What is Rosacea & What Causes Red, Sensitive Skin?
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Is your face constantly red? Does everything make your skin feel like it's on fire? You are probably one of the 16 million Americans living with rosacea. Not only uncomfortable, rosacea can be painful, embarrassing, and downright confusing; and it gets worse the longer it goes untreated. Creating a personalized treatment plan with a Dermatologist can be life-changing for rosacea-sufferers. It's never too late to get to know your skin and what it needs!
What is Rosacea and What Are the Symptoms?
Rosacea is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition characterized by flushing or blushing in the face. The 5 symptoms of rosacea include:
- Persistent redness
- Visible blood vessels
- Papules or pustules
- Thickened or bumpy nose skin
Though each rosacea patient is unique and sufferers experience symptoms differently, all rosacea cases progress similarly over the course of a patient’s life and first appear with an onset of skin sensitivity. Rosacea usually starts around age 25-30 and can occur in any skin type.
Sensitive skin is that which reacts with redness, stinging, burning, itching, or dryness to irritants in the environment. Common irritants include harsh cleansers, fragrance of any kind (in skincare and laundry detergents!), skincare products with “active ingredients” (like retinol, vitamin C, exfoliating acids or beads), and even harsh weather conditions like cold wind or a hot climate. Your rosacea skin may even be so overwhelmingly sensitive that you have trouble finding products to use, leaving your skin unprotected and more susceptible to irritation. A dermatologist can diagnose the early signs of rosacea and intervene before symptoms worsen.
About one quarter of rosacea cases present with papules and pustules, or what look like little pimples. These small, inflamed blemishes look like acne pimples, have a puss-filled white head, and usually appear around the nose and mouth area.
Is Rosacea Permanent?
As rosacea progresses, the frequent and repetitive flushing produces ongoing visible redness and dilates surface capillaries as they fill with blood. Untreated, these capillaries, sometimes referred to as “broken blood vessels,” remain dilated and appear on the skin permanently. Some people with rosacea may notice the redness in their face come and go, while others, usually those with more advanced rosacea, will experience redness all the time. Rosacea worsens with age and so does redness; so, if your skin is constantly red and hot, it’s time to seek treatment from a dermatologist.
Often, patients with Papulopustular Rosacea mistake their rosacea flare-ups for acne, making their rosacea far worse with irritating or drying acne treatments. Left untreated, the inflammatory rosacea cycle can lead to skin-thickening in some (about 10% of cases; mostly men), leading to the appearance of a swollen, enlarged nose. It is absolutely key to see a dermatologist for treatment in the form of medication, a rosacea-centered skincare routine, and guidance on daily habits to improve rosacea.
What Does Rosacea Look Like?
Common rosacea concerns include redness, acne-like breakouts, and visible blood vessels. If your skin looks like any of the pictures below, you likely have rosacea.
What Causes Rosacea?
While there is not a known root cause of rosacea, rosacea is genetic and impacted by the environment. Rosacea is ever-present, and though manageable, can “flare up” when aggravated by irritating or inflammatory products or conditions, or rosacea triggers.
Some rosacea triggers to avoid include:
- Excess heat in the form of hot drinks and spicy foods
- Gut health disruptors like dairy products and gluten for those who are sensitive
- Red wine and other alcoholic beverages
- Temperature extremes
- Sunlight and wind
- Emotions, especially those associated with blushing, like anxiety or embarrassment
- Exercise or physical exertion
- Topical fragrances or fragrant essential oils
- Drugs that dilate blood vessels, including some blood pressure medications
Learn More: How to Get Rid of Rosacea