The Best Rosacea Skin-Care Routine, According to Experts
Perfecting a skin-care routine can be pretty difficult to navigate. Between the amount of advice flying around, the complex ingredient names to try and pronounce, and the sheer number of products out there, it's hard to know exactly what you're looking for. Throw having rosacea into the mix, and it can make the idea of developing a skin-care routine even more daunting. But with the help of top dermatologists, figuring out a basic regimen when you have rosacea is simpler than you might think.
It's always important to go and get a diagnosis first, but if you're stuck not knowing where to turn with your sensitive skin, we've quizzed the experts on everything you need to know about building a rosacea skin-care routine.
Rosacea Causes: What Is It?
Rosacea is a common but often misdiagnosed chronic skin inflammatory condition. Alia Ahmed, MD, psychodermatologist and consultant for the NHS and GetHarley, tells POPSUGAR rosacea is typically subdivided into the following categories: erythematotelangectatic, papulopustular, ocular, phymatous, granulomatous, and neurogenic, all of which can be diagnosed by a dermatologist.
Although each person experiences rosacea differently, common symptoms include redness (often affecting the forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin), bumps and pustules, broken capillaries, flushing, a feeling of burning, facial swelling caused by inflammation, and a feeling of dryness in the skin.
Rosacea on Black skin is sometimes missed, so look out for acne-like breakouts, burning or stinging when applying skin-care products, and rather than redness, look for dusky patches of skin, as well as an overall dryness. "Seeing a professional will help you confirm the diagnosis as well as help to avoid irritation that can potentially result in long-term post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation in dark skin," Amiee Vyas, MD, aesthetic doctor, consultant for GetHarley, and co-founder of the Black Skin Advisory Board, says.
There are a number of common rosacea triggers to look out for, which include alcohol, extremes of temperature, sun exposure, spicy foods, exercise, and psychological factors like stress.
It's not known exactly what causes rosacea, but we do know that it's an "inflammatory condition associated with an impaired skin barrier and colonization with microorganisms," says Dr. Vyas. Although there isn't a cure for the condition, it is manageable with the correct trigger avoidances and treatment through skin care and sometimes oral medication.
Best Rosacea Skin-Care Routine
When you have rosacea, tailoring your skin-care routine to your specific needs can be the key to managing it. If you suspect you have rosacea or have recently been diagnosed, when it comes to a new skin-care routine, Lauren Hamilton, MD, aesthetic doctor and founder of Victor & Garth, says "less is more." And Dr. Vyas echos this and recommends stripping your skin-care routine right back.
The experts all agree that beginning with a gentle, soothing cleanser, followed by a lightweight moisturizer, and finishing off with a mineral SPF in the morning is a great place to start. Until you have a handle on your condition, "avoid strong active ingredients (such as alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids) and products that contain alcohol or fragrance," Dr. Vyas says. "In addition to this, you can add in antimicrobial products to protect from microorganisms." This will help minimize as much irritation as possible that could compromise your skin barrier further.
The Best Ingredients If You Have Rosacea
If you're looking for specific ingredients in your skin-care products that can help with your rosacea symptoms, a good rule of thumb is to keep an eye out for anything that's going to help restore your skin barrier function. "Ingredients such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid will rehydrate your skin, whilst ceramides will lock in the moisture and help your skin barrier," Dr. Hamilton says.
Once you've settled your skin and worked on repairing your barrier, with the help of an expert, you might want to look into slightly stronger ingredients that target other rosacea symptoms. Brimonidine gel and oxymetazoline hydrochloride have been proven to help with redness, Dr. Hamilton says. Topical azelaic acid (which you can buy both with and without a prescription, depending on the percentage strength) is effective for someone experiencing red or pus-filled bumps, which is present in inflammatory rosacea. Dr. Vyas agrees, adding that antioxidants and poly hydroxy acids can also help with gentle exfoliation since they're the least irritating of all the hydroxy acids.
