Rosacea is a condition that causes red patches and bumps on the skin — especially the face. The causes of this condition are relatively unknown, though most patients report flare-ups after eating spicy foods or partaking in activities that raise the...

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Table of content

What Is Rosacea?

Rosacea is a skin condition that afflicts more than 415 million people, worldwide. This condition is categorized by patchy, dry, red skin. It manifests differently in each patient, so symptoms may vary. This is why diagnosing rosacea is somewhat difficult. 

Most patients with rosacea report either blotchy red patches on their faces, red bumps that look like blemishes, or a combination of the two. 

There are several different types of rosacea, and rosacea can pop up on any part of the body — but especially the face. It can appear as small patches or cover large areas of the dermis.

This condition mostly affects people with fair or light skin tones. 

Types of Rosacea

There are four types of rosacea (though rosacea can often be misdiagnosed in many patients as flushed skin). The main types of rosacea are:

  • Erythematotelangiectatic Rosacea

  • Ocular Rosacea

  • Papulopustular Rosacea

  • Phymatous Rosacea

Each type of rosacea is categorized by its individual symptoms.  

Erythematotelangiectatic Rosacea

Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (say that five times fast!) is characterized by a reddening of the skin. This type of rosacea is often confused for simple flushing of the skin — mostly because flushing is one of the main symptoms.

If you suffer from this type of rosacea, you may notice visible blood vessels on your face, neck, and eyes. Your face may also appear extremely red. You may also feel some pain or discomfort if you suffer from rosacea. The most common physical symptoms include pain, swelling, itching, burning, and stinging. 

This type of rosacea is hard to treat with medications, so most patients opt for topical treatments and preventative measures. 

Ocular Rosacea

Ocular rosacea (as its name suggests) is rosacea of the eyes. This type of rosacea manifests itself in and around the eyes as well as on the eyelids. 

If you think this sounds painful or uncomfortable, it is! People that suffer from ocular rosacea experience all the same symptoms of other types of the condition — just on the delicate skin of the eyes.

You may experience stinging, itching, burning, swelling, tenderness, visible blood vessels, and pustules. You may experience extreme dryness of the eyes, and even the skin over the eyelids may exhibit symptoms.

The bad news? Doctors don’t know the exact cause of ocular rosacea, meaning it isn’t easy for most patients to prevent this condition. 

Papulopustular Rosacea

Papulopustular rosacea is often confused with acne — mostly because this type of rosacea is categorized by acne-like pustules on the face. 

This type of rosacea mostly afflicts middle-aged women. It’s also categorized by large patches of red skin in the middle of the face, making skin appear flushed. While doctors don’t know the exact cause of papulopustular rosacea, they believe it may be caused by a variety of factors.

If you suffer from this type of rosacea, you may be experiencing a reaction to pollution, allergens, and the sun’s UV rays. 

Phymatous Rosacea

The final and least common type of rosacea is phymatous rosacea. This type of rosacea is most common in men and is categorized by thickening skin. 

This thickened skin may look patchy, scaly, or dry. It’s most commonly found on the nose, chin, forehead, ears, and eyes. It’s caused by an overgrowth of skin tissue on the face. It can also cause swelling, irritation, and pain.

While this condition affects mostly men, it can also affect some women, too. For some reason, women experience it on their cheeks and chins, while men experience symptoms of phymatous rosacea on their noses.

Rosacea Symptoms

The full list of symptoms of rosacea is pretty long. Yet with four different subtypes, rosacea often manifests itself differently in many patients. The symptoms of dermatitis rosacea (rosacea of the skin) are very similar to the symptoms of ocular rosacea. 

The most common symptoms of dermatitis rosacea include:

  • Broken blood vessels

  • Bumpy texture

  • Burning

  • Dry skin

  • Flushing

  • Large pores

  • Oily skin

  • Redness 

  • Scaly skin

  • Sensitive skin

  • Small pustules

  • Stinging sensations 

  • Swollen skin

  • Thickening skin

Ocular rosacea is categorized by similar symptoms to dermatitis rosacea, yet symptoms mostly affect the eyes instead of the face. 

The most common symptoms of ocular rosacea include:

  • Bloodshot eyes

  • Broken blood vessels 

  • Burning eyes

  • Dry eyes

  • Eye cysts

  • Gritty feeling

  • Impaired vision

  • Itchy eyes

  • Light sensitivity

  • Watery eyes

Causes of Rosacea

Doctors don’t truly understand the causes of rosacea; the exact cause is unknown. Yet, most patients report symptoms worsening after partaking in certain activities. 

Rosacea seems to be caused by an increase in body temperature, so avoiding activities that raise your body temperature is generally thought to prevent a rosacea breakout. 

If you suffer from rosacea, ​common triggers may include the following:

  • Spicy foods

  • Foods containing cinnamaldehyde 

  • Hot beverages

  • Saunas

  • Warm climates

  • Direct sun exposure

Some types of rosacea are also caused by bacteria (specifically helicobacter pylori bacteria). 

