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What is rosacea?

Close up of rosacea on a woman's face
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Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that mainly causes redness, bumps and visible blood vessels on the face. It’s more common in women, however some symptoms can be worse for men. The causes of rosacea are still relatively unknown however there are things you can do to manage the condition and ease symptoms.

Here we share the common triggers of rosacea, the treatments available and the steps you can take to avoid a flare up.

What causes rosacea?

It's not clear what causes rosacea - genetics, the immune system, abnormalities and external factors may all contribute to this condition. Whilst it’s not contagious, rosacea does seem to be more common within families.

What triggers can make rosacea worse?

Rosacea patients often report a common set of triggers that may make symptoms worse. These include:

  • Alcohol
  • UV rays and sunlight
  • Hot or cold weather
  • Humidity
  • Spicy foods
  • Dairy
  • Caffeine
  • Exercise
  • Hot baths or showers
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Menopause
  • Other medical conditions or medications

Symptoms of rosacea

These are a number of symptoms of rosacea however not everyone will experience each one. It can also flare up at certain times and at others, present no symptoms at all. The majority of these symptoms occur on the face:

  • Persistent redness or blushing
  • Visibly broken blood vessels
  • Dry skin
  • Swelling
  • Raised red patches
  • Small pink or red bumps, similar to acne
  • Sensitive skin that burns, stings or itches
  • Thickened skin

The above symptoms are also similar to those of eczema, another skin condition that typically causes dry skin, itching and redness. However, eczema, or dermatitis, doesn’t cause flushing or visible blood vessels and can occur anywhere on the face or body.

Subtypes of rosacea

There are four types of rosacea that each vary in symptoms. You may find you have one type or may experience symptoms across each kind. However, understanding the differences will help you to seek out the best treatment for your skin.

Type of rosacea  Most common symptoms
Vascular Rosacea Redness, flushing and visible blood vessels
Inflammatory Rosacea Spots and red, swollen bumps
Phymatous Rosacea Thickening and inflammation of the skin around the nose
Ocular Rosacea Itching, burning and redness around the eyes

 

How to treat rosacea?

Unfortunately, rosacea can’t be cured. However, there are some treatments that can help to soothe symptoms in the long term. Make sure to talk to your GP to discuss the best option for you.

Shop rosacea treatments

How to help rosacea?

Whilst there isn’t a long-term cure for rosacea, there are things you can do at home to avoid triggers and prevent a flare up.

Protect your skin from the elements

The weather can affect your skin in various ways so it’s important to always be prepared. Wear sunscreen on your face - even when it’s cloudy - and ensure it’s at least SPF 30. The wind and cold weather can also trigger symptoms to wrap up warm and cover your face and nose to protect your skin.

Try to manage stress

Stress and anxiety are common rosacea triggers so looking after your mental health is important for controlling symptoms. Practice deep breathing and meditation to calm the body whilst gentle exercise can help to unwind and destress.

Practice good skincare

People with rosacea need to be careful about what they apply to their skin. You should use gentle cleansers and non-scented soaps with lukewarm water before applying products suitable for sensitive skin such as anti-redness cream. Avoiding waterproof or oil-based cosmetics may also help as they require more vigorous removal methods.

Identify and avoid triggers

Some foods and drinks can cause symptoms in people with rosacea, so it’s important to understand which are your personal triggers. Most commonly these include caffeinated drinks, alcohol and spicy foods. Try avoiding these where possible to see if your symptoms improve and slowly introduce them back into your diet, noting any changes to your skin.

Rosacea may not be curable but there are many ways you can control it with treatment and by avoiding your personal triggers. It may take time to figure out what these are but doing so will help to manage your condition. Make sure to use sun protection and face moisturiser to keep your skin healthy.

Discover more about how to care for your skin including the best acne treatments and remedies for dry skin.

References

www.nhs.uk/conditions/rosacea
www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/skin-hair-and-nails/rosacea#causes-of-rosacea
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279476
https://knowyourskin.britishskinfoundation.org.uk/condition/rosacea