Did you know that millions of Americans are seeing red everyday thanks to rosacea? The chronic skin issue that’s characterized by redness and tiny, acne-like bumps and legions on the face has a list of triggers that’s so long we could write a whole novel series on it and we still wouldn’t have revealed the complete story.
Since common activities like eating spicy foods, taking too-hot showers, and a few too many glasses of wine can result in flushness or prolonged heat, it can be difficult to tell if you’re just experiencing a reaction or full-blown rosacea. To help demystify the issue, we turned to dermatologist Manjula S. Jegasothy MD, CEO and Founder of Miami Skin Institute, to find out what exactly causes rosacea, and how to get your skin to calm down.
WHAT IS ROSACEA?
Rather than a condition, rosacea is an inherited skin type that’s characterized by hyperactive blood vessels on the face. “Generally, rosacea manifests as rosy cheeks when a person is in their 20’s or early 30’s,” says Dr. Jegasothy. “Depending on the genetic predisposition, the severity of the rosacea can either remain stagnant throughout a person’s lifetime, or progress to enlarged oil glands (which look like yellow or white waxy pin-point bumps all over the face), permanently enlarged pores, or broken capillaries on the face.”
HOW DO I KNOW IF IT'S ROSACEA OR REDNESS?
Since a couple of glasses of wine or winter’s chill can trigger flushed skin, determining whether the inflammation you’re experiencing is rosacea or temporary irritation triggered by diet or environmental factors, is what makes diagnosing it tough, to put it mildly.
Tracking the pattern of your redness is helpful in determining whether or not the situation is serious enough to visit a dermatologist’s office. “If the redness you see persists for longer than three weeks or comes and goes over a period of months, then it’s necessary to see a dermatologist,” explains Dr. Jegasothy. Since the rosacea can mimic the symptoms of other skin conditions and vice versa, she stresses that it’s not a good idea to try to self-diagnose.
SO, HOW DO I TREAT IT?
Luckily, there are simple methods of treating rosacea. Although it takes some trial and error to find the formulas that work for you, a variety of topical gels, lotions, and creams prescribed by a dermatologist can be used. “Most patients decide which topical prescription agent soothes them the best through trial and error,” Dr. Jegasothy says. “Typically, I give my patients 3-4 samples to try, which they do for one week each, and then decide on a favorite.”
However, if a person’s rosacea goes beyond redness and is characterized by a lot of acne bumps, a low-grade dose of an antibiotic like doxycycline, which is used to treat bacterial infections including acne, may be necessary as well for a short or long period of time, on a case-by-case basis.
WHAT PRODUCTS SHOULD I USE?
When choosing products for your daily skincare and makeup routines, Dr. Jegasothy suggests sticking to formulas that are catered to sensitive skin types. Again, finding the right product lineup that won’t further aggravate rosacea takes testing and time. “If they find that they can tolerate these [products for sensitive skin], then they can move on to try other products, usually one by one, to see which individual product and ingredients suit them or irritate them,” she says.
Throughout this process, she stresses the importance of recognizing the ingredients your products contain and which ones don’t sit well with your complexion. “In general rosacea patients should be careful with glycolic acid and retinoid,” explains Dr. Jegasothy. “However, I find that with careful monitoring, many of my rosacea patients can eventually use the anti-aging benefits of both over time.”
WHAT HAPPENS IF I IGNORE IT?
Every person’s rosacea is different, but simply leaving it alone and hoping it will heal itself will actually do the opposite—it will only get worse. “If rosacea is left untreated, the flushing and heat symptoms can exacerbate,” explains Dr. Jegasothy. “When worsened, the enlarged oil glands can become permanent, requiring a cosmetic procedure such as Hyfrecation (where tissues are destroyed via electric current), cautery of the individual bumps, and capillaries can become very stubborn to treat, even with multiple VBeam laser treatments.”
Overall, she says that she sees most people with untreated rosacea develop a waxy, thickened skin that can be cosmetically unpleasant as they approach their 50’s and 60’s.