It affects one in ten people, is triggered by almost everything in modern life, and is, as far as we know, incurable. Yet experts still can’t pin down the root cause of this rosy ailment.
The fact is that rosacea is on the rise, and quick action is the key to getting it in check. Here’s everything you need to know to tackle redness head on if you’re over the endless flushing…
What is rosacea?
More than just ‘warm cheeks’ or blushing, rosacea is a skin condition that’s becoming more and more common. ‘Rosacea is a common, chronic, inflammatory skin condition that affects more than 10% of fair skinned people,’ explains aesthetic doctor and skincare expert Dr Barbara Sturm.
‘Rosacea symptoms include flushing, hyper-reactivity, persistent redness, pimples and pustules, inflamed blood vessels and facial swelling. Rosacea is sometimes mistaken for acne, eczema, or even skin allergies.’
What types of rosacea are there?
There are many types of rosacea but the four main types are:
- Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea features redness and flushing, with visible blood vessels.
- Papulopustular rosacea involves redness, swelling, and breakouts that resemble acne.
- Phymatous rosacea causes the skin to thicken and take on a bumpy texture.
- Ocular rosacea causes redness and irritation in the eyes and swollen eyelids.
Can you get rid of rosacea?
Currently there is no permanent cure for rosacea, but that’s not to say its symptoms can’t be treated and minimised.
‘There are various treatments which can relieve the signs and symptoms of rosacea’, says Sturm. ‘Depending on the severity, a combination of medications, lifestyle changes and avoiding skincare products that irritate and add to the inflammation of the skin can all help; remember that Rosacea-prone skin is fragile – be nice to it!’
Fact: Women are three times more likely to get rosacea than men
Despite affecting one in ten people, experts still can’t put their finger on exactly why rosacea rears its rosy head. Theories range from sun damage to genetics, and even an allergic reaction to tiny skin mites (demodex) that naturally set up camp on the skin’s surface but can cause trouble in numbers. Inflammation breaks down the skin’s elastic tissue over time, leaving it vulnerable. The earlier you take matters into your own hands, the better.
What Are The Symptoms Of Rosacea?
A 2015 survey in dermatology journal Cutis revealed that 47% of rosacea sufferers hadn’t heard of the condition before diagnosis, and 95% knew almost nothing about the warning signs.
Look out for…
This is caused by a quick increase of blood flowing through hundreds of dilating vessels, making them expand. It will usually occur around the centre of the face, chin and forehead. It has been shown that, when exposed to increased heat or stress, people with rosacea will have a greater nerve, blood flow and sweating response than people without the disorder.
This is rosacea’s most recognised symptom- unlike flushing, the redness remains.
Bumps And Pimples
These are the reason rosacea is linked to acne. But the difference is that instead of black and whiteheads, that signify true acne, these spots can be solid (papules) or pus-filled (pustules).
Visible Blood Vessels
These can form in clusters and are also known as telangiectasias. They occur when dilated blood vessels lead to threadlike, or ‘spider’ veins.
Burning Or Stinging
This is a common side effect that is linked to sensitised and easily irritated skin.
Dry, Gritty, Swollen Eyes
This can be a symptom of ocular rosacea and should be taken seriously, as it requires immediate medical attention. It can sometimes be the first sign that you may develop the facial type of rosacea, so seeking advice early can be beneficial in the long run.
When your face appears lightly inflamed, this is a result of thickening tissue linked to phymatous rosacea. Around the nose area it’s known as ‘rhinophyma’ but this is extremely rare in women.
What Can Trigger Rosacea?
Although rosacea is currently incurable, knowing what triggers individual flare-ups will help get redness under control. As consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Hextall explains, ‘Triggers can differ from person to person, so it’s key to isolate and understand yours as early as possible.’ There are, however, common culprits, and these are:
1. Emotional Stress
This sends the body’s senses into overdrive, causing it to overreact and stimulating both chemical and physical changes in the body.
2. Heavy Exercise
Strenuous physical activity, particularly cardio, rapidly increases heart rate, blood flow and body temperature, all of which can exacerbate rosacea.
It repeatedly assaults the skin’s protective barrier and so increases inflammation.
This is a vasodilator (it causes more blood to run through vessels, subsequently reddening skin). Beer and wine contain high histamine levels, which often trigger and aggravate rosacea. Red wine is often cited as the biggest culprit.
5. High And Low Temperatures
Extreme weather conditions are often detrimental to sufferers with this conditions, as rosacea settles in consistently tepid temperatures.
6. Spicy Food
Opt for herbs instead of hot spices, which can cause a flare-up.
7. Sun Exposure
According to a 2014 review by the National Rosacea Society, 88% of rosacea patients reported a decrease in flare-ups when wearing SPF daily.
How To Treat Rosacea
‘The most important thing you can do for your skin is prioritise using calming, hydrating and protecting products,’ explains Dr Hextall. ‘This encourages the skin barrier to do its job properly, ultimately safeguarding your skin from damaging aggressors.’
- Avoid aggressive scrubs and astringent gels, which sensitive skin finds hard to tolerate.
- Choose a gentle cleanser that doesn’t leave your skin feeling tight or ‘squeaky clean’ (a sign that the skin barrier has been stripped and pH levels compromised).
- Opt for hydrating formulas to supplement transepidermal water loss caused by constant flushing.
- Try antioxidant serums to give skin an armour that protects it against free-radical attackers.
- Always wear SPF daily (factor 30 or above), choosing gentle formulas with mineral ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
- Wear make-up that is allergy-tested and suited to sensitive skin, such as fragrance-free and mineral products.
See a doctor or dermatologist, especially if you want to discuss topical prescriptions (such as Soolantra or Mirvaso), oral medication and antibiotic options, but know that the last of these comes with long-term side effects.
Following these tips will calm rosacea and keep your skin feeling- and looking- happier.
Professional Rosacea Treatments To Try
Hailed as the most effective way to treat rosacea, pulsed pulsed dye laser (PDL), and intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments use targeted narrow beams of light to kill off the dilated blood vessels that cause flushing, with minimal damage to the surrounding area.Courses vary, but two to four sessions are recommended for long-term results.
Alternatively, there’s LED therapy, which Dr Hextall recommends for its anti-inflammatory benefits with no downtime. Always see a doctor or dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and full treatment plan beforehand.This content is imported from Instagram. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.
How Does Your Gut Health Affect Rosacea?
When it comes to rosacea the old adage ‘good skin starts from the inside’ rings true. ‘Clinical studies have found a link between disturbed gut flora and rosacea skin manifestations,’ explains Dr Sturm. ‘There has been a lot of research into gut health in the last decade or two and it’s understood that skin conditions can exacerbated by high stress levels, an inflammatory diet, alcohol, smoking and by taking antibiotics and steroid medications.
‘It’s my philosophy that diet is a key factor to controlling inflammation and promoting skin and overall health. I follow an anti-inflammatory diet; it includes minimising alcohol, caffeine, sugar, processed and fried foods, white flour, other refined carbs, and corn or cooking oil, while emphasising fatty fish, colourful fruits and vegetables, chia seeds, olive oil, purslane, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, cottage cheese, avocados, and almonds.
‘A fiber-rich (prebiotic) diet has also been shown in studies to help the overgrowth of intestinal bacteria that contributes to rosacea.’