Using Sunscreen Is Important If You Have Rosacea
There's one skin-care product that is an absolute must for everyone, and that's sunscreen. But, if you have rosacea, you'll need to stay on top of wearing it even more. Wearing a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 all day, every day, is one of the best ways to protect your skin against sun damage as well as potential triggers for a rosacea flare-up (since sunlight is a well-known trigger of rosacea flares). "UV rays can damage blood vessels (by breaking down the supportive collagen and elastin in blood vessels), contributing to symptoms of redness and flushing associated with rosacea," says Dr. Ahmed.
The experts generally recommend using a mineral sunscreen versus a chemical one because the ingredients used in chemical formulas have a tendency to irritate sensitive skin types like those with rosacea. Ingredients in a mineral sunscreen contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which tend to be better tolerated by people with sensitive skin. Sonia Khorana, a GP (with a special interest in dermatology) and cosmetic doctor in the West Midlands, also recommended using a mineral SPF if you're prone to breakouts.
Skin-Care Products to Avoid If You Have Rosacea
"Don't be overzealous with physical exfoliative practices (e.g. using rough face cloths or scrubs)," says Dr. Ahmed. "Avoid highly fragranced products as they can sometimes cause skin reactions and aggravate rosacea." Once you have a better grasp on triggers you'll be able to determine whether fragrance is one for you or not. "Other changes to consider would be to use water-based makeup and oil-free moisturizers," Dr. Hamilton says.
That said, while many dermatologists suggest products and treatments that work with rosacea, it should be noted that many of them also live by the motto as dermatologist Ranella Hirsch says: "if you're happy with your skin care, ignore what IG says." There are products that experts recommend avoiding if you have rosacea, but if you do have rosacea and find one of these products is working for you then you do you.
A Note About Prescription Products and Rosacea
Oftentimes, rosacea is treated using prescription products, however, as there are different types of rosacea, treatment for each varies vastly, with some improving with regular skin-care products and others needing medical treatments such as oral antibiotics and laser treatment, Dr. Hamilton says. If you have mild rosacea, it might be suggested to manage your symptoms first without prescription products and rather by identifying triggers and using skin-care products designed to strengthen the skin barrier and reduce irritation. If you have any symptoms affecting the eyes, Dr. Vyas says that it's imperative you visit your GP, as this could be a sign of ocular rosacea.
In short: when it comes to skin care for people with rosacea, Dr. Vyas simply says to keep the routine short and sweet. And try to visit a GP or dermatologist for tailored, expert advice if you can. Shop the best products for rosacea, according to dermatologists ahead.
— Additional reporting by Jessica Harrington
Best Drugstore Cleanser For Rosacea
The CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser is a great cleanser for all skin types, including those with rosacea. It removes dirt, oil, and makeup without stripping your skin of its essential moisture. It has hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin to offer 24 hours of hydration.
Best Gentle Cleanser For Rosacea
As an ultragentle face wash, the Cosmedix Benefit Clean Gentle Cleanser is safe for those with rosacea. It helps remove dirt, oil, and makeup while leaving the skin soothed and balanced. It includes grapefruit oil to awaken and refresh skin, Australian sandalwood to help calm sensitive skin, and herbal amaranth for hydration.
Best Lightweight Moisturizer For Rosacea
You can trust that the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Soothing Care Face Moisturizer is rosacea-approved. It offers long-lasting comfort and hydration for irritated, sensitive skin with its creamy texture.
Best Serum For Rosacea
The Neostrata Redness Neutralizing Serum was designed for those with uncomfortable, sensitive skin. It's a soothing serum that gently works to dissolve dead skin cells while algae extract helps calm and soothe irritation and redness.
Best Thick Moisturizer For Rosacea
The Bioderma Sensibio AR Anti Redness Cream was made for sensitive skin types and those with rosacea in mind. It's a thicker cream moisturizer that combats redness and dry patches thanks to its rich formula. It contains glycerin and canola for hydration and laminaria to soothe redness and discomfort.
Best Sunscreen For Rosacea
The Neostrata Sheer Physical Protection SPF 50 is a lightweight, mattifying sunscreen that offers SPF 50 UVA and UVB protection. It's a chemical formula that contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.