What is Rosacea?

“Rosacea is a common and chronic inflammatory skin condition that affects the face”

– Dr. Shannon Humphrey, dermatologist (Acne and Rosacea Society of Canada)

It often begins with a tendency to blush or get flushed, but over time patients find that these areas of redness become persistent on the face and often become raised and painful.

Half of rosacea sufferers experience eye symptoms such as dry, watery, or red eyes, and can be prone to frequent styes.


The Importance of Awareness

April is Rosacea Awareness Month.  It is estimated that 415 million people worldwide suffer from rosacea – and many of them don’t know it!  Because of how it presents, it is often dismissed as acne.  Beyond the pain and discomfort that goes along with untreated rosacea, recent studies have shown patients with rosacea are at greater risk of:

  • Cardiovascular disease – 4 times higher
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – 4 times
  • Crohn disease – almost 3 times
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – 2 times
  • Celiac disease – 2 times
  • Type 2 diabetes – 2.5 times
  • People with rosacea also have a 10 times higher risk of food allergies, 7.5 times greater risk of urogenital diseases (affecting the urinary tract or reproductive organs) and 4 times elevated risk for respiratory diseases


Know the Signs:


Rosacea has many faces and can present on skin, in eyes, or even in nose enlargement.  Here are some general symptoms to watch for:

  • Tendency to flush, feel hot
  • Sensitive or reactive skin
  • Persistent racing in the central face, forehead, chin, neck, chest
  • Skin sensitivity
    • Red and blotchy
    • Burning or hot-to-the-touch skin
    • Tight, dry skin
    • Rough, swollen areas
  • Visible blood vessels
  • Long periods of flushing (stinging, itching, burning in the affected area)
  • Inflamed red bumps (sometimes mistaken for adult acne)
  • Rare: red, bumpy, and thickened skin, or an enlargement (commonly the nose, but also can affect the chin, forehead, or ears)
  • Often patients find they can’t use new skincare products


Rosacea Risk Factors

The cause of rosacea is unknown, but experts believe a faulty immune system may be the culprit.  You may be more likely to have rosacea if you fall into the following categories:

  • Adults between 30-50
  • Fair skin (Celtic or northern Europeans)
  • Sensitive skin
  • Family history of rosacea
  • Women (2-3x more likely to suffer rosacea than men)


When to See a Doctor

  • Persistent redness
  • Developing bumps
  • Embarrassed or socially isolated about your skin
  • Irritated eyes (feeling gritty or sensitive)
  • Skin due to irritation with any skin products


After Your Diagnosis

While there is no “cure” for rosacea, there are steps you can take to ensure it does not affect your daily life.  Extreme flare-ups often need medical intervention – topical ointments or oral medications prescribed by your dermatologist.  To prevent flare-ups from occurring in the first place, it’s important to establish a consistent skin-care routine and to avoid any possible triggers.

Learn your triggers:

Many things can trigger a rosacea flare-up – and everyone’s triggers are different. From diet to the environment, take some time to learn your triggers.  The National Rosacea Society offers a free “Rosacea Diary” for patients to keep track of their food and environment in order to identify possible triggers.

Possible food triggers include:

  • Warm beverages
  • Spicy food
  • Alcohol
  • Dairy
  • Foods with histamine in them (tomatoes, citrus fruit, legumes, chocolate, and nuts)

Environmental triggers:

  • Hot baths, saunas
  • Exercising
  • Sun exposure
  • Cold weather
  • Stress

Not all triggers are avoidable, but there are measures you can take to lessen their effects:

  • Sip cool water, or splash cool water on your face while exercising
  • Use sunscreen, and a hat to protect your face from the sun
  • Cover your face when going outside in the winter


Figure out a Skin Care Routine

The skin’s natural barrier works to keep moisture in and bacteria and dirt out

Patients with rosacea have a faulty barrier (may in part explain why they have sensitive, dry skin).  To restore this barrier, it’s important to have a consistent, appropriately selected skincare routine.   It can be difficult to find a routine that will work for your skin to reduce flares and consulting a dermatologist is helpful.



Cleansers and moisturizers:

  • Keep it simple (fewer products touching the face the lower the opportunity of irritation
    • Cleanse twice daily
  • Mild, soap-free cleanser
    • No sponges or harsh washcloths (use your fingertips)
    • Lukewarm water (extreme cold or hot can cause flares)
    • Avoid exfoliating scrubs
    • Pat face dry (avoid rubbing)
    • Fragrance-free, oil-free, and alcohol-free moisturizer
      • Morning lotion should include sunscreen
    • When trying a new product: test a small portion of skin to make sure no reaction
      • Behind your ear or on your wrist
      • If you don’t react after a day or two it’s probably fine to try on your face

Importance of sunscreen

  • Sun exposure can:
    • Cause flareups
    • Increase background redness on the face
    • Dilute the capillaries on the face
  • Daily sunscreen, seeking shade, avoiding peak daylight 10-3
    • SPF30+ broad spectrum, reapplied throughout the day if spending time in the sun
    • Oil-free, fragrance-free, alcohol-free
  • Sunscreen is important all year – not just in the summer


Rosacea + Mental Health

Because rosacea primarily affects the face, it can have a huge impact on patients’ emotional state:


Having trouble getting a referral to a dermatologist? Book a free, virtual appointment with Sabe Wellness today.