We've discussed rosacea before. We've identified its common triggers and ingredients to avoid. We've even discussed a variety of options when it comes to reducing the inflammation that comes along with it. But have you ever considered trying a more natural route to treat rosacea symptoms? If not, you may want to, as there are a number of benefits.
"Most conventional rosacea treatments include the use of oral and topical antibiotics," says esthetician Athena Ellen, founder of Monastery. "Many of us resist using antibiotics, as we worry about the antibiotic killing the good bacteria along with the bad."
But before you scour your kitchen for ingredients to make DIY treatments, there are a few things you should know. We asked Athena, Lori, and Nichola to break down everything we need to consider before reaching for a natural remedy for rosacea.
The tricky thing is: they don't always know what causes rosacea but there are certainly contributing factors like genetic predisposition, hormones, skin mites, and diet. Plus, environmental factors can also contribute to flare-ups as well, esthetician Lori Sprester says.
This is why it's so important to figure out the best option to treat your rosacea. First, know that there are four different subtypes. Depending on what you have, you may be able to get away with using natural remedies, but you might have to go to a doctor for effective treatment. "If people are experiencing prolonged or excessive amounts of redness, flushing, constantly feeling overheated, getting red swollen papules and pustules, or feeling bumpy weird textural issues I urge them to get a professional diagnosis," Nichola at Pacific Touch NYC says.
Meet the Expert
According to Athena, subtype one, which includes redness and swelling, and subtype two, which includes acne breakouts, can be treated with natural remedies. She says for subtype three and subtype four, you will likely need medical attention.
What Is Rosacea?
Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that results in inflammation and redness of the skin. It can also cause skin pustules.
"Subtype three, which is accompanied with swelling and fluid retention (usually around the nose), and subtype four, which afflicts the eye area, tend to be more extreme and can be painful," she says. "These often need medical attention including oral antibiotics and/or light therapies. Although antibiotics and light therapies are not cures, they can ease symptoms."
If you've decided you want to try a natural remedy after identifying which subtype of rosacea you have, below, the experts lay out the most effective methods, ingredient recs, and all the things you should avoid. Below, we detail the natural remedies that might just help. Keep scrolling to read them all.
Clean Up Your Diet
"Introduce health-promoting foods, like good fats, high-fiber foods, veggies, turmeric, and ginger," she says. "The gut regulates inflammation in our body. Cleaning up the diet and gut with a pure diet high in fiber and low in sugar and hydrogenated oils reduces inflammation throughout the whole body. I often see a huge improvement in my clients with rosacea who have overhauled their diets or recently participated in a cleanse." Plus, who doesn't love another excuse to hit up your local farmers market? You can make going out to get fresh veggies and other foods part of a relaxing weekly ritual.
Drink Aloe Vera Water
"Drinking aloe vera water is like drinking water with extra antioxidants and vitamins," Athena says. "It helps increase the water content in the intestines and helps to eliminate toxins in the body, thus helping inflammation in the body and lessening rosacea."
You can buy aloe vera water at the store, or you can make your own. To do it at home, take a few cubes of aloe (cut fresh out of an aloe stem, beneath the green part) and add them to a blender. Add water to the aloe cubes in the blender and blend until the two are totally mixed. If you want, you can add a bit of lemon or juice for some extra flavor.
Use Certain Oils
"Most skincare is loaded with preservatives and irritants. Avoid gel cleansers, acidic exfoliating cleansers, and any products with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide," Athena says. "Use mild cleansers like cleansing oils and products high in rose-hip seed oil, seabuckthorn oil, tamanu oil, and evening primrose, as these ingredients are highly nutritious and anti-inflammatory."
Not only do oils help reduce inflammation, but they're great for hydration, too. They are gentler on sensitive skin, but be sure to spot-check any new product you use on a place like the inside of your wrist. It's always better to make sure you react well to a product before you put it on your face or a rosacea-affected area. Be extra careful when it comes to certain subtypes of rosacea like acne rosacea, which Lori says she doesn't recommend using any oil at all.
