The 13 Best—and Worst—Ingredients to Use If You Have Rosacea

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Anyone who has rosacea knows how frustrating it can be to have flare-ups. While sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what caused a flare-up—most of the time it’s the same common culprits doing the damage. “Rosacea worsens with sun exposure, changes in temperature and anything that causes flushing, of course, like alcohol or spicy foods,” says New York dermatologist Orit Markowitz, MD.

If you haven’t been to a dermatologist for your rosacea, that should be your first stop. Although the condition is not curable, it is treatable. In addition to weather changes and spicy food, skin-care ingredients can also lead to more redness. When you have rosacea, the fewer ingredients on the label, the better, says Miami dermatologist Dr. Deborah Longwill. When you’re purchasing products in the store, be sure to look for the calming ingredients doctors advise using and stay away from anything that could aggravate your rosacea.

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Use: Chamomile

Both Dr. Longwill and Bloomfield Hills, MI dermatologist Linda C. Honet, MD suggest implementing chamomile into your skin-care routine. The ingredient’s ability to reduce inflammation is great for those suffering from rosacea.

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Use: Niacinamide

The experts advise using niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3. While it’s great for anti-aging and addressing pigmentation, it also has anti-inflammatory properties, says Nanuet, NY dermatologist Heidi Waldorf, MD, which is beneficial for rosacea.

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Use: Green Tea

The dermatologists suggest using products with green tea in them. Green tea contains polyphenols. According to a 2017 study, evidence shows polyphenols may be beneficial for treating the symptoms of rosacea. “Polyphenols appear to be most effective at reducing facial erythema and papule and pustule counts,” which are some of the most frustrating symptoms of rosacea.

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Use: Azelaic Acid

Dr. Longwill says folding azelaic acid into your skin-care routine can be beneficial. This compound derived from wheat, rye and barley can help soothe inflammation associated with rosacea or acne.

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Use: Licorice Root Extract

The flavonoids in licorice root extract can have potent anti-inflammatory effects on rosacea. Both Dr. Honet and Dr. Waldorf recommend using this ingredient.

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Use: Feverfew

Dr. Waldorf and Dr. Honet say feverfew, a flowering plant, is another beneficial ingredient. It was once used to treat fevers and other anti-inflammatory conditions. However, Dr. Waldorf notes that feverfew should only be used “if it has been processed to remove parthenolide, which is a common contact allergen.”

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Use: Zinc

Rosacea worsens with sun exposure and changes in temperature,” says Dr. Markowitz. “The best ingredients for rosacea are therefore those that help with the number one cause, and that is zinc or titanium dioxide found in physical blocker sunscreens.”

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Use: Hyaluronic Acid

To provide a skin barrier and ensure moisturization, Dr. Waldorf suggests using products with hyaluronic acid. This will hydrate the skin without irritation.

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Avoid: Harsher acids

“Patients with underlying rosacea also tend to have more sensitive skin, so anything that causes tingling and irritation needs to be avoided,” says Dr. Markowitz. She says that while it’s hard to predict exactly what will irritate a given individual’s complexion, certain ingredients are commonly aggravating for people with rosacea, like a handful of acids. Experts advise that salicylic, lactic, glycolic and most alpha hydroxy acids should be avoided.

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Avoid: Retinol

Although retinol has a ton of benefits, people with rosacea may experience more negative effects than positive effects if the condition is not under control. Dr. Waldorf warns that those with rosacea should “be very careful with retinoids.” She adds that “they can be used if the rosacea is under control but should be started gradually and with care to avoid irritation.”

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Avoid: Benzoyl Peroxide 

Dr. Waldorf warns that benzoyl peroxide, which is often used to address acne vulgaris (common acne), should not be used on acne rosacea. She explains that it can aggravate and irritate the condition.

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Avoid: Physical Exfoliators

Physical exfoliators and scrubs are too harsh for those with rosacea. Dr. Longwill and Dr. Waldorf both advise skipping products with physical exfoliants.

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Avoid: Witch Hazel 

The experts advise avoiding witch hazel. The ingredient is too stripping and drying and is a proven rosacea aggravator.


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