Rosacea is a skin disorder that usually develops later in life, generally between 30 and 50 years of age. Women are disproportionately more affected than men, as are light-skinned people with either Celtic/red-haired or Scandinavian/blonde and blue-eyed ancestry.
The main characteristic of rosacea is so-called “facial eurythema,” or in less fancy terms, a chronic redness and increased tendency to blush or flush. Rosacea sufferers also tend to have a weakened skin barrier, more sensitive skin overall, and react strongly to a number of environmental triggers that can severely aggravate the condition. Not only does the highly visible facial inflammation make people with rosacea feel self-conscious, it can also lead to further skin issues such as a thickening of the skin, acne-like pustules or pimples, and a burning sensation especially when applying certain skincare products. In some cases, rosacea can even affect the eyes, making them look and feel inflamed.
Princess Diana is said to have suffered from rosacea, and indeed, you can often see her face shining bright red during speeches and interviews, the flush spreading across her entire cheeks in a deep, angry scarlet color. Other famous rosacea sufferers include, for instance, Mariah Carey, Renee Zellweger, and President Bill Clinton.
Princess Diana is said to have suffered from rosacea, and other famous rosacea sufferers include Mariah Carey, Renee Zellweger, and President Bill Clinton.
If you suspect that you may suffer from rosacea, you should visit a dermatologist to get an official diagnosis and professional advice on how to cope with this tricky skin disease. As a starting point, here are some crucial things to be aware of as a rosacea sufferer, and some general tips for your skincare selection.
1. Avoid These Environmental Triggers
Even though there is a still a lot of confusion about what ultimately causes rosacea and how to successfully combat it, flare-ups tend to be linked to a number of environmental triggers that sufferers of the skin disorder should strive to avoid or, if unavoidable, at the very least minimize.
Stress and anxiety have been shown to exacerbate symptoms of rosacea, especially the characteristic redness. However, telling a modern-day adult to avoid stress is like telling someone to avoid breathing—it’s kind of hard slash impossible! The main thing to strive for here is finding ways to cope with intense stressors. Consider adding meditation to your daily routine, and find ways to carve out breaks for yourself during the day.
Extreme temperature changes
Seeing your cheeks flush up after being in the cold for a long time is one of those telltale signs that you may have rosacea. Especially that drastic change from extreme cold to warmth and vice versa can aggravate rosacea symptoms. Working out, unfortunately, also tends to cause issues, though it would be unwise to discard exercise altogether thanks to its manifold health benefits. Consider switching to lower impact sports, and make sure to always clean up thoroughly after working out. If your skin is severely overheated, use an icepack and gently roll it over your skin for a few minutes.
Sadly, this one is a bit of a mood killer—alcohol is a known rosacea trigger, and not just for Asians who get that dreaded flush after drinking. So, best to stay away from alcohol altogether, or at the very least severely limit your intake.
Another tough trigger to acknowledge, as many people have an understandable fondness for hot foods. But similar to alcohol, spicy foods can raise the overall body temperature, thus also causing the rosacea symptoms to worsen. So, go easy on those chili flakes!
2. Eliminate Potential Ingredient-based Irritants
Most rosacea sufferers have irritated, highly sensitive skin to begin with, and the constant battle with inflammation and outside stressors linked to rosacea flare-ups also tends to weaken their skin barrier continuously. Thus, it is important to eliminate any further irritations caused by harsh skincare ingredients. As a general rule of thumb, selecting products specifically developed for sensitive skin is a good first step. Pharmacy brands such as Bioderma or Skinceuticals usually are a safe choice here, but double check the ingredients list before a purchase.
Skincare ingredients to avoid when you suffer from rosacea include fragrance of any kind, including essential oils, alcohol/ethanol, and harsher plant-based ingredients such as witch hazel, peppermint, or camphor. Consider switching out your foaming cleanser with a cleansing water such as the Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water or a gentle cleansing milk. Oil-based moisturizers are also a no-go, as the oils tend to cause flare-ups and an increasing risk of breakouts. Choose a water-based gel moisturizer or a silicone-based cream, and look for the “oil-free” label.
3. Sunscreen Is a Must
Sunlight is another damaging trigger for your rosacea, and especially those noticeable blood vessels tend to worsen after prolonged UV exposure. Now, avoiding direct sunlight is a generally good idea, since it leads to both premature aging and the risk of skin cancer. For those with rosacea, the heat of the sun also causes increased flushing and often intense flare-ups, so consider investing in some good UV protection gear such as a hat, protective clothing, and—especially if rosacea affects your eyes as well—a pair of protective sunglasses.
And, of course, use that sunscreen daily, reapplying it continuously throughout the day. The Skinceuticals Sheer Mineral UV Defense SPF50 sunscreen is a great option for rosacea sufferers, lightweight and both fragrance- and alcohol-free!
4. Niacinamide Is Your Friend
I love niacinamide! Unless you have a personal sensitivity to this skincare ingredient allrounder, it is pretty much universally beneficial for a variety of skin woes. A derivative of vitamin B3, niacinamide is a common ingredient in skin brightening products and generally well-tolerated even by sensitive skin types.
When it comes to rosacea, niacinamide can help combat that typical redness thanks to its anti-inflammatory superpowers, as well as fight breakouts caused by an overproduction of sebum. Furthermore, this skincare powerhouse can soothe irritation and help with that feeling of heat that accompanies a rosacea flush. Pair it with zinc and you have a winning combo for rosacea: The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% offers the perfect combo in one easy-to-use, oil-free serum.
5. Add Azelaic Acid to Your Routine
Another skincare ingredient you should consider adding to your rosacea routine is azelaic acid. A naturally occurring substance usually from grains like barley or rye, this isn’t a harshly exfoliating acid but rather an anti-inflammatory superstar.
Now, this alone already makes it a great choice for rosacea issues, since it works as a redness eliminator, exactly what is needed to calm down those flare-ups. But this is not all that azelaic acid can do: It also happens to be a great choice if your rosacea causes those acne-like breakouts, thanks to its pore-refining, antimicrobial properties. It is gentle and works even for sensitive skin that should steer clear of stronger acids such as glycolic acid, which can be too much for a weakened skin barrier.
How do you manage your rosacea in your skincare routine? Share your tips in the comments below!