Rosacea is a lifelong (chronic) inflammatory skin condition marked by visible blood vessels and redness, especially on your face.
It can appear as mild redness to a more itchy, severe rash that may also be filled with bumps. There’s no cure for rosacea, so treatment is largely focused on preventing and healing flare-ups.
One way to help manage the symptoms of rosacea is to avoid the triggers of your flare-ups.
Triggers can be cyclic, where you may have flares for a few weeks or several months, only for the symptoms to dissipate for a while.
While your individual triggers may vary, there are commonly known substances, lifestyle habits, and environmental factors that can affect your rosacea.
Identifying your personal triggers can help you know what to avoid so you can prevent more severe flare-ups from occurring.
You may notice redness and skin flushing right after your skin is exposed to the sun. Sunburn can make your flare-ups even worse.
The heat can also increase your body temperature, which dilates blood vessels and triggers inflammation.
Limiting sun exposure, especially during the midday hours, can help prevent these types of rosacea flare-ups.
Excessive stress and anxiety can increase inflammation, which can then contribute to rosacea flare-ups. More severe flares can sometimes be attributed to long-term stress or an extremely stressful life event.
Alcohol dilates the small blood vessels in your face, making your skin flushed. This happens in people who don’t have rosacea.
If you have this skin condition, you might experience these types of effects of alcohol more dramatically. The best way to prevent rosacea from consuming alcohol is to drink very little on occasion, if at all.
Aside from drinking alcohol, topical alcohol used in a variety of skin care, hair care, and various makeup products can also lead to rosacea flare-ups.
You may even notice flares after using products with:
Avoid using products with these harsh ingredients whenever possible.
However, topical steroids shouldn’t be used on the face, except for acute inflammatory conditions provided that they’ll not be used for more than 1 month. These symptoms usually resolve once you stop taking the steroids.
Taking medications called vasodilators for high blood pressure and heart disease may also worsen flushing in rosacea because these drugs dilate your blood vessels to increase blood flow.
Exercising increases your body temperature, which can, unfortunately, have the side effect of triggering rosacea flare-ups. You should not skip out on your regular workouts, though.
Instead, it’s important to find ways to keep your skin from overheating, whether that includes drinking water, limiting outdoor workouts in direct sun, or taking cool showers immediately after you’re done.
Hot and spicy foods are known to contribute to facial blushing, which can lead to increased redness and flushing in rosacea.
Depending on the severity of your triggers, you may not necessarily have to give up spices for good. You should choose mild versions instead, though, and reserve your favorite spicy foods for special occasions.
While heat and humidity can trigger rosacea flare-ups, extreme cold can do the same. If this is one of your rosacea triggers, you’ll likely notice more symptoms during cold, dry, and windy conditions.
You can help minimize the effects of wind and cold weather by protecting your skin with a heavy moisturizer, as well as wearing a scarf over your face.
Some anecdotal evidence online suggests that vitamin deficiencies, particularly B vitamins, like B-12, may cause rosacea. However, certain vitamins in excess could actually trigger your symptoms.
It’s important to talk to a doctor before taking any supplements so that you don’t inadvertently make your rosacea worse.
In some people, rosacea flare-ups may be associated with the following conditions:
Since there are a wide range of possible rosacea triggers, it may be challenging to identify what’s causing your own flare-ups.
One way you can narrow down your triggers is by keeping daily notes about your symptoms as well as your daily meals and other habits. This approach is similar to that of a food diary for identifying food sensitivities.
It’s helpful to write down:
- all the foods you eat
- what types of beverages you drink
- the weather and any environmental changes
- what types of personal care and skin products you’re using
- your daily activities and exercise routine
- your current stress levels
- any new life changes
It’s recommended that you log the above items as well as your symptom severity for at least 2 weeks to help identify possible patterns. This process of elimination could take several weeks.
You can also use this checklist from the National Rosacea Society instead of a notebook.
Rosacea symptoms can range from mild to severe. Sometimes severe rosacea can extend from beyond the cheeks and nose, developing in other areas, such as the scalp, ears, and neck.
While triggers can vary between individuals, there are preventive measures that are proven to help with overall rosacea flare-ups. You can help decrease the severity of your flares with the following strategies:
- Wear wide-brimmed hats and a broad-spectrum sunscreen whenever you’re outdoors.
- Take time for yourself each day to relax and decrease your stress levels.
- Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption.
- Choose warm (not hot) food and drinks, limiting spices when possible.
- Stay indoors during days of extreme heat, humidity, or cold.
- Take cool baths and avoid hot tubs or saunas.
- Talk to your doctor about all OTC and prescription medications you’re taking and ask about adjustments if you think they’re triggering your condition.
- When wearing makeup, choose products that are labeled hypoallergenic, non-acnegenic, and fragrance-free.
While there’s no cure for rosacea, treatments and lifestyle changes can help make a difference in the number of flare-ups you experience.
Once you’ve identified your triggers, avoiding them may help reduce flare-up intensity and frequency.
Talk to your doctor if your condition doesn’t get better despite taking these measures.