Spicy Foods

If you suffer from rosacea, you might want to avoid spicy foods. These foods can increase the body’s internal and external temperature, making you more susceptible to a breakout.

The National Rosacea Society reported in 2005 that more than half of patients suffering from rosacea experienced a flare-up after eating spicy foods. According to the society:

“Hot sauce affected 54 percent of those surveyed, while cayenne pepper affected 47 percent and red pepper affected 37 percent.”

If you suffer from rosacea, you can avoid a flare-up by avoiding spicy foods. If you’re attached to your spice, you may want to keep a food journal to determine if some spicy foods affect your symptoms more than others. 

Cinnamaldehyde Foods

Foods that contain cinnamaldehyde are also believed to cause flare-ups in patients suffering from rosacea. These types of foods include:

  • Chocolate 

  • Cinnamon

  • Citrus

  • Tomatoes

Since cinnamon is an ingredient in many foods (think baked goods, beverages, mulled wines, savory foods), you’ll want to avoid any foods known to contain this spice. You may also want to ask your restaurant server if cinnamon is used in the dish you’re ordering. 

Other foods are also known to cause flare-ups, including those high in citric acid and stimulants like coffee, tea, beer, and wine. 

You also may want to avoid foods containing cannabis and/or THC (the psychoactive compound in cannabis). 

Some patients also report dairy and wheat causing a breakout, but their percentage is relatively low. 

Hot Beverages

Hot beverages can raise the body’s temperature, causing a flare-up, so you may want to avoid any hot beverage. 

If you love a cup of non-caffeinated tea or coffee, you may want to opt to drink it luke-warm instead of hot. 

Helicobacter Pylori Bacteria

Helicobacter pylori bacteria are a type of bacteria that live in the stomach and can destroy the stomach lining. Not only do they lead to rosacea in some patients, but they can also cause ulcers and possibly even lead to cancer. 

This bacterial infection is so common that more than half of the world’s population has it — and doesn’t even know it!

The good news is that most cases of this bacterial infection are benign and don’t lead to any conditions.

Yet, if you suffer from chronic rosacea, you may want to chat with your doctor. Or, you can order a health test kit to determine if this bacteria is present in your system. 

Skin Mites 

If you suffer from rosacea, it may be because of skin mites. While skin mites may sound truly awful (bugs living in your skin?!), they are actually more common than you might think. 

20-to-80% of adults have Demodex mites. These microscopic mites survive off of sebum (the oily substance that lubricates hair follicles growing out of pore). An excess of sebum can lead to clogged pores and acne — which makes these mites sound like they’re actually doing us a service by relieving us of some of our sebum.

Yet, some factors (including stress and illness) can lead to flare-ups of these mites. Demodex mites only have a 14-day lifecycle. And when they die? They leave behind bacteria that can lead to — you guessed it — rosacea flare-ups. 

Preventing Rosacea

Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can prevent rosacea. Since most patients report that flare-ups are often caused by similar lifestyle choices and environmental factors, it’s safe to say that avoiding these known causes can help prevent breakouts. The most common ways to prevent rosacea include:

  • Abstaining from stimulants

  • Avoiding pollutants

  • Avoiding the sun

  • Lowering stress levels

  • Opting for low-intensity workouts

  • Staying cool

  • Steering clear from allergens

  • Talking to your doctor

Abstain From Stimulants

We know that stimulants can lead to a rosacea flare-up. So, it makes sense that avoiding these stimulants would prevent future breakouts. If you suffer from rosacea, you may want to consider:

  • Quitting smoking

  • Limiting alcoholic beverages (or abstaining from them altogether)

  • Avoiding cannabis or other THC products

  • Drinking decaf coffees and teas

These stimulants can raise the body’s temperature and lead to more frequent and more serious rosacea outbreaks. If you find the above stimulants don’t affect your rosacea, you may want to continue using them with caution. 

Avoid Pollutants

Like many other causes of rosacea on this list, pollutants can penetrate the delicate layers of the dermis and cause inflammation and infection.

Some of the most common pollutants that may cause rosacea include:

  • Acid rain

  • Smog

  • Smoke

  • Heavy metals

  • Dirt

  • Debris

Once pollutants get under your skin, they can turn into free radicals. These substances cause irritation and attack collagen (the protein that is in charge of wound healing and cell regeneration). 

If you live in a big city or area where pollution is high, you may want to use a daytime moisturizer that hydrates and protects skin from these pollutants. 

Avoid the Sun

Sun damage is one of the leading causes of skin conditions! The sun’s harmful UV, UVA, and UVB rays can penetrate the skin, drying it out and leading to both cosmetic and medical issues. 

If you suffer from rosacea (or if others in your family suffer from it), you’ll want to be careful in the sun — especially if you have a light or fair skin tone. 

Wear sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher and cover your arms, legs, face, and hands when you’re in the sun. If you can, avoid direct exposure to the sun altogether. Or, limit sun exposure to 20 minutes or less. 

Lower Stress Levels

Stress is another condition that is linked to rosacea. People that suffer from higher levels of stress tend to have more severe rosacea breakouts (and more frequent breakouts) than those that report less stress overall.

