What is rosacea & how do you treat it?

Find out more about the common skin condition

What is rosacea?

Rosacea is a common skin condition that mainly affects the face, particularly the cheeks, nose and chin. It’s characterised by inflammation of the skin, which results in flushing and redness. While the symptoms come and go in severity, it tends to be a long-term issue. It’s more common in women, but tends to be more severe in men. It’s also more common in people over the age of 30, and in fair-skinned people.

At present it cannot be cured, but there are ways to help manage the symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

Flushing – one of the main symptoms, this is when your skin reddens involuntarily due to the widening of blood vessels, usually in the face. It can last for a few minutes and happen frequently.

Persistent redness – this tends to occur mainly on the cheeks, nose and chin. It can look similar to sunburn that doesn’t go away, or blotchy in appearance like from drinking too much alcohol.

Red bumps – these spots can resemble acne and may be tender to touch.

Small visible blood vessels – these become dilated making them visible underneath the skin. This is known as telangiectasia.

Eye problems – this can include red and sore eyes and eyelids, as well as dryness, irritation and sensitivity to light.

Other symptoms associated with rosacea include sensitive skin (such as burning, itching and stinging), dry skin and facial swelling.

What are the causes of rosacea?

While the exact cause is unknown, the following is thought to contribute to the condition:

Abnormalities in blood vessels in the face – they dilate easily, causing the face to appear red and flushed.

Skin peptides – these naturally occurring molecules in the skin become activated due to external factors, and increased levels of them can cause dilation, redness and inflammation.

Microscopic mites – known as demodex folliculorum, these mites live harmlessly on the skin. Rosacea sufferers may have a higher number of them, resulting in a reaction.

Genetics – rosacea does seem to run in families, although there is no clear genetic link and no scientific research has been undertaken to prove this.

There are a number of things that can trigger or cause rosacea flare-ups. These include:

• Exposure to sunlight

• Stress

• Strenuous exercise

• Alcohol and caffeine

• Certain foods, such as dairy products or spicy foods

• Hot or cold weather

• Certain components within cosmetics

Is rosacea different to acne?

While some symptoms can appear similar to acne, they are different conditions and are treated in different ways. Some people with rosacea will experience spots and breakouts, specifically papules and pustules, but they won’t experience blackheads or large legions of cysts. They also won’t experience any scarring to the skin, unlike some people with acne.

To learn more about acne, read our article