For an estimated 16 million Americans, rosacea is a reality of everyday life. This persistent redness is more than mere blushing — it can be frustrating and, at times, embarrassing for folks who cope with it. But what exactly is rosacea?
"Rosacea is a type of chronic inflammation that mostly affects the face," explains Mitchell Chasin, M.D., founder of Reflections Center for Skin & Body. This inflammation can show up in several different forms, including blushing that doesn't fade, visible red capillaries, bumps that resemble blemishes, or a stinging sensitivity — even when you're using gentle skincare products.
Your biggest rosacea cause could be right under your nose: your own DNA. "No doubt there are genetic factors and strong ethnic influences in play," observes Richard Odom, M.D., professor of clinical dermatology at the University of California-San Francisco. Still, there are plenty of other causes, too. If you have rosacea, it can be helpful to track when your skin tends to get inflamed — and avoid these common triggers:
Unfortunately, the hot stuff could be causing some serious redness. "While there's a reasonably long list of foods that trigger rosacea, the leading candidate is spicy dishes," warns Dr. Odom. We apologize to all you curry lovers out there, but if you want less flushed cheeks, you may need to tone down your dinner's spice level.
I know — say it isn't so, right? Sadly, Dr. Chasin warns that dairy is a common food trigger for folks who suffer from rosacea, so if you've been going to town on cheeseburgers, milkshakes, or ice cream lately, perhaps it's time to cut back.
That's right: Even the weather can trigger your rosacea. "With weather, if it could irritate normal skin, rosacea-affected skin is apt to be all the more affected," explains Dr. Chasin. "Windy days can cause dry skin problems for a lot of people, but even mild wind can cause a flare of symptoms for the rosacea sufferer." So, next time the forecast is cold and windy, protect your face from the chill to minimize how intensely your skin is affected.Designed by Dana TepperGetty Images
On top of avoiding certain foods, people with rosacea need to be careful about what they drink, too. "Alcohol, specifically red wine, and hot beverages like coffee or tea can cause a flare up in certain people," says Whitney Bowe, M.D., Assistant Medical Director of Laser & Cosmetic Services at Advanced Dermatology.
The good news: There are certain things you can consume that may help your situation rather than exacerbate it. "Some studies show that you can help to calm rosacea symptoms by implementing foods and beverages into your diet with beneficial microbes, like yogurt, kefir, and kombucha," says Dr. Bowe.
On top of causing wrinkles (or much, much worse), the sun can lead to rosacea redness, too. "UV exposure can not only trigger a flare in the short term, but can aggravate rosacea in the long run," warns Dr. Bowe. Protect yourself from the sun's harsh rays using — you guessed it — SPF 30 or higher sunblock, a wide-brimmed hat, and shade whenever possible.Designed by Dana TepperGetty Images
Sorry, fragrance lovers, you may need to sit out of the scent game. In addition to the consumption of alcohol potentially triggering one's rosacea, Dr. Bowe warns that products containing alcohol and fragrance can upset your skin as well.
You can add rosacea to the long list of other rough stuff stress does to your body. "Under stressful situations, a variety of chemicals and mediators are released with stress and rosacea flares," explains Dr. Odom. Do your best to reduce your stress level — your skin and the rest of your body will thank you.
Cleansers, creams, lotions, and cosmetics can definitely affect your rosacea. When it comes to skincare, all products are not created equal — especially if they're being applied to truly sensitive skin. "For those with skin sensitivities due to rosacea, product selection can be difficult," says Dr. Chasin. "We often hear these patients say they feel their skin is itchy or tight, but products sting or burn." Dr. Chasin is a fan of limiting the ingredients in the products you use to reduce potential irritants while still adding moisture.
Yes, one of life's greatest pleasures can lead to a flare up. Dr. Chasin warns that a hot bath, or even simply indoor heating, can cause flushing in rosacea patients. Find other ways to relax after a long day, like giving your feet a massage or doing yoga.
On top of annoying you with a runny nose and watery eyes, your allergies could lead to a rosacea flare, too. "Allergies may cause an altered reaction of the body that includes flushing, which frequently triggers rosacea symptoms," explains Dr. Bowe. As with more common rosacea triggers, identifying and avoiding allergens, a.k.a. the substances you are reacting to, may also help you control your reactions, so track what seems to be affecting you each day.Designed by Dana TepperGetty Images
The bad news: Exercise can trigger flushing that can sometimes last days or even weeks. The good news: If you're an avid exerciser (and even if you're not), there are some great precautions you can take to manage your rosacea. Dr. Bowe suggests working out in the early morning or late evening when the weather is cooler, working out more frequently but for shorter intervals, staying cool indoors by running a fan or opening a window, and cooling off by keeping a damp towel on your neck. Hydration is always important, but drinking an adequate amount of cold fluids or chewing on ice chips can help as well.
While dermatologists often say it's important to exfoliate your skin if you want a healthy, bright glow to it, certain products could lead to flares. "In a National Rosacea Society survey, many individuals avoided astringents and exfoliating ingredients," says Dr. Bowe. If you've noticed your skin care products are turning your face red, talk to your dermatologist about how you can alter your exfoliation routine to work around potential triggers.
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