Coping with Common Rosacea Triggers
Sun exposure is known to be the most common trigger for rosacea. It’s very important to protect your skin as much as possible. Here are a few tips:
- Stick to the shade.
- Wear a hat.
- Wear sunglasses.
- Avoid peak sunlight hours.
- Apply sunscreen regularly.
Choosing a good sunscreen is important. There are two types of damaging solar rays: UVA rays age skin; UVB rays burn it. Surprisingly, not all sunscreens protect against both. Look for nonchemical sunscreens that contain zinc or titanium dioxide and deliver UVA/UVB protection with an SPF of 30 or higher. A formula designed for sensitive skin, such as a convenient mineral formulation, can help reduce the possibility of irritation. Also avoid direct sunlight by wearing a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face.
Emotional stress ranks high on the list of triggers for many rosacea sufferers. Fortunately, in an NRS survey of more than 700 rosacea patients, 67 percent found that they were able to reduce the number of flare-ups they experienced through stress management techniques. Here are a few methods for dealing with stress in your day-to-day life:
- Practice yoga.
- Try meditation.
- Develop a fitness routine.
- Maintain a healthful and nutritious diet.
- Sleep more.
Improving communication in relationships, reducing financial burdens and easing workplace pressure are additional steps you can take to reduce stress.
Hot weather, humidity, harsh wind and cold are some of the top triggers for many rosacea patients. If weather conditions affect your rosacea, consider using the following strategies to avoid a flare-up:
Apply sunscreen daily, year-round, regardless of whether it’s sunny or cloudy, as the incidental exposure you get walking to your car or running errands can be just as damaging to skin over time as a day at the beach.
Stay in a cool, air-conditioned environment on hot, humid days. If this is impossible, those affected should sip cold drinks and try not to overexert themselves. If necessary, chew on ice chips to lower facial temperature, or spray your face with cool water.
Combat cold by covering your cheeks and nose with a scarf. In winter, rosacea sufferers also may don a ski mask when participating in outdoor sports or activities, as well as cover up on windy days. If these conditions aggravate your rosacea, limiting your time outdoors in cold weather may also help.
Use a moisturizer daily. According to many dermatologists, moisturizer is a key for preventing the burning, stinging, itching and irritation often associated with rosacea, as well as building a strong moisture barrier to help keep out impurities and irritants that may aggravate sensitive skin.
Foods & Beverages
Steaming hot soup or coffee, spicy nachos, a glass of wine – no matter how appetizing they sound, these foods and beverages may be a problem for some rosacea sufferers. Hot liquids may cause flushing. Spicy foods like hot sauce or salsa can raise a sweat, and alcoholic beverages may trigger flare-ups in many cases. These tips will help you select rosacea-friendly meals:
Monitor how your rosacea reacts to alcoholic beverages. Alcoholic beverages – especially red wine – often induce flare-ups in rosacea sufferers. If alcohol aggravates your condition, reduce your intake or avoid alcohol entirely.
Avoid “hot” spices such as white and black pepper, cinnamon, paprika, red pepper and cayenne, which are common rosacea tripwires.
Reduce the heat in beverages. Decreasing the temperature may be all that’s necessary to keep enjoying coffee, tea and hot chocolate, for example. Or try reducing the number of cups you drink from three or four to one or two instead.
Identify and avoid any foods that aggravate your individual condition. Some rosacea sufferers have reported a wide variety of foods that trigger flare-ups in their individual cases. Examples have included tomatoes, cheese and other dairy products, citrus fruit, chocolate, soy sauce, yeast extract (though bread is OK), vinegar, eggplant, liver, spinach, broad-leafed beans and pods, and foods high in histamine or niacin. While you may be sensitive to one or more of these foods or something else, it isn’t necessary to avoid them unless they cause a flare-up for you. Keeping a diary of what you have consumed and when your condition flares can help identify and avoid what may be an issue for you.
In an NRS survey, 56 percent of rosacea patients said heavy exercise exacerbated their skin condition. Unlike other rosacea triggers that might be easier to forgo, physical activity is essential to leading a healthy lifestyle. Incorporating exercise into a weekly routine can help maintain good health while allowing a chance to let off steam and socialize. If you want to work out without causing a flare-up, the key is to find an activity that is low intensity and won’t cause you to overheat. Walking, swimming, yoga and Pilates are some options to consider. Even then, take these precautions:
Incorporate breaks into your exercise routine, or try exercising for shorter, more frequent intervals. For instance, exercise for 15-20 minutes three times a day, rather than all at once.
Try to stay as cool as possible. Drape a cool, damp towel around your neck, drink cold fluids, and keep a bottle filled with cool water to spray on your face.
