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Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder that affects about two million adults in Canada. Characterized by persistent redness on the cheeks and nose, and sometimes, by small pimples and eye irritation, rosacea can be a frustrating and challenging condition to manage.
â€¨â€¨Though doctors aren't certain what causes the condition, Dr. Ben Barankin, dermatologist and spokesperson for the Acne and Rosacea Society of Canada, says that people with rosacea tend to have more Demodex mites on the skin. "Everyone has the mite, but people with rosacea have more of it and are more sensitive to it," he says. It may be that their immune system reactions to the mites lead to inflammation in the skin.
While there's no cure for rosacea, there are things you can do to avoid flare-ups and reduce skin inflammation. Here are 10 ways to put rosacea behind you.
1. See your doctor. "A lot of people are misdiagnosed or undiagnosed," says Dr. Barankin, who explains the condition is often confused with acne, sun damage—or just shrugged off as a "rosy complexion." Until you know what you're treating, neither you nor your doctor will be able to treat it properly.
2. Watch what you eat. Both spicy foods and caffeine have a tendency to make people flush, so they're likely to bring on rosacea flare-ups.
3. Stay out of the sun. Sun burns or overexposure to UV rays can trigger or aggravate rosacea. Dr. Barankin recommends sufferers use physical sunscreens and keep their skin covered with clothing to protect the skin.
4. Cleanse carefully. Dr. Barankin says harsh exfoliators—whether chemical or physical—will aggravate the condition. Sarah Brown, founder of Pai Skincare, a line formulated for skin that's prone to redness and irritation, suggests cleansing just once a day (preferably at night) and avoiding harsh foam cleaners.
5. Avoid alcohol—and not just in cocktails. Drinking dilates blood vessels, but Brown says it can have even worse effects when applied topically. "Rosacea sufferers should take extra care when shopping for beauty products and read ingredients lists carefully. Avoid products listing ‘alcohol denat.'"
Pai Chamomile and Rosehip Calming Day Cream, $60, paiskincare.com .
6. Look for anti-inflammatory ingredients. There are all kinds of natural inflammation-fighting ingredients found in skin-care products. Brown recommends the powerful anti-inflammatories calendula, echium and chamomile (which is rich in super-soothing matricine and chamazulene).
7. Beware of fragrances. Brown warns that artificial fragrances found in some products are major irritants. And even some natural essential oils—such as eucalyptus and menthol—have astringent qualities that can act like alcohol on the skin.
8. Keep it cool. Watch your water temperature when cleansing. Dr. Barankin says hot showers can be a trigger for some sufferers. And when dealing with a flare-up, Brown suggests keeping soothing skin-care products in the fridge. "Taking the heat out of skin-care conditions can be half the battle."
9. Get your options on antibiotics. If you're doing everything else right and nothing is working, talk to your doctors about new treatments that use a lower dose of antibiotics (which means less worry for antibiotic resistance) while offering more anti-inflammatory power.
10. Cover wisely. As you wait for a flare-up to go away, Dr. Barankin says that mineral-based makeups are best for hiding the redness without further irritating the condition. And if you need a little extra help counteracting the redness, try a green-tinted primer.
Learn how to recognize signs of rosacea at rosaceahelp.ca or discover how stress might be affecting your skin.