Lori does mention she loves carrot seed oil, and her favorite is blue tansy, she says, "It is very anti-inflammatory and smells heavenly. Just remember less is more and no rubbing/massage on rosacea skin."
Nichola usually recommends a gentle milky cleanser or a well-formulated oil-based cleanser and likes Roccoco Botanical’s Soothing Cleansing Oil ($9). Though be aware there can be an overwhelming amount of oils on the market that are comedogenic or disrupt the skin barrier. Using the wrong cleanser will deplete vital lipids and generate inflammation in the skin which spells disaster for rosacea sufferers, she says.
Avoid Potential Irritants
Also, stay away from scrubs or physical exfoliation, avoid benzyl peroxide retinol, glycolic acid, and strong anti-aging products as these can be extra harsh.
"Rosacea does not respond well to acne-fighting actives like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide and using the more conventional stripping ingredients found in OTC acne products can be disastrous for a barrier that is already highly inflamed and impaired," Nichola says.
Sometimes, it's a matter of do-no-harm, which means that relying on simple and non-irritating ingredients (Like those found in Cetaphyl or Cereve) are good options. "Natural remedies are tricky when it comes to sensitive/rosacea skin because unrefined ingredients can have a lot of irritants and allergens and everyone is different," Lori says, "One person's skin may love aloe while another may have a terrible reaction to it."
While we're all for a natural solution, make sure you look at the natural preservatives in natural products as certain things—like radish root, for example—can be very irritating for some people.
Look For Certain Ingredients
Because the skin barrier is compromised when it comes to rosacea, it can be even easier to irritate. The best course of action is to strengthen and calm this skin barrier as much as possible, which Nichola says should be the priority when it comes to rosacea.
This is why you tend to see certain ingredients in sensitive-skincare products. These ingredients, like lavender, oatmeal, chamomile, and licorice are known to have calming properties, and Lori notes are also "incredible anti-inflammatories."
She suggests using cosmeceutical grade products for sensitive skin, as they will have certain irritants removed, which makes it okay for hypersensitive skin. "Omega fatty acids are great at restoring the skin, and hyaluronic acid in combination with calming botanicals," she says, noting, "You can take these things as supplements and find them in products which is a powerful way to get results with your skin."
What Are Cosmeceutical Grade Products?
Cosmeceutical Grade Products are products that have both a cosmetic and therapeutic medical effect. They usually consist of topical products, such as lotions or creams, and include active ingredients that can be applied daily.
Make Your Own Natural Facial Remedies
"Applying pure aloe vera gel, a green tea compress, or a colloidal oatmeal mask will temporarily relieve the skin, reducing redness and inflammation," Athena says. Plus, there's a good chance you've got most of those ingredients in your house already. Just don't put lemon on your skin, Lori says. Though she says something that is highly effective and safe is raw oatmeal, which you can easily blend with some hot water. Just don't apply the combination to your skin until it's at safe body temperature, she warns.
Aloe vera works wonders for redness—it contains skin-enhancing vitamins C and E and amino acids for a soothing effect. DIY face masks are easier to make than ever, and although aloe vera works perfectly well by itself, combining other calming products (like cucumbers) helps, too.
"Stress is a big trigger for inflammation in the body," she says. "Developing even a small two-minute daily routine of meditation lowers the stress in the mind and body."
Meditating in the morning is a calm way to start your day, and it's rather simple to incorporate into your routine, too. Even if meditation doesn't tend to cure rosacea, taking a couple of minutes to let your mind clear and focus on breathing deeply before starting your day happens to be quite helpful overall.
Overall, just be careful and do your research, as DIY natural remedies sound fun and easy, they can also be a slippery slope.
"People tend to have a false sense of security when it comes to using natural skincare but remember nature is volatile, often difficult to control and there are plenty of ingredients that can be disastrous for the skin especially with a highly reactive condition like rosacea," Nichola says.
In the end, having rosacea means that your skin is already extremely reactive, and the experts note it's important to exercise caution before trying anything that isn't formulated by a professional. That's not to say natural remedies are a bust, but it's best to be aware before diving in, so to speak.
Ed. note: Consult a dermatologist first before trying a new remedy so you can determine what the best step is for you.