Rosacea is a common condition that affects the skin by causing redness, visible blood vessels, and/or small acne-like bumps. It mainly affects the face, particularly the cheeks and nose and can come and go in terms of severity. A study done in 2018 found that rosacea affects an estimate of 415 million people worldwide or one in ten people in the US. It’s also known as the curse of the celts.
Rosacea is a long-term condition that can affect anyone. It’s more prevalent in women but tends to be more severe in men. Fair-skinned people are more susceptible to rosacea and it’s more common in those over 30. Genetics can have a part to play in whether or not you will develop rosacea at some point and it mostly affects people of northern or eastern European descent.
There is currently no known cure for rosacea, but thankfully there are effective ways to manage the symptoms.
What are the symptoms of rosacea?
Symptoms can vary from person to person but we’ve highlighted some of the most common ones below.
- Flushing: A lot of people with rosacea experience frequent flushing or blushing. This is one of the main signs that you might have rosacea. Alongside this, you might also feel a sense of heat, warmth, or a burning sensation. This can be harder to spot in darker skin tones.
- Swollen red bumps: Bumps or pimples often appear which can resemble acne. These can contain puss and be painful to touch. The difference between acne rosacea and regular acne is the absence of blackheads.
- Visible veins or blood vessels: In many cases, small but visible blood vessels called telangiectasia can be noticed on the cheeks, nose, and other areas of the face. These are sometimes known as broken veins.
- Persistent redness: This looks or feels like a sunburn that doesn’t go away. The skin might feel hot and tender on the cheeks, nose, and/or chin.
- Eye irritation: Many people with rosacea can experience dryness and irritation of the eyes or eyelids. This can make the eyes look watery or bloodshot, known as ocular rosacea.
- Skin thickening: This is due to excess tissue and affects mostly the nose area.
Burning, stinging, swelling, dryness, and general skin sensitivity are other symptoms that can be associated with rosacea.
Causes and triggers of rosacea
The exact cause of rosacea is still unknown, but different things are thought to contribute and have a part to play. For starters, rosacea does appear to run in families. There hasn’t been scientific research done to support this nor is there clear genetic linkage to prove this claim but the observation has been made.
Abnormalities in facial blood vessels could also contribute to whether you will develop rosacea. If the blood vessels easily dilate this can cause redness and flushing. Skin peptides (naturally occurring molecules in the skin) can happen as a result of external factors which can also cause redness and inflammation.
Demodex mites have also been noted as a potential contributor to the condition. While everyone has these mites on their skin, those who suffer from rosacea have been found to have substantially more of the Demodex mites. When these mites die, they cause bacteria to be released into the skin. This bacteria triggers an immune reaction which again can cause redness or inflammation.
So, while the exact cause of rosacea still isn’t clear, several things can actively trigger a flare-up. These include:
- Hot drinks
- Alcohol, particularly red wine and beer
- Exposure to sun or wind
- Stress or anxiety
- Certain foods
- Certain cosmetic, skin, or hair products
Find a comprehensive list of the foods, drinks, and other triggers of rosacea here, or read our blog about the common triggers of rosacea flare-ups here.
There are four subtypes of rosacea and each one has its own set of symptoms. You can suffer from more than one subtype at once.
- Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (ETR) is commonly known as subtype one. Signs of type one rosacea are facial redness, flushing, and visible veins or blood vessels.
- Papulopustular rosacea (commonly referred to as “acne rosacea”) is the second subtype. As you might guess, this is associated with acne-like breakouts of red bumps or pimples.
- Phymatous rosacea is the third subtype and this is characterised by the thickening of the skin. The most common presentation of this is rhinophyma which affects the nose. This is a more rare form of rosacea and is found more commonly in men.
- Ocular rosacea is the final subtype. As mentioned earlier, this affects the eyes and/or eyelids. This can make the eyes and eyelids red and sore as well as cause dryness, irritation, and sensitivity to light.
Diagnosis and treatment
There is no specific test used to get a diagnosis for whether or not you have rosacea. Instead, your doctor or dermatologist will examine your skin and look into the history of your symptoms.
Although there isn’t a cure, many treatments focus on reducing the signs and symptoms. Most often treatment is a combination of prescription drugs, a good skincare routine, and avoidance of triggers.