Run a fan or air-conditioning or keep a window open for a breeze while working out indoors to avoid overheating.
Choose early morning or evening hours when it’s cooler for outdoor exercise. Don’t forget to protect your face from the sun.
Bathing & Cleansing
Rosacea sufferers often must modify their approach to facial cleansing and bathing. The following tips can help you adopt a personal-care routine that soothes and calms your facial redness:
Avoid hot water, hot tubs and saunas. These can bring on flushing and aggravate your condition.
Begin or end each day with a gentle facial cleansing. Gently cleanse your face to remove any makeup or dirt accumulated throughout the day. Use a mild cleanser that is not grainy or abrasive and spread it with your fingertips. Rinse your face with lukewarm water to remove all dirt and soap, and use a thick cotton towel to gently blot the face dry.
Never pull, tug, scratch or treat your face harshly. Avoid any rough washcloths, loofahs, brushes or sponges.
Let your face thoroughly air dry before applying any medication or skin-care products. Let your face rest for a few minutes before applying topical medication. Then allow the medication to dry completely for five to 10 minutes before applying any moisturizer or makeup.
Men should use an electric shaver rather than a razor. If a blade is preferred, never use a dull blade that requires extra scraping for a clean shave. Avoid shaving lotions or toners that burn or sting.
Skin Care Products
Consistent, gentle skin care and effective use of cosmetics can make a visible difference in managing rosacea and improving the look of your skin. The key is to use products and techniques that minimize irritation.
Look for products that are noted as appropriate for sensitive skin and avoid any products that sting, burn or cause irritation. In an NRS survey, many patients cited the following ingredients as triggers for irritation: alcohol (66 percent), witch hazel (30 percent), fragrance (30 percent), menthol (21 percent), peppermint (14 percent) and eucalyptus oil (13 percent). Other practices for avoiding flare-ups from skin-care products include:
Choose fragrance-free products whenever possible.
Test new products first. Before using a product on your face, try it on a patch of skin in a peripheral area, such as the neck. If you have a reaction, avoid the product and note the ingredients.
Keep it simple. The more ingredients and products you apply to your skin, the higher the likelihood that an ingredient or product may aggravate it.
While medical therapy can address the underlying physical aspects of rosacea, makeup can help instantly improve the look of your skin and boost your self-confidence about your appearance. Here are some makeup tips to help you look and feel your best:
A green-tinted base can help visually correct redness and even out skin tone. Get one with UVA/UVB protection and you’ll also help shield skin from sun exposure that can aggravate rosacea. A protective base has another bonus, too: it helps your makeup last longer.
Choose oil-free foundation and concealer. Look for an oil-free foundation that offers the level of coverage you need, from sheer to full. And for both foundation and concealer, choose your shade carefully. Foundation should match your natural skin tone as closely as possible, while concealer should be just one shade lighter than your natural skin tone.
Go easy on blush if you use it at all, since rosacea skin already tends to have a lot of color. Choose sheer blush formulated for sensitive skin and apply sparingly with a clean brush, sweeping it from the apples of the cheeks toward the temples.
Opt for extra-gentle eye makeup. Eyes are sensitive to begin with, and if you suffer from ocular rosacea, it’s especially important to treat the skin arounds your eyes gently. Select products designed for sensitive eyes that have been ophthalmologist tested; hypoallergenic, fragrance-free formulas may be ideal. Mascara and eyeliner should be easy to apply and remove without pulling or tugging on the eyes.
Medical Conditions and Drugs
Physicians have found that some underlying health conditions and medications can stimulate a flushing response and trigger rosacea flare-ups. Others may mimic rosacea’s signs and symptoms. The following conditions should be ruled out or treated by your doctor to help bring flare-ups under control:
- Hot flashes associated with menopause have brought on rosacea’s first appearance in some women.
- Seborrheic dermatitis, a chronic inflammatory skin disorder, is the most common skin condition to occur at the same time as rosacea. It can look like powdery or greasy scales on the face and other parts of the body and have a burning sensation.
- Allergies to seasonal irritants or product ingredients may cause redness, irritation or inflammation.
- Systemic diseases, such as high blood pressure, have been identified as causes of rosacea flareups. When flushing is accompanied by itching, breathing diffculties or diarrhea, seek medical attention.
- Fevers, coughs and colds, although intermittent, may provoke the flushing that begins a rosacea flare-up.
- Vasodilator drugs are used to treat cardiovascular disease because of their ability to dilate the blood vessels, which may result in redness or flushing in some patients.
- Long-term use of topical steroids has been found to aggravate rosacea or induce rosacea-like symptoms. The good news is that effective treatment of rosacea-like symptoms due to topical corticosteroids is usually very simple: stop using the medication.