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Rosacea: Why Red, Sensitive Skin Occurs, And How To Treat It

Red Cheek
Red Cheek

Let's blame filters for the illusion of a flawless skin. Damn you, Instagram.

Add to that the crazy expensive derms that celebs see on the weekly and it's little wonder why many of feel down about our not-so-perfect skin from time to time.

The reality is that most of us 'normals' will suffer any number of skin issues in our lives, be it acne, dermatitis or rosacea.

And in actual fact, rosacea is on the up.

"It is believed rosacea is on the rise with the growth of the ageing population -- rosacea usually appears between the ages of 30 to 50 -- and in fact, many people have this condition who are not aware of it," Emma Hobson, Education manager at the International Dermal Institute told The Huffington Post Australia.

So, what is rosacea exactly?

"It is a vascular disorder associated with flushing, redness and visible blood vessels. The swelling is due to increased blood flow during flushing which leads to an increase in tissue fluid and so the fluid accumulates faster than the lymphatic system is able to remove it. The flushing may involve the nervous system, since rosacea is often triggered or aggravated when people are under emotional stress," Hobson said.

Do you get pink cheeks when you drink alcohol, or a hot complexion when you consume spicy foods? They might be some clues.

"It’s predominantly found with those of a lighter skin tone, although it does affect all races.

Hobson explains that there are four main stages of the condition which worsens over time, especially if left untreated.


This is when the skin flushes or blushes to a stimulus, but returns immediately to normal when the stimulus is removed. This is the first sign of rosacea.

Early Stage

Frequent flushing occurs usually half an hour or more after a trigger, particularly on sun exposed areas e.g. the nose and cheeks with increased erythema. It can take days to disperse. People complain of sensitivity, itching, burning and a lowered tolerance to skin care products.

Middle Stage

As facial flushing becomes more frequent and intense, vascular damage occurs. This can result in long lasting redness, swelling and inflammatory papules and pustules. Telangiectasia (broken capillaries) may be noticed in the areas where flushing is worst. In addition there are bumps and blind headed lesions. These lesions are not actual ‘spots’, this is why rosacea is often confused and treated incorrectly as acne.


In addition to the inflammation, swelling and visible telangiectasia there is swelling of the tissues due to the blood vessels becoming leaky and the lymph cannot be removed fast enough. As the tissues become more swollen, sebaceous glands enlarge on the cheeks and nose. Disfigurement of the facial contours can begin and the skin becomes coarse, thickened and irregular.

If you think you might have rosacea, it's handy to know that there are some triggers you should avoid.

"The number one culprit seems to be sun exposure, followed by emotional stress, hot weather, wind, heavy exercise, and smoking. Incorrect skin care products and hair sprays can also aggravate rosacea. Products containing alcohol, witch hazel, fragrances, hydro-alcoholic or acetone are a few ingredients to avoid if possible. Also try to avoid active exfoliants, especially those that contain hydroxy acids," Hobson said.

Diet wise, dairy cops a beating when it comes to a lot of skin concerns -- including acne -- and rosacea is no exception.

"Foods to avoid include yogurt, sour cream, cheese (except cottage cheese), chocolate, soy sauce, yeast extract (although bread is OK) vinegar, eggplant, avocados, spinach, citrus fruits, tomatoes, bananas, spicy and thermally hot foods and alcohol -- especially red wine, beer, bourbon, gin, vodka or champagne," Hobson said.

Reducing these foods in your diet will lessen symptoms, and the good news is that topical help is at hand.

"Use a skin care range that has a specialised line of treatment products designed specifically for rosacea and skin sensitisation. These ranges should include ‘ultra-calming’ cleansers, toners, masks and serums and protective barrier repairing moisturisers," Hobson said.

"Exfoliation needs to be performed with caution. I personally like 'microfoliation' using Rice Bran Powder. It is as effective but extremely gentle."

It’s important not to treat rosacea with anti-acne products. Though rosacea can have lesions that resemble breakouts, in fact they are not.

When it comes to covering up the redness or flush, look for primers with a green base.

"Products that have a natural green tint are fantastic at diminishing the appearance of redness such as corrective creams and concealers," Hobson said.

"Sun protection should come in the form of a physical sunscreen. t’s highly recommended to avoid any containing chemical sunscreens to avoid possible irritation."

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