Flushed skin, itchiness, patches of dryness and acne-like bumps: if this sounds far too familiar, chances are you have rosacea. But what is it and how can you tell whether you have rosacea, acne or something else that’s causing your skin to break out for no apparent reason?
Here, we give you the facts – plus some important advice to help pinpoint your triggers and calm your rosacea flare-ups.
Did you know around one in 10 people in the UK have rosacea? Not only that, but most sufferers are women with fair skin between the ages of 40 and 60. So not fair.
The most frustrating thing about rosacea (and, btw, why does the word sound so much nicer than the reality?) is that its cause has never been properly understood. Decades of clinical research and data has never been able to get to the root of the problem. And this makes it a tricky beast to deal with.
Tricky, yes. But impossible? No.
Think you might have rosacea or know someone who does? Then read on for everything you need to know, plus some simple tips on how to manage the symptoms.
What Is Rosacea?
Rosacea is a common, but persistent skin condition that’s linked to your vascular system and often comes and goes due to certain environmental triggers. It usually appears on your face and more specifically around the cheeks, chin, nose and forehead – otherwise known as your t-zone. It’s most common in middle-aged women with light skin, but for men it can be more severe and often results in chronic flare-ups that last for weeks.
Oh, and by the way, rosacea is NOT contagious.
Why Does Rosacea Affect Some People & Not Others?
This, friends, is the million dollar question. And the answer? Nobody really knows. It’s generally agreed that rosacea is caused by a combination of factors including genetics and environmental triggers such as spicy food, alcohol, caffeine, the sun, extreme temperatures, emotional stress or even physical exercise.
Some experts believe rosacea may also be due to an excess of tiny parasitic mites called Demodex in your skin’s microbiome. Yes, we know this sounds gross, but your skin has an entire ecosystem of microorganisms living on various layers of your skin which includes fungi, bacteria, viruses and yes, even mites.
Don’t panic, these are completely harmless and are actually essential for the health of your skin, helping to keep invading bacteria at bay and maintaining balance in your skin.
Demodex mites, however, have been found in greater numbers in rosacea sufferers, which is why many experts believe they’re partly to blame.
How Can You Tell If You Have Rosacea?
Symptoms of rosacea usually appear sometime after the age of 30 and include things like facial redness, bumps, crusty pimples, skin thickening, swelling, burning, even dry eyes and a blurry vision. These symptoms usually come and go and you may have one, some or even all of them. They can also vary from being mildly unpleasant to life-disruptive.
Rosacea is often mistaken for acne, but whereas rosacea is linked to your vascular network, acne is primarily caused by overactive sebaceous glands. Of course, it’s perfectly possible to suffer with both acne and rosacea, but treatments are completely different, so seeing your GP or a dermatologist is vital to ensure you get a proper, professional diagnosis and plan of action.
What Are The Best Ways To Treat Rosacea?
Sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but rosacea cannot be cured. There are, however, many medical treatments, skincare products and lifestyle changes to help control or even eliminate your symptoms. Again, your doctor can talk you through the various options which include anything from antibiotics and topical treatments to light or laser therapy.
In the meantime, here are five ways to help control and calm your rosacea at home…
1. Identify Your Triggers
Keep a diary of your diet and lifestyle habits to see if you can pinpoint exactly what sets off your flare-ups. Specifically, make a note of when you eat spicy foods, drink alcohol (red wine in particular), spend time outdoors in extreme temperatures or are stressed.
These are common triggers and it’s important to know what your weaknesses are so you can avoid them and help control your rosacea.
2. Gently Cleanse Twice A Day
Don’t avoid washing your face simply because your skin feels inflamed. Big mistake. In fact cleansing when you wake up and before you go to bed is essential to remove oil, dirt and bacteria which may cause further irritation if left on your skin. Just remember to avoid harsh soaps and cleansers that contain strong fragrances, sulphates and alcohol.
Cleanse your skin very gently with your fingers (no washcloths, thanks), rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water and pat dry with a clean, cotton towel.
Although not specifically formulated for rosacea, many of our customers love Crystal Cleanser. It’s totally free from parabens, sulphates and synthetic fragrance, so definitely worth a try.
3. Protect Your Skin From The Sun
Sun protection is super-important for everyone, but it’s vital if you have rosacea as the sun breaks down collagen and elastin which thins your blood vessels and causes excess redness and flushing.
Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 25 and always look for physical (aka mineral) sun-protecting ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide above chemical ones like oxybenzone, octinoxate and octisalate. Our Organic Tinted Moisturiser With SPF 25 contains both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which are super-protective and less likely to cause irritation.
4. Be Wary Of Potent, Active Ingredients
Unfortunately, some common skincare ingredients might be too strong for rosacea-prone skin, so it’s wise to avoid serums, cleansers and moisturisers that contain high-potency retinol and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as glycolic acid. Even some natural ingredients like witch hazel, menthol and peppermint can be triggers for irritation, so be wary of these if you’re concerned and look for alternatives.
Niacinamide (vitamin B3) is a fabulous anti-inflammatory ingredient that’s much kinder to sensitive skin, as are green tea, allantoin and liquorice extract. Antioxidants like vitamin C are also ideal for helping to reduce free radical damage and build collagen.
Just be mindful not to overload your skin with too many products and always do a patch test when introducing a new one for the first time. Apply a small amount behind your ear, then wait at least 48 hours (preferably 72) to test for any signs of irritation like burning, stinging or redness. These are all signs your skin does not like something.
5. Moisturise Frequently
Rosacea can make your skin dry, oily or a combination of the two, but however your skin feels and looks, it’s vital to moisturise it twice a day. Moisturisers condition, soften and soothe your skin by locking in essential hydration. This not only makes your skin feel more comfortable, but it also creates a barrier to reduce dryness and peeling.
We have tons of rosacea customers who love our calming Organic Hydration Gel which is 100 percent natural and deeply moisturising. Again, it wasn’t formulated specifically for rosacea, but we’re thrilled so many of you love it and that you find it WORKS!
Our final takeaway is to reiterate that if you have any concerns about rosacea, ALWAYS seek a professional diagnosis and treatment plan. Leave it to its own devices and it will undoubtedly become worse, but get help and you’ll be able to get rosacea under control in no time.