When I was a teenager, I remember seeing my mom special-order a certain cleanser (the name of which I forget) because it was the only thing she'd found she could wash her face with. She had rosacea, which was a skin condition I didn't really understand because, let's face it, I was a self-absorbed teen. Way to be dramatic mom, I thought, before I entered the beauty industry and a) became the kind of person who sets alarms for Fenty product launches and b) it became my job to understand skin conditions like rosacea. (Sidenote: Sorry, Mom, for being such a brat!)
According to the National Rosacea Society, an estimated 415 million people worldwide have rosacea. "Rosacea is a common skin condition that causes redness and appearance of fine blood vessels commonly in the center of the face and other areas as well," Deepika Vyas, co-founder and CEO of AVYA Skincare, explains. "It can appear as blotchiness and also pus filled bumps which look like acne." It's most common in fair-skinned women over 30 and can be passed down through genetics. (Ha, there's my mom's payback.) Oh, and it's not just the facial redness—Vyas says that dryness, swelling, and irritation around the eyes is common before symptoms in other areas.
While there is no cure for rosacea, there are ways you can prevent flare-ups. Here, the experts share nine things that exacerbate rosacea.
Why must something so delicious trigger such a bad reaction? "When it comes to food, dairy can be a big rosacea trigger so you'll want to avoid cheese, sour cream, and yogurt," Marko Lens, MD, of Zelens says. (Rather calmly for someone who just told a bunch of people to give up cheese.)
Because of course stress would be a trigger. Dealing with rosacea can feel a bit like walking on eggshells, which can be stressful. Plus, stress is an unfortunately common component of our lives. "Stress and anxiety can be a tripwire for the condition," Lens says.
To add insult to injury, one of the best ways to reduce the aforementioned stress—exercise—can also trigger a reaction. "Exercise, while it helps with stress and anxiety, raises your heart rate, making your face flushed from the increased blood flow," he explains. This increase blood flow and increased body temperature can trigger a reaction.
Hot drinks and spicy foods are considered thermogenic—meaning they produce heat in the body, says Vyas. And, you guessed it, that can cause your rosacea to flare up.
"Some spices to avoid or eat at a minimum would be cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, and curry," Lens adds.
"The most common skincare ingredients to avoid for people with rosacea symptoms are alcohol and witch hazel, which are very common in astringents, toners, and exfoliating products," Vyas says.
"In terms of products, it's extremely important to always check the ingredients," Susie Wang, expert skincare chemist and founder of 100% PURE, adds. "Specifically for cosmetics, here all the ones you should avoid: alcohol, synthetic fragrance, witch hazel, harsh chemicals like acetone, formaldehyde, detergents, and anything that will dehydrate skin because it will increase flare-ups."
If you have rosacea, opt for a physical sunscreen versus a chemical one. Chemical sunscreens can be irritating, Vyas says, and the last thing you want to put on your face if you have rosacea is something that will irritate your skin.
If you have rosacea, the experts recommend avoiding pretty much any form of inclement weather, be it very hot or very cold. "Extreme temperatures and strong winds could cause a flare-up and bring rosacea to the surface of your skin," Lens says. Heat is especially known for its rosacea-inducing abilities.
Retinols and Exfoliants
The keyword with rosacea is "gentle." You don't want to use hard ingredients that irritate skin. Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skincare Collection, recommends avoiding retinols, along with microdermabrasion.
Ah, here's the big one. "My least favorite to report is that your favorite wine may be causing flare-ups," Lens says. Alas, it's red wine that typically is the most reactive, according to the National Rosacea Society. If you do drink, the least reactive alcohol was vodka, in case you were wondering.