Rosacea: What Causes It & How To Treat It

If you’ve noticed persistent redness, blemishes and broken capillaries on your face, you could be developing a non-contagious condition called rosacea. While there’s no current cure, there are plenty of ways to manage your symptoms by determining your triggers and finding the right treatment.

We spoke to Dr Antoinette Ciconte, a Specialist Dermatologist and Fellow of the Australasian College of Dermatologists, to find out everything you need to know about rosacea.

What is rosacea and what causes it?

Rosacea is a common and recurring inflammatory skin condition that causes frequent flushing, redness and acne-like bumps on the cheek, nose, chin or forehead. A common feature of rosacea is enlarged or broken visible blood vessels on the face.

What are the symptoms of rosacea?

  • Persistent facial redness, particularly in the central part of your face
  • Visible blood vessels on your nose and cheeks
  • Swollen red bumps that can sometime be confused with pimples
  • Dry, irritated or swollen eyelids, also known as ocular rosacea
  • Enlarged, bulbous nose

What causes rosacea?

“The exact cause of rosacea is still unclear, but it is likely that there are a number of factors at play, including a person’s genetic makeup, environment, vascular and inflammatory factors,” says Dr Antoinette.

“Microbes and bacteria found in the gut, ultraviolet (UV) radiation, diet, temperature extremes, disruption to the skin’s barrier function, stress, and hormones are all thought to trigger an immune response and result in facial blood vessel disruptions.”

What are the risk factors for rosacea

Anyone can develop rosacea but you’re more likely to you:

  • Are a woman
  • Have fair skin, particularly if it has been damaged by the sun
  • Are over age 30
  • Smoke
  • Have a family history 

Is there a cure for rosacea? What are the treatment options?

Unfortunately, there is currently no known cure for rosacea. However, you can work with a dermatologist to effectively manage rosacea symtoms. Dr Antoinette says the most important part of treating rosacea is determining and avoiding known triggers. 

Other treatment options include:

  • A gentle, hydrating daily skin care regime to maintain skin barrier function
  • Sun protection and sun avoidance using sunscreen and other sun safe habits
  • Non-steroidal topical cream or oral medications used to control the inflammation
  • Physical therapies such as vascular laser therapy – often used in the more severe types of rosacea

What can trigger or exacerbate rosacea? 

There are a number of factors that can cause a rosacea flare up. Dr Antoinette says it’s best to steer clear of the following:  

  • Heat in general is thought to flare rosacea by causing the blood vessels to expand, which increases blood flow to the surface of the skin causing redness, so it’s best to avoid consuming hot food,  hot drinks, and hot baths
  • Alcohol consumption and spicy foods are also known to trigger rosacea
  • Strenuous exercise exacerbates facial flushing
  • Sun exposure can contribute to rosacea, so it is absolutely vital to be sun safe
  • Cold wind and cold weather can flare Rosacea
  • Steroid creams applied to the face can make rosacea worse and are best avoided

“Importantly, rosacea is a skin condition that can be managed well,” Dr Antoinette says. “It’s best to ask your GP for a referral to a dermatologist who specialises in skin conditions.”

What are the best products for rosacea?

A regular, tailored skincare regime with rosacea is essential for managing rosacea. There a plenty of products that can help reduce inflammation as well as provide coverage during flare ups. Overall, look for options that are gentle, hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. 

Chat to your dermatologist about the best, personalised options first, but these are some products that sufferers swear by. 

1. La Roche Posay Rosaliac AR Intense

This serum is specially formulated for rosacea sufferers with a formula that can inhibit the production of peptides which can be involved in developing skin redness. Effective active ingredients work on redness at the source, by reducing the size of blood vessels and strengthen their walls. The formula is also preservative-free, paraben-free, fragrance-free, alcohol-free, colourant-free and lanolin-free.

Price: $41.95

Reviewer verdict: “The redness in my skin is nearly gone after using this product for about a month. The product is very soothing and non-greasy. The product is easily absorbed Into the skin. It’s a keeper.”

2. Clinique Redness Solutions Daily Relief Cream

This extra-gentle, oil-free moisturiser is part of Clinique’s three step redness reduction range and works to calm persistent redness and broken capillaries. It uses microbiome technology to helps strengthen skin’s barrier and restore balance to the good bacteria on your face 

Price: $90

Reviewer verdict:Firstly, I NEVER leave product reviews for anything. So this must be worth doing. Secondly, oh my goodness, it actually works!! My Skin: very red cheeks, nose and chin. They flush red when I’m tired, hot, after showering… Even when I’m doing or feeling nothing, they are red! I’m also extremely fair… I have used this product for only 4 days, and I cannot believe what a difference it has made.”

4. Ultra Violette Clean Screen SPF 30 

Sunscreen is non-negotiable when you have rosacea and it’s important to find one that won’t irritate your skin (or leave you looking like a shiny red disco ball). Ultra Violette’s Clean Screen ticks all the boxes thanks to a mineral based formula that’s super mattifying, and ingredients like green tea and cucumber to help reduce inflammation. It’s perfect for extra-sensitive skin and oily skin types. 

Price: $42

Reviewer verdict: “I have the deluxe combo of acne and eczema, so finding a sunscreen that my skin likes has traditionally been difficult for me. THIS WORKED PERFECTLY! My skin felt hydrated, there wasn’t a white cast, and i wasn’t greasy by the end of the day. The best bit? No sunscreen-related pimples! Usually there’s one or two and I put up with it because I know I have to wear sunscreen.”

5. Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser

You don’t need to pull out all the bells and whistle when caring for rosacea-prone skin. Cetaphil is a beloved go-to for sensitive skin types and its Gentle Cleanser is a great budget product for hydrating inflamed skin.

Price: $11

Reviewer verdict: “I have rosacea and my daughter has eczema. We both use Cetaphil and our skin is great.”

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