Your GP may provide you with a prescription to help manage symptoms. The type of medication prescribed will depend on your symptoms and can involve some trial and error to see what works best for you. Prescription options for rosacea could include topical antibiotic gels or creams to reduce flushing or pimples. For flushing, you could be prescribed meditations like brimonidine (Mirvaso) and oxymetazoline (Rhofade) which constrict blood vessels. For pimples, you could be given azelaic acid (Azelex, Finacea), metronidazole (Metrogel, Noritate), or Ivermectin (Soolantra). Oral antibiotics are another option for those with moderate to severe rosacea. All of these medications courses may last for several months and can be recurring.
Laser therapy is aimed at making enlarged blood vessels less visible. This targets visible veins, so is most effective on lighter skin tones. It’s worth talking with your doctor about the risks and benefits of laser therapy. Also good to note that laser therapy is usually considered a cosmetic procedure and therefore not covered by insurance.
Also, diathermy needle therapy is an excellent treatment for broken capillaries. Find more information about diathermy needle therapy here. With this treatment, you might need two sessions. This type of treatment can be provided by an experienced beauty therapist.
Don’t be tempted to go for a very long treatment session, just a few minutes each time is usually enough. Always use a high SPF after each session, one like our SPF 30 physical sunscreen.
There are measures you can take yourself to minimise the appearance and symptoms of your rosacea.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to figure out what your triggers are and actively avoid them. It’s not always possible, but making small changes to your lifestyle can be a big help. Keeping a food diary is one way to keep track of your triggers. By doing this you’ll be able to notice correlations between your flares and certain foods. It can take some time but is certainly worth it.
It’s so important to look after your skin properly. For example, remember to use an SPF every single day regardless of the weather. The SPF should be at least factor 30, and you’re better to use a physical sunscreen, like our SPF 30 tinted sunscreen (containing zinc or titanium oxide) rather than a chemical one. When it comes to cleansing, toners, serums, and moisturisers it’s best to use products that are suitable for sensitive skin. Avoid anything alcohol-based or scented and instead choose something described as mild or hypoallergenic.
The myths and misconceptions around rosacea
- Coffee and caffeine cause rosacea flare-ups: Coffee and caffeine, in general, can get a bad rep when it comes to rosacea. The actual trigger is more to do with the heat of the drink more than the ingredients themselves. So you can still enjoy an iced latte without worry!
- Rosacea is caused by poor hygiene: Rosacea is not related to personal hygiene and is a chronic inflammatory condition. This is important to know as over-cleansing, exfoliation or scrubbing can cause it to worsen. A healthy skincare routine however is an important part of treatment.
- Rosacea is caused by heavy drinking: The onset of rosacea has nothing to do with alcohol and it is not a cause of the condition. It can however trigger flare-ups and aggravate the skin further.
- Rosacea is a type of acne: Often (incorrectly) referred to as “adult acne”, rosacea has a different cause. The two are not related but subtype 2 (papulopustular rosacea) does share a lot of characteristics with traditional acne. If you’re not sure which you have it’s always your safest bet to speak to a dermatologist.
- Rosacea is contagious: Rosacea is not an infectious disease. There is no evidence to support the idea that it can be spread from skin-to-skin contact.
Whether you currently have rosacea, think you might have it, know someone suffering from it, or simply have an interest in the condition I hope this guide was a helpful introduction.
Finca Skin Organics and rosacea
Here at Finca Skin Organics, I have created a range of clinically prove, all-natural, skincare products that contain minimal, plant-based ingredients.
By avoiding the use of harmful chemicals and additives, the Finca products are designed to cleanse, protect and soothe while reducing the appearance of redness without creating further irritation. Formulated by myself, a rosacea sufferer for those with very sensitive skin.
View the range of Finca products here or find out what subtype your skin is.
87% felt the appearance of their skin improved significantly after using our products and 100% said their skin felt more comfortable after*.
When in doubt, always refer to your doctor or dermatologist as the condition differs for everyone.
With love from Ireland,
*Clinical evaluation by Harley St. dermatologists on 23 subjects after 8 weeks of use.