Researchers believe that stress hormones (such as cortisol and adrenaline) can aggravate the body’s system and raise body temperature. These hormones can also cause the body to shut down non-essential functions, making it harder to fight off infection. Essentially, the body stops sending support to organs, such as the skin.

If you want to lower your stress levels, try a meditation app. The best way to lower your levels of stress hormones is through deep breathing and engaging your parasympathetic nervous system. 

Opt for Low-Intensity Workouts

Again, the main cause of rosacea can pretty much be boiled down to one instigator: a rise in body temperature. That means that any activity that results in a rise in body temperature can be a catalyst for a breakout.

High-intensity workouts, including cardio and high-intensity interval training can both raise body temperature extensively.

If you suffer from rosacea (and notice flare-ups after working out), you may want to lower the intensity of your training. 

Opt for workouts like walking, yoga, stretching, and strength training instead of high-intensity ones. 

Stay Cool

Obviously, you’re going to want to stay cool if you have rosacea. Not just by lowering the intensity of your workout — but through other lifestyle changes, too.

Some other ways to keep your body temperature low during the day include:

  • Using a fan or air conditioner

  • Avoiding saunas, heated pools, and jacuzzis

  • Eating luke-warm foods

  • Keeping your heart rate low

  • Sticking to the shade

Steer Clear From Allergens

Allergens, like pollution, pollen, and beauty products may also cause flare-ups of rosacea. Your skin may overreact to such allergens and break out in hives or patchy skin as a result.

Some common ​irritants and allergens that are known to cause rosacea breakouts may include:

  • Pollen

  • Ragweed

  • Mold

  • Dust

  • Heavy metals

  • Free radicals

  • Perfumes

  • Deodorant

  • Hairspray

  • Cleaning products

  • Sulfates

Check the labels of beauty and cleaning products. You may be allergic to some of the chemicals in these products. If you suspect your rosacea may be because of any of these products, stop using them for a few weeks and slowly reintroduce each one to your routine.

If your rosacea flares up after using one (or all), you’ll know the culprit right away. Or, you also may want to consider ordering an at-home testing kit for allergies. 

Talk to Your Doctor

Sometimes rosacea is a side effect of certain medications. If you’re on a medication that is known to cause rosacea, you may want to talk to your doctor about switching your dosage.

The most common medications that cause rosacea include steroids, blood pressure medications, and opiates. 

Steroids are a common cause of rosacea, so much so that there’s a special name for it — steroid-induced rosacea. 

You may also want to talk to your doctor to see if you could be suffering from a bacterial infection or skin mites. If you believe you’re suffering from one of the latter two conditions, you could sidestep a trip to your doctor’s office and instead chat with an online dermatologist for a diagnosis. 

Rosacea Treatments

If you’re already suffering from rosacea, you may want to treat your symptoms (in addition to preventing future symptoms). Luckily, there are plenty of ways to treat this condition. If you suffer from rosacea because of a bacterial infection or skin mites, your doctor can recommend treatment. Yet, if you suffer from erythematotelangiectatic or papulopustular rosacea, you may be able to treat your symptoms with topical skincare for rosacea. 

Skincare Sets

All-over skincare sets are an ideal treatment for rosacea. These kits contain everything you need to cleanse, moisturize, protect, and treat skin issues — basically everything you need for your skincare routine.

Most sets include a facial cleanser, daytime moisturizer, and moisturizing night cream. Some even include some type of highly-concentrated serum or spot treatment.

The gentle cleanser works to free the skin of dirt, debris, and pollution. It contains no parabens and is fragrance-free and oil-free. The daytime cream acts as a skin barrier and protects the face from the harmful rays of the sun as well as pollution. The night cream is formulated to break up pigmentation and redness while you sleep. 

Best Skincare Set: Musely’s Skin Regeneration Set

Spot Treatment

Spot treatments are concentrated solutions that break up hyperpigmentation. They are meant to be used on problem-areas and work rapidly to address rosacea, melasma, and pimples. 

Best Spot Treatment: Musely’s Spot Treatment

Night Creams

Night creams are light moisturizers that work best while you sleep. They are often formulated to help with skin cell regeneration while lightening the skin tone. These products are lighter than daytime creams so as to not clog pores.

Best Night Cream: Rory’s Nightly Defense

Neck and Chest Cream

Neck and chest lotions are formulated to treat the delicate skin of the neck — as well as the decollete. These two areas are hotbeds for skin issues; people that suffer from hyperpigmentation, rosacea, acne, and crepey skin often need special treatment just for this area of the body. Neck and chest creams are hydrating without clogging tiny pores. 

Best Neck and Chest Cream: Musely’s Neck and Chest Cream

If you’re suffering from this condition, we recommend checking out ​dermatology skincare products for rosacea-prone skin. Topical anti-inflammatory prescription treatments with antioxidants can offer redness relief and help ease the symptoms of this condition (and any other related skin conditions, such as hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and acne). 

If you’re concerned you’re suffering from a bacterial infection, you may want to order an at-home testing kit to diagnose your symptoms.