Over 16 million Americans have rosacea, but many of them don't know it. In a survey conducted by the National Rosacea Society, 95% of rosacea patients knew little to nothing about their condition prior to being diagnosed. And rosacea also affects self-confidence, according to 90% of patients in a separate survey.
While rosacea can be emotionally debilitating and currently has no cure, there are steps you can take to diminish its appearance, starting with (most importantly) your diet. Many foods and drinks trigger the inflammatory response brought on by the condition, like flare-ups, redness, dilated blood vessels, and thickening of the skin.
Thus, we tapped the brains of Ayurvedic expert Shrankhla Holecek of UMA Oils; Elizabeth Tanzi, founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care (who also happens to have rosacea); and Michele J. Farber of Schweiger Dermatology Group to figure out which foods are best for individuals with rosacea (and which to avoid). Keep reading for their tips.
What to Avoid
1. Pungent or sour vegetables like tomatoes, hot peppers, carrots, beets, eggplant, onions, radishes, and spinach
2. Drinks such as alcohol and hot coffee or tea, which can dilate blood vessels and contribute to facial redness
3. Foods that release histamine, such as citrus fruits
4. Sugars and starches, which Tanzi says cause her bumps and redness
5. Warming spices like ginger, cumin, black pepper, fenugreek, and cloves (each causes an anti-inflammatory response)
7. Seafood (other than fish)
What to Eat
1. Bland vegetables like asparagus, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, pumpkins, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, okra, lettuce, green beans, and zucchini
2. Soothing spices like coriander, cardamom, saffron and fennel
3. Salmon; omega-3s are a superfood for anti-inflammation and are incredible for decreasing redness
4. Goat cheese; it's a good source of protein, but easy to digest and acts as an anti-inflammatory
5. Turkey or chicken, in moderation
7. Non-citrus fruits like grapes, melons, and mango
9. Ghee, an Indian clarified butter that aids in proper immune system function
As a whole, Holecek recommends eating a diet made up of 25% to 35% fresh vegetables, 25% to 35% protein, and the remaining percentage of the following grains: oats, sprouted wheat bread, barley, granola, amaranth, cooked oats, white rice, and tapioca. Farber adds that low-sugar foods and complex carbohydrates are helpful to skin, while high-glycemic foods, refined sugars, and saturated fats can be triggers for the inflammation of acne and rosacea.
What Are Complex Carbohydrates?
Starchy foods (like grains, beans, and fruit) that take longer for your body to digest and are a good source of energy and nutrients.
Tanzi's favorite meal for her rosacea is what she calls a salmon asparagus roll-up: "For skin purposes, it's amazing because the salmon is anti-inflammatory, the goat cheese is easy to digest, and the whole thing is low-carb, which is helpful for anyone with acne or rosacea. It's an all-around winner." To make it, sauté 2 tablespoons of shallots and 1/4 cup of chopped asparagus in olive oil. Mix with 4 ounces of fresh chèvre with salt and pepper to taste. Take the filling and place equal dollops in thin, sushi-grade salmon slices, and roll. Refrigerate at least two hours.
Below, shop our favorite skincare products for rosacea.