All About Rosacea | Symptoms, Triggers & Treatment

What is rosacea?

Rosacea is a common, chronic inflammatory skin condition that causes blushing or flushing and visible blood vessels/broken capillaries, especially in the central face. It may also present as red spots (papules) or small, yellow pus-filled bumps (pustules).

Those who suffer from rosacea may also report flaking and sensitive skin with an intolerance to certain products including skin actives. Rosacea runs a chronic course and symptoms can be relapsing/remitting. Sufferers may also report triggers such as UV exposure, hot drinks, spicy food, and alcohol. Rosacea can be mistaken for acne, however, the difference is there are no comedones (blackheads) and it doesn’t scar the skin.

Signs and symptoms of rosacea include:

  • Burning sensation: The skin of the affected area may feel hot and tender/sensitive.
  • Eye problems: Many people with rosacea also experience dry, irritated, eyes and eyelids. This is known as ocular rosacea. In some cases, the eye symptoms precede the skin symptoms.
  • Enlarged nose: Over time, especially if left untreated, rosacea can thicken the skin on the nose, causing the nose to appear bulbous (rhinophyma). This occurs more often in men than in women.
  • Facial blushing or flushing: Rosacea can cause persistent blushing or flushing, most commonly in the central part of your face.
  • Visible spider veins/capillaries: Small blood vessels (telangiectasia) of your nose and cheeks break/dilate and become permanently visible
  • Inflammatory lesions: Many people with rosacea also develop red or yellow pimples on their face that are not dissimilar to acne however they do not scar and there are no comedones (blackheads)

What is the main cause of rosacea?

While the cause of rosacea is still not fully understood, it is caused by a combination of a genetic predisposition, an overactive inflammatory response, and environmental factors. Rosacea is not caused by poor hygiene and it's not contagious.

What triggers rosacea? 

  • Hot drinks and spicy foods
  • Red wine and other alcoholic beverages
  • Temperature extremes
  • Sun or wind
  • Emotions
  • Exercise
  • Drugs that dilate blood vessels, including some blood pressure medications
  • Some cosmetic, skin or hair care products

Who is prone to rosacea?

Anyone can develop rosacea. But you may be more likely to develop it if you:

  • Are female
  • Have skin that burns easily in the sun (Fitzpatrick skin type I/II)
  • Are over the age of 30
  • Smoke
  • Have a family history of rosacea

How to manage rosacea

Treatment for rosacea focuses on controlling signs and symptoms. Most often this requires a combination of good skin care, most importantly a broad spectrum, physical/mineral sunscreen each day and prescription topical or oral therapies. The duration of your treatment depends on the type and severity of your signs and symptoms. Recurrence is common.

Treatment of rosacea

If you experience persistent symptoms on your face or eyes, see a dermatologist for a diagnosis and proper treatment plan. Treatment for rosacea focuses on controlling signs and symptoms. This requires long-term daily use of a broad spectrum, physical/mineral sunscreen such as ELTA MD UV Clear (tinted).

Avoid skin actives such as AHAs BHAs and use topical retinoids under guidance from your doctor. We also recommend gentle cleansing of the skin with products that contain ingredients such as ceramides & niacinamide to aid skin barrier & for their anti-inflammatory effect. The duration of your treatment depends on the type and severity of your signs and symptoms. 

How do dermatologists treat rosacea?

You may need to try different options or a combination of therapies to find a treatment that works for you. IPL (Intense Pulsed Light Treatment) and other lasers are also an option to treat redness and broken veins. A course of 4-6 treatments is recommended 4-6 weeks apart and then long-term use of sunscreen.

How to manage rosacea flare ups:

  • Identify and avoid triggers. Pay attention to what tends to cause flare-ups for you and avoid those triggers.
  • Protect your face. Apply a zinc-containing physical sunscreen liberally, daily before going outdoors, and top up regularly. Apply sunscreen after you apply any topical medication you are using for your face, and before applying any cosmetics. 
  • Take other steps to protect your skin. Wear a hat and avoid the midday sun. In cold, windy weather, wear a scarf or ski mask.
  • Treat your skin gently. Use a soap-free, cream-based cleanser twice a day.
  • Avoid mechanical exfoliation.
  • Opt for bland moisturisers. This can help to restore the defective skin barrier and reduce inflammation.
  • Choose fragrance-free products. Avoid those that contain other skin irritants, such as glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, and alcohol-based products.

What to do if you think you have rosacea

If you think that you may have rosacea, we would advise you to book an appointment with your GP to look into this further. If you are concerned about facial redness, you can book in for a procedure consultation with one of our nurses or therapists to discuss the best treatment plan for you.