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The National Rosacea Foundation defines Rosacea as:  “a chronic, acne-like condition of the facial skin that may affect as many as 14 million Americans.  It typically first appears when people reach their 30s and 40s as a flushing or redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead that comes and goes.  If left untreated, Rosacea tends to worsen over time.  As the conditions progresses, the redness becomes more persistent, bumps and pimples called papules and pustules appear and small, dilated blood vessels may become visible.  In some cases the eyes also may be affected, causing them to feel gritty, and appear watery, irritated and bloodshot.  In advanced cases, the nose may become red and swollen from excess tissue – the conditions that gave the late comedian W.C. Fields his trademark bulbous nose.”

Rosacea is a condition that occurs when blood vessels in the face, particularly on the cheeks, chin, forehead, nose and skin around the mouth, become dilated and inflamed, creating flushed, rosy patches.  Along with the redness, pus-filled red bumps can also develop, which many people confuse for acne.  A tell-tale sign that a breakout is rosacea is that there are typically no blackheads or whiteheads present.

Rosacea is most often triggered by extremely hot or cold temperatures.  Alcohol (particularly red wine), strenuous exercise, extended sun exposure, and spicy foods can also trigger a flare up.

Regardless of the cause, there are many factors that can make rosacea worse.  All of the following are triggers:

  • Sun exposure
  • Wind
  • Extremely hot or cold temperatures
  • Heavy or strenuous exercise
  • Emotional stress
  • Topical irritants found in some skincare products
  • Spicy foods
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Caffeine (especially from hot beverages like coffee)

Common topical irritants include:

  • Fragrance and perfumes
  • Alcohol  and witch hazel
  • Menthol
  • Peppermint extract and oil
  • Eucalyptus and clove oils
  • Astringents
  • AHA’s (alpha hydroxy acids), such as glycolic acid

In addition to avoiding the triggers outlined above, following a skincare regimen designed for sensitive skin is usually very effective for controlling rosacea flareups.  

  1. Use a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser for sensitive skin or specifically formulated for rosacea.  There are many excellent options available.
  2. A toner or liquid exfoliant containing salicylic acid will help reduce the redness and dry, flaky skin that normally accompanies rosacea.  Salicylic acid also exfoliates deep within the pore, which is very helpful for those also dealing with acne and blackheads.
  3. Always use a moisturizer with broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher for your specific skin type.  Sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the best choices for those with rosacea and sensitive skin types.  Applying a vitamin C serum under your moisturizer will provide antioxidant benefits, as well as boosting the effectiveness of your sunscreen.
  4. In the evening, after cleansing and toning, a serum with a low concentration of retinol can be beneficial in reducing inflammation caused by rosacea.  Follow with a hydrating, fragrance-free moisturizer formulated for your particular skin type.

If you are not able to control your rosacea after following the above guidelines, you may want to consult a dermatologist for a topical prescription containing brimonidine or azelaic acid.  These medications are often be covered by insurance.  


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