of skin, for example, your arm area covered by clothes. Wait 24 hours after application. Any stinging or burning sensation, as well as any worsening of rosacea symptoms, means that you cannot use the product.
- The smaller amount of product you use, the lower the chance of skin irritation. It's a good idea to use products with combined function, such as moisturiser that has a hint of colour and contains UV protection.
- To avoid skin irritation and contamination, do not use your fingertips or sponges to apply makeup. Use an antibacterial brush and apply the makeup lightly. Use broad strokes for large areas and edge of the brush for narrow areas such as the nose. Clean brush between uses.
- If you use a brush, apply a small amount of liquid foundation to your wrist. Dab the brush and smooth over the face from the centre and moving outwards.
- Use extra-gentle dermatologically approved eye makeup that can be removed using micellar water. Do not rub or tug on your eyes. Avoid false eyelashes as they can further irritate eyes.
Sensitive Skin Care with Sönd
You can further support your skin by using the Sönd alkalising range of skincare products, designed with stressed out skin just like yours in mind. Our gentle cleanser can be used twice a day and our nourishing day and night moisturisers help by strengthen the skin barrier function. Together, they will help you skin look and feel calmer, with less irritation and redness. Trust us, we know because we developed them for ourselves!
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Vaughn AR et al. (2019) Dietary supplementation with turmeric polyherbal formulation decreases facial redness: a randomized double-blind controlled pilot study. J Integr Med. 17(1):20-23. doi: 10.1016/j.joim.2018.11.004.
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.