Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rosacea - What, Why, How, and What to do about it?

I had two separate Debs ask questions about what can be done for skin affected by Rosacea so I decided to combine them into one article.

First a little background for anyone not really familiar with Rosacea.  Rosacea is a skin disease of the face.  It mostly affects the cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead but it has also been known to cause burning and redness of the eyes and eyelids as well.  It is not dangerous or contagious, it is mainly embarrassing and uncomfortable for the person suffering from it.  Small acne like bumps are also a common occurrence, and in severe cases permanent knobby bumps on the cheeks and nose can develop.  

The causes of Rosacea are not quite clear but it is known that it is NOT caused by alcohol abuse.  Alcohol can trigger a flare up but it is not a cause in itself.  Rosacea does tend to affect fair skinned people and can run in families.  Rosacea often flares when something causes the blood vessels under the skin of the face to expand.   Common triggers can be stress, exercise, spicy foods, alcohol, heat, exposure to sun and wind, or going from one temperature extreme to another.  

So, that is what Rosacea is.  Now, what can you do about it?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Rosacea.   There are however various ways to deal with it and it is up to the individual to decide how aggressive they want to be in handling their symptoms.  

The easiest way to deal with Rosacea is to try to reduce the number of flare-ups you have.  To do this you want to learn what your triggers are.  I listed a few above but not everyone with Rosacea will react to all of them, and there may be triggers that I didn't list that affect you.  By paying attention to what triggers your flare-ups you can do your best to reduce your exposure to the triggers and hopefully reduce the number of flare-ups you experience.

The next thing you can do is use a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 every day.  Not only is simple sun exposure a common trigger, but the sun can also damage your skin making you more sensitive to other triggers of Rosacea.  It is important to make sure you continue to wear a sunscreen even in winter.  Sun exposure can be worse in winter than in summer because you not only have the uv rays coming down from the sun, but in areas that get snow you have the uv rays bouncing back up off the snow as well so you get uv exposure from two directions.

Third, be gentle with your skin.  Use cleansers, toners, and moisturizers developed for sensitive skin.  Anything that is to harsh could act as a trigger to another flare so never, ever use a gritty scrub on skin with Rosacea, they can be incredibly damaging to sensitive skin and can cause worse outbreaks than you would normally get.  Properly caring for your skin is going to be the best thing that you can do on your own for your Rosacea.  Sunscreen and proper cleaning, toning, and moisturizing will not only help reduce the duration of an outbreak but will help prevent outbreaks all together.  

Fourth, to reduce the appearance of the occasional flare wear makeup with a slightly green tint to it.  This goes back to grade school art class and the color wheel.  Rosacea gives a reddish hue to the skin so you are going to want to go to the opposite side of the color wheel for its complement which is green.  A greenish hued makeup is going to help neutralize the reddish tone to your skin.  One way to do this is to apply a green cover stick to your red areas (this works for just plain pimples too) and then apply your foundation as normal.  The advantage to this is that it is easy to do and relatively inexpensive.  The disadvantage is that it will only reduce, not eliminate the redness.  You can also look for  camouflage makeup which will completely cover the Rosacea instead of just reducing the appearance of it.  The advantage is obvious, the redness is totally gone.  The disadvantage is that the heavier makeup can be uncomfortably heavy for some people, its harder to apply at first (you will get the hang of it with practice), and it can be more expensive than the first option.  Doing a google search on makeup for Rosacea will give you lots of results for both options.

If you want something more drastic than makeup, proper skin care, and trigger avoidance can give you then it's time to go to a dermatologist.  A dermatologist may prescribe a course of antibiotics (topical or pills) or something like Accutane or Retin-A to treat your flare-ups.  In cases of advanced Rosacea the dermatologist may suggest something like dermabrasion or laser surgery.  None of these options are a cure but they are affective in improving the appearance of the skin and reducing flare-ups.

To make a long article short (to late I know :)), treat your skin gently.  If you suffer from Rosacea now be gentle to your skin.  If Rosacea runs in your family, be diligent about your skin care.  Do everything you can to keep it healthy, cleanse, tone, and moisturize every morning and evening, use sunscreen daily, and have regular facials.  Healthy skin is no guaranty you won't get Rosacea but it might delay the onset of Rosacea, plus if your skin is healthy the chances are your flare-ups will be fewer and of shorter duration than the flare-ups of someone who isn't as diligent about their skin care routine.  

Thank you for stopping by.  If you have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to leave them.  I need your questions to keep this blog going.  You can leave your questions in the comment form or email them to me at  Thank you again!

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