Rosacea typically causes flushing, discoloration, and bumps on the face. In some cases, it can cause itching.

Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition characterized by red, brown, or purple discoloration, flushing, visible blood vessels, and often the development of small, pus-filled bumps on the face. It commonly affects the cheeks, nose, forehead, and chin. It can also cause eye irritation and swelling in some cases.

Rosacea affects more than 16 million people in the United States. People with Celtic ancestry may be more likely to develop this condition.

While the condition is most commonly associated with burning and stinging sensations, some people with rosacea experience itchiness. Let’s explore what might cause this and how to find relief.

Rosacea can cause itching (pruritus) in some individuals, although research suggests that this symptom is less common than stinging or burning sensations.

Itching is more commonly associated with subtypes of rosacea that involve bumps or papules on the skin, such as papulopustular rosacea. The intensity of itching can vary from mild to severe, and it may come and go or persist over time.

How does rosacea cause itchiness?

What causes the itchiness associated with rosacea isn’t fully understood. It may be related to the release of inflammation-fighting substances that activate itch receptors, particularly in certain subtypes of rosacea, such as papulopustular rosacea.

A compromised skin barrier in people with rosacea also makes the skin more susceptible to irritation and itching. Environmental triggers like temperature changes, skin care products, or allergen exposure can also contribute to itchiness in rosacea.

In rosacea, itchiness commonly affects the face, including the cheeks, nose, forehead, and chin, where symptoms like flushing, discoloration, papules, and pustules typically occur.

However, in some cases, itchiness can affect other areas of the body, such as the scalp, neck, or back.

The exact cause of rosacea isn’t fully understood, but research from 2018 suggests that both genetic and environmental factors can trigger and worsen the condition. Various factors, including ultraviolet light, heat, spicy foods, alcohol, stress, and microbes, can also initiate an immune response.

In addition, Demodex mites, which naturally inhabit the skin, have been found in higher numbers in individuals with rosacea. Evidence suggests that an overabundance of these mites may trigger an immune response or that inflammation caused by certain bacteria associated with the mites may play a role.

However, there is still ongoing debate about whether these mites contribute to the development of rosacea or if they’re a result of the condition.

Some potential conditions that may be confused with rosacea itchiness include:

  • Allergic reactions: Allergic reactions to certain substances, such as skin care products, cosmetics, or environmental triggers, can cause itching and discoloration that may resemble rosacea symptoms.
  • Eczema: Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition characterized by itching, redness, and sometimes rash-like patches.
  • Contact dermatitis: Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes into contact with an irritant or allergen, leading to redness, itching, and inflammation.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: Seborrheic dermatitis primarily affects areas rich in sebaceous glands, such as the face and scalp. It can cause redness, flaking, and itching, similar to some rosacea symptoms.

The treatment of rosacea itchiness focuses on addressing the underlying causes and relieving symptoms.

Here are some common approaches to managing rosacea-related itchiness:

  • Topical medications: Your dermatologist may prescribe topical creams or gels containing ingredients such as metronidazole, azelaic acid, or ivermectin to help reduce inflammation and relieve itchiness.
  • Oral medications: In some cases, oral medications like antibiotics (e.g., tetracyclines) or other medications with anti-inflammatory properties may be prescribed to help manage inflammation and alleviate itchiness.
  • Natural anti-itch creams: Apply natural anti-itch creams with ingredients such as aloe vera or chamomile.
  • Cool compress: Use a clean, cool cloth or ice pack wrapped in a thin towel and apply it gently to the affected areas. The cool temperature can help reduce inflammation and provide immediate soothing relief.
  • Moisturize: Regularly moisturize your skin to keep it hydrated and reduce dryness, which can contribute to itchiness. Choose moisturizers that are noncomedogenic and suitable for sensitive skin.
  • Sun protection: Protect your skin from the sun by using broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF and wearing protective clothing and hats. Sun exposure can trigger rosacea symptoms, including itchiness.
  • Avoid triggers: Identify and avoid triggers that worsen your rosacea symptoms, such as sun exposure, spicy foods, alcohol, hot beverages, or extreme temperatures.

What is the fastest way to soothe rosacea?

The fastest way to find relief from rosacea itchiness may be to apply a cold compress or use an over-the-counter cream with ingredients like aloe vera, chamomile, or licorice extract, which have calming and anti-inflammatory properties.

While rosacea commonly manifests with symptoms such as burning and stinging sensations, itching can also occur in some individuals.

If you’re experiencing itchiness or any other symptoms related to rosacea, consider consulting with a dermatologist or healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and guidance on management strategies.