What is rosacea and what can you do for it?
A dermatologist explains the redness on your skin
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If you have rosy red cheeks after working out or after coming in from the cold, you may not think anything of it. But for those of you who have near-constant redness on your cheeks and nose, you could have a common skin condition called rosacea. Navigating your skin’s health may have you scratching your head at times, which is why we tapped Allison Britt Kimmins, a Philadelphia-based dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology PC, to help shed light on how to identify rosacea and what you can do to reduce its effects.
What is rosacea and what causes it?
Rosacea is a skin condition that causes redness, inflammation, and visible blood vessels on the face, particularly on the nose and cheeks. Though rosacea flare-ups are linked to things like spicy foods, alcohol, heat, sun exposure, extreme temperatures, and exercise, it’s unclear what exactly causes the inflammation. It’s also unclear why some people—mainly light-skinned women over the age of 30—develop rosacea while others do not. It’s possible that it’s related to genetics or environmental factors, but according to Kimmins, the origin is still unknown.
How can someone identify rosacea on their skin?
Rosacea can present itself in four different ways, Kimmins says:
1. Redness with broken blood vessels on the skin
2. Papules (raised skin tissue) and pustules (small bumps with pus or fluid in them) that resemble acne
3. Issues with dryness, redness, and tear production in the eyes
4. An enlarged nose caused by overgrowth of the skin
“Any of these presentations can help a patient to determine if they have rosacea, especially when they are associated with flushing and blushing,” Kimmins says. If you think you may have rosacea, consult your dermatologist or primary care physician. If they confirm that it’s rosacea, you can move onto treating it.
How do you treat rosacea?
While rosacea is incurable, there are several treatment options your doctor may recommend to minimize and manage it, including topical and oral medications and laser procedures. “A combination of available treatments is often required to clear a patient’s skin,” Kimmins says. This is because the symptoms can vary and they are difficult to trace back to one underlying cause.
For flushing and redness, she typically prescribes a topical treatment containing alpha-adrenergic receptor agonists, which reduce redness for up to 12 hours by causing the blood vessels to constrict. Both brimonidine gel 0.3% (Mirvaso) and oxymetazoline cream 1% (Rhofade) require a prescription, so you should speak with your doctor to determine which option is best for you.
To treat the papules and pustules, Kimmins says a topical and/or oral antibiotic can give optimal results. For topical treatments, she recommends azelaic acid 15% gel, ivermectin 1% cream, metronidazole gel, and sodium sulfacetamide. Each of these is effective at treating the swelling and pimples associated with rosacea, and while some products are available over the counter, you should consult your doctor to decide which one is right for you and how often to apply it.
Lastly, your doctor may suggest a laser procedure to treat the dilated blood vessels causing the redness and the skin thickening around the nose.
Can lifestyle changes reduce rosacea outbreaks?
If you can identify some of the triggers to your rosacea, you may be able to avoid flare-ups or at least lessen their intensity. Next time you notice your rosacea kicking up, backtrack in your day and consider what may have led to it. If you ate spicy food, you’ll know for next time to pass on the hot sauce. If you noticed the redness after exercising, try jumping in a cold shower or holding a cold compact to your skin to ease the flush. Some triggers are easier to avoid than others—you’re not expected to give up exercise, of course—but knowing what they are can help you step out in front of rosacea.
While you try to figure out what triggers your rosacea, consider using gentle skincare products that won’t cause any additional irritation. For this, try the top-rated Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser and the Vanicream Moisturizing Cream, both of which claim to be suitable for sensitive and acne-prone skin and free of controversial ingredients like fragrance, lanolin, and parabens.
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