In The Red: The Lowdown On Rosacea

rosacea_slide1_v2Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
For many people, redness in the skin is a problem. It's often exacerbated by overheating, irritation, or alcohol consumption. For nearly 16 million people, this constant concern is due to a vascular skin condition called rosacea.
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Symptoms of rosacea include visibly dilated capillaries close to the surface of the skin, severe redness (particularly on the cheeks and nose), little bumps that look like blemishes but never go away, and a persistent blush. While the exact cause of rosacea is unknown, it's generally attributed to poor circulation, genetic predisposition (those with Irish, Scottish, English, and Scandinavian heritage are all more susceptible), digestive disorders, a sluggish lymphatic system, and bacteria and mites attached to cells. Sun exposure, extreme temperatures, hot showers, spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes are also often to blame for rosacea, so limiting or avoiding exposure to these triggers as much as possible may be helpful.
While the redness associated with rosacea can be bothersome, you can minimize it with proper care. Read on for everything you need to know about keeping this condition under control.
Use products designed for your skin type.
Using appropriate products is important no matter your skin type, but it’s especially imperative for people who experience rosacea and have hyper-sensitive skin. Soothing topical ingredients will help to sedate and calm and comfort overactive skin by reducing redness. And, seek out products that are unscented or don't use artificial fragrance. Also listed as “perfume” or “parfum," fragrance is a leading cause of skin flare-ups. Look for words like “gentle,” “anti-redness,” “soothing,” and “calming,” and products that contain the following ingredients:
Sea whip: a soothing formula that contains anti-inflammatory benefits
Chamomile extract: provides anti-redness and anti-inflammatory benefits
Azulene extract: calms and soothes the skin
White tea: This natural antioxidant helps calm the skin by inhibiting reactive stress brought on by UV rays, tobacco smoke, and urban smog.
Avoid over-exfoliating your skin.
Skin peels, topical AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids), retinols, and professional microdermabrasion, while sometimes helpful in smoothing the skin, can break down its protective lipid barrier, causing it to become inflamed and reactive. It’s important to consult with a professional aesthetician to determine the level of exfoliation that's most appropriate for your skin type.
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rosacea_slide2_v2Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Repair your skin’s moisture barrier.
The skin has a moisture barrier made of natural lipids. When it's damaged, tiny, invisible cracks appear, allowing moisture to escape, which can cause dry, flaky skin and increase the potential for irritation — even sensitive skin products can begin to give you a stinging, irritating sensation.
Fortunately, there are specific emollient ingredients in certain moisturizers that can help repair the moisture barrier. Look for oils like rosehip seed, borage, jojoba, and sweet almond. Ingredients like shea butter, ceramides, squalane, and phospholipids also soothe the skin and help repair a damaged moisture barrier.
Do a patch test.
When in doubt, do a patch test. The best place to test-drive skin-care products is the side of the neck. Apply a small amount, rub it in, and wait 24 hours. If there isn’t a negative reaction, you should be fine using it on your face. However, if redness or irritation occurs, avoid it.
Keep skin-care products cold, and avoid hot water.
Hot temperatures increase heat in the skin, making it more sensitive and red. When possible (and especially when it's hot out), store your skin-care in the refrigerator. Cleansing, toning, and moisturizing with cooled products will constrict the capillaries to ease redness and irritation. When washing your face, use lukewarm or cool water to help avoid redness.
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Listen to your skin.
People often think that if a product stings, then it must be working. However — and this is particularly true for those with rosacea — this can be actually be an indicator of irritation. Some common skin irritants to be aware of include the following:
Parsol 1789 (avobenzone): a common sunscreen agent that may cause skin sensitivity and inflammation.
High doses of ascorbic acid, L-ascorbic acid, or alpha-lipoic acid: These acid forms of vitamin C can increase skin sensitivity. Instead, choose no-sting vitamin C ingredients, such as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate.
Essential oils: People with rosacea may find their skin easily irritated with oils containing cinnamon, clove, geranium, or peppermint.
Sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureate sulfate, and ammonium laureate sulfate: These compounds act as cleansing agents, but they're often too harsh and strip water out of the skin.