Rosacea: What to Look For (And What to Avoid)

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Often confused with acne (both rosacea and acne produce bumps and pimples although with rosacea, the blemishes are more painful and blackheads don’t exist), rosacea is a condition that causes the skin to become red and bumpy. Though it is more common in people of Irish and English ethnicities, it can effect anyone—more than 16 million Americans suffer from it. But do you? Here’s what to look for:

According to New York dermatologist Rosemarie Ingleton, MD, rosacea is more likely to appear in those with fair skin but anyone can experience it; flare-ups typically start around the age of 30.

“Rosacea starts as bumps or redness around the center of the face, and can be triggered by stress or [foods] that cause the blood vessels to become dilated,” says Dr. Ingleton (she’s Cynthia Nixon’s derm). Rosacea comes and goes—certain factors instigate flare-ups—and tends to affect the cheeks, nose and forehead, but can also occur on the neck, chest, scalp and ears.

Related: Can You Use Lasers on Rosacea?

If not treated properly, the skin can progressively worsen and even cause facial tissue to become extremely red, swollen and irritated. “It can be progressive,” says Dr. Ingleton, “so it’s important to go to a dermatologist or plastic surgeon sooner rather than later.” Currently, there is no cure for rosacea, but the disorder can be managed with prescription-strength topicals, oral medications, some laser and light-based treatments, controlling the trigger factors and using gentle, nonirritating products.

Think you may have rosacea? Check with your doctor and avoid the following.

1. Products with Fragrance: Heavily fragranced products can easily irritate the skin. It’s best to stick to fragrance-free cleansers and lotions.

2.Products that are Not Oil-Free: Oil-free skin-care products tend to have fewer ingredients in them and are usually more gentle, too.

3. Avoid Mint and Heavy Botanical Ingredients: Menthol, peppermint and eucalyptus oil are good for some skin types, but on reactive skin they can instigate rosacea.

4. Frequnet Use of Exfoliators: Harsh exfoliators can irritate skin, especially if used often.

5. Spicy Foods, Hard Cheeses, Alcohol: According to Dr. Ingleton, spicy or hot foods and drinks, hard cheeses, red wine or alcohol all cause flare-ups because they dilate blood vessels. 

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