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Ways to control your rosacea

By Anna Sayburn
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

The skin rash rosacea can be annoying and upsetting. Lots of people have it though, and there are plenty of things you can do to keep it under control. However, there is no cure that will get rid of it forever. It is not known what causes rosacea.

What is it?

Rosacea is a condition that causes a red rash on the face. It often affects the cheeks, nose, chin and between the eyebrows. Sometimes it can make the eyes and eyelids sore and swollen. If that happens, you need to see a doctor to get it treated. Rosacea usually comes and goes, and people often find that certain things will make it worse.

Rosacea makes the skin look flushed, because the blood vessels under the skin expand. Some people also get small red spots (called papules), or bigger red lumps and bumps when the condition flares up. Your skin may be sore and sensitive. Some people get a swollen, red nose.

It is not known for sure what causes rosacea. One theory is that your skin is reacting to the presence of tiny, microscopic mites that live on the skin. The skin gets irritated, making it red and sore. But whatever actually causes rosacea, many people say certain things trigger it and make it worse.

These are common triggers for rosacea:

  • Bright sunlight
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Feeling stressed
  • Getting hot and sweaty, for example during exercise
  • Drinking coffee
  • Very hot or cold weather
  • Eating spicy food

People who are very fair-skinned, or who had bad acne earlier in life, are more likely to get rosacea. It happens to more women than men, and tends to start in mid life (from about age 40 to 60). Although more women get it, when men get rosacea it tends to be worse.

What can you do to keep it under control?

If you have rosacea, it is helpful to know what triggers a flare-up of the condition for you. You can keep a diary of when you get rosacea, to work out what might be setting it off. You can then try to avoid some of the things that seem to trigger the condition, such as spicy food or alcohol.

Sun protection is also important. However, Dr Bav Shergill, consultant dermatologist and spokesman on rosacea for the British Association of Dermatology, says: "A lot of patients say that their skin is so easily irritated that even the kindest product can be sore." He advises people to wear a big hat and keep out of the sun in the middle of sunny days. However, a light, non-greasy sun cream with a high SPF can work for some people. "If you can find one that works for you, great."

Dr Shergill says he recommends that people use a very gentle cleanser and light cream moisturiser. Look for scent-free products that are hypoallergenic, simple and have few active ingredients. Some skin care companies produce cosmetics that are designed for people with rosacea.

"You need to be very kind and gentle to the skin and be consistent with what you do," he says. He added that some of his patients who were overweight found that their condition improved after they had lost some weight, although he says rosacea happens to people of all weights and there is nothing to show that it is caused by being overweight.

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