Dealing with rosacea can be a challenge, and while redness flare-ups are bound to happen throughout the year, summer is probably one of the most taxing periods. According to a National Rosacea Society survey, 61% of rosacea sufferers rate sun exposure as their biggest trigger, 53% blame hot weather for their flare-ups, and 39% report vigorous exercise as their biggest aggravator.
So, while you are treating your rosacea with topical creams, in-clinic laser, IPL or light treatments for redness and broken vessels, what lifestyle habits can you change to prevent or minimise future flare-ups?
What is rosacea?
So, just what is acne rosacea? Rosacea (pronounced: ro-SAY-sha) is a chronic inflammatory disorder where the most commonly experienced symptom is redness across the centre of the face (nose, cheeks, chin, and forehead). This redness is constant and intensifies during certain periods or as a result of exacerbating factors. Spots that often mistaken for acne, rough skin, and visible blood vessels (‘telangiectasia’) can also develop as rosacea progresses.
People with rosacea tend to flush or blush, especially when they feel nervous or anxious, when they drink alcohol, eat spicy food or after they are in the sun. Cold, dry weather can also make rosacea flare up. Having dry, itchy, and sensitive skin that reacts to skincare products are also commonly reported symptoms.
It most often affects women over the age of 30 with lighter skin tones, although it can develop at any age, and can occur in deeper skin tones. In men over 50, rosacea can present as thickened, red, and lumpy, bulbous skin, particularly on the nose (called ‘rhinophyma’).
Sore, dry, red, bumpy, and sensitive skin can make you feel anxious, embarrassed, and depressed, which we all know does nothing for your self-confidence. If you suspect you may have rosacea, you either visit a dermatologist or contact a telehealth medical skincare provider to have them prescribe a tailored rosacea cream suited to your skin.
Rosacea, while not as common as other skin conditions, affects around 10% of the Australian population and unfortunately, has no cure. It can be managed with topical rosacea creams to reduce inflammation, redness, and bumpy skin.
Treating rosacea: Prescription creams
Doctors and dermatologists can customise the best rosacea cream for you. These days, you can choose to visit a doctor or dermatologist in person or use a telehealth medicine provider to consult a doctor online through a one-to-one video call. They can help you identify any rosacea triggers and explain which of the multiple rosacea treatment options are right for you.
Using clinical guidelines based on the most current and best-available evidence they will design a cream with a fully customised blend of active ingredients that can be adjusted to suit your skin’s tolerance, allergies, and sensitivity level, available only by prescription.
Prescription rosacea creams will contain powerful active ingredients such as:
Azelaic acid – to minimise spots, calm inflammation, kill bacteria, and unclog pores that can lead to the acne-like bumps.
Niacinamide – soothes inflammation and improves the function of the skin barrier.
Metronidazole – a topical antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiprotozol used to treat mild to moderate rosacea. Multiple clinical trials have shown the effectiveness and safety of this drug when it comes to treating rosacea and reducing diffused redness.
Prescription retinoids – these should only be included in skincare regimens after you are able to manage your rosacea. Even then, only prescription-strength retinoids that are well-tolerated by sensitive skin should be used.
Managing rosacea with lifestyle changes
With no cure, managing and minimising flare-ups is the only way to handle and live with your rosacea. You may feel that having rosacea will cause you to miss out on some of life’s great pleasures, particularly in the summer or if you happen to live in very hot or cold climates. Fear not! You can find ways to minimise flare-ups by being more aware of what can trigger your rosacea.
When it’s hot outside, blood flow to your skin naturally increases. When you exercise or sweat, your body works even harder to keep you cool, which, inadvertently causes your rosacea symptoms to intensify.
- You can cheat the heat by exercising early in the morning or late in the day when temperatures are cooler, the sun isn’t as hot and harsh.
- Exercise indoors where there is air conditioning to help regulate your skin temperature.
- Avoid saunas and steam rooms.
Food and beverage
- Avoid alcohol if it’s one of your rosacea triggers or alternate between alcoholic drinks and cold water.
- Limit your consumption of spicy foods (yes, even the hot sauces) that can bring about skin redness.
- Even though a hot beverage is tempting, the temperature of these drinks can cause rosacea to flare up.
- Get to know which food items contain histamines (which make our blood vessels dilate, causing redness), and avoid eating them. Some examples are tomatoes, citrus fruit, legumes, chocolate, and nuts.
- Wear plenty of sunscreen when you are outside and reapply every 2-3 hours (SPF in makeup is not enough).
- Wear a hat and sunglasses.
- Avoid getting sunburnt when outdoors.
- In cold climates protect your face with scarves and use an intensive moisturiser for extra hydration.
A rosacea-friendly skincare routine
Did you know that loading your skin with products, using grainy exfoliants, or abrasive cleansing tools (including overzealous rubbing with a soft face cloth or washer) can cause rosacea flare-ups or encourage persistent redness?
What to DO
- Keep your skincare routine simple.
- Use gentle, fragrance-free products.
- Use your fingers massage your skin during cleansing.
- Keep cleansing to a minimum.
- Find a sunscreen that doesn’t sting.
- Rinse your skin using lukewarm water.
- Focus on moisturising.
The right combination
Rosacea can be difficult to manage with the heightened skin sensitivity and dryness that is associated with the condition. Sun protection and changing some of your habits, when coupled with a prescription treatment tailored to your needs, can vastly reduce the severity of your rosacea symptoms while minimising its progression.