The Best Skin Care Routine for Rosacea, According to Dermatologists

This common skin condition often goes more than skin deep and can have devastating effects on self-confidence and self-esteem. A rosacea-proof skin care routine can help put the brakes on the flare-ups.

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Avoid triggers

Stress, heat, hot beverages, alcohol and these seven foods are a few common rosacea triggers, but it is often different strokes for different folks when it comes to what leads to a flare, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research and assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Rosacea is a condition in which the skin is hypersensitive to the environment, and it overreacts to triggers that should not upset the skin,” he says. Get ahead of your triggers by keeping a diary of daily activities, foods and drinks, and how your skin reacts to them.

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Avoid overly-drying cleansers

Harsh cleansers and scrubs will strip the skin of essential oils leading to dryness and inflammation, Dr. Zeichner warns. “This can lead to a rosacea flare,” he says. “Stick to gentle, soap-free cleansers that remove dirt and oil without compromising the skin barrier.” Top picks include Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser For Sensitive Skin, Eucerin Redness Relief Soothing Cleanser, CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser and/or Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser. The cleanser should be devoid of such rosacea irritants as alcohol, witch hazel, fragrance, menthol, peppermint, and eucalyptus oil. Expert Rx? Wash your face twice daily with warm water and a non-soap cleanser, and blot your face dry with a towel.

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Shower smarter

We may like long, hot showers, but our skin does not, Dr. Zeichner says. “Excessive exposure to water, especially hot water, can strip the skin of essential oils and lead to dryness, irritation and rosacea flare-ups.” Instead, stick to short showers, that means ten minutes or less. “Water should be the temperature that you imagine a heated pool to be, around 84 degrees.” In fact, you might be better off showering less frequently (here are some other ways you might be showering wrong).

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Moisturize

If you have rosacea, stick to gentle, fragrance-free moisturizers sans any irritating anti-aging ingredients, Dr. Zeichner says. “In some cases, I even recommend using the most gentle moisturizers that I would have my eczema patients use,” he says. Look for such ingredients as purified petrolatum or ceramides. Some MD-approved moisturizer picks for rosacea skin care include Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Lotion, CeraVe moisturizing lotion or SkinMedica’s Redness Relief CalmPlex. “While some products may be thought of as body lotions, they certainly can be applied to the face as well,” he says. Always apply a moisturizer on damp skin to lock in moisture, adds Adam Friedman, MD, professor of dermatology at The George Washington School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Washington DC.

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Be sparing

“Less is more if you have rosacea, so you want to minimize how many things you apply to your face,” says Dr. Friedman. Multitaskers are your BFFs. This can include a green-tinted base that also contains sunscreen. Green camouflages red according to the color wheel theory of complementary colors. Mineral makeup tends to include calming, anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as zinc which is also a sunscreen. Cetaphil Redness Moisturizer SPF 20 or Clinique Redness Solutions Daily Protective Base SPF 15. There are some other makeup hacks that can help minimize flushing and blushing.

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Turn up the humidifier

Winter’s dryness and the indoor heaters that we often turn up during winter can worsen rosacea. To combat that, turn on a humidifier to keep the air moist. This can help keep flares at bay. But summer also heralds its fair share of rosacea triggers, including heat from barbecuing, experts from the National Rosacea Society (NRS) explain. “Spend as little time as possible working over the hot grill,” they advise. “Use a long-handled spatula and tongs so you can stand farther back from the heat. Keep a cool towel or ice water handy to help cool down.”

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Go easy on the eyes

While it mainly strikes the skin, rosacea can also affect the eyes. So-called ocular rosacea is one of the causes of bloodshot eyes. In addition, your eyelids may become red and swollen, and styes are common. Severe cases can result in corneal damage and vision loss without medical help, according to the NRS. Be kind to your eyes by choosing and using only allergy-tested, fragrance-free formulas such as mineral powder eyeshadow and mascara that can be removed with warm water. “Neutral colors, both in shadow and eye pencils, may also be less irritating than strong jewel tones since they have less pigment,” the NRS states.

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Shave safely

Men with rosacea should consider an electric razor to avoid the irritation of a dull blade, the NRS suggests. When choosing shaving cream, opt for gentle, unscented products and follow shaving with a post-shave balm and/or moisturizer. When removing unwanted facial hair, “the idea is to create as little trauma and inflammation as possible so you do not provoke a rosacea flare,” Dr. Zeichner says. For a woman with the occasional hair, plucking is fine, he says. But “if you have a lot of dark hair, permanent options like laser hair removal or electrolysis may be best because you do not need to treat in the future,” he says. Curious about laser hair removal? Here’s what you need to know before you go. “Depilatories may cause irritation depending on how sensitive you are,” he says. “Many women do not like the idea of it, but I commonly recommend shaving.”

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Slather on sunscreen

Fully 81 percent of people with rosacea cite sun exposure as a top trigger for rosacea, according to the NRS. What’s more, sunlight may also bring out visible blood vessels (telangiectasia) and severe redness of rosacea. Fight the redness with non-chemical sunscreens that contain zinc or titanium dioxide, and protect against UVA/UVB with an SPF of 30 or higher, Dr. Friedman says. Colorescience All Calm Clinical Redness Corrector SPF 50 is a 3-in-1 product that corrects, protects, and relieves rosacea-prone skin. Remember, multitaskers are your skin’s BFF if you have rosacea. Just be sure you’re not making these sunscreen mistakes!

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Don’t exfoliate

Yes, you read that correctly. Regular exfoliation is important for many people, but if you have rosacea, it is adding insult to injury, Dr. Friedman says. “I am really against physical exfoliants,” he says. They are abrasive and in rosacea, the barrier is already disrupted.” If you do have broken capillaries, try these 10 ways to erase and prevent them completely.

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Lose weight

Information published in a 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology suggests that obesity may also increase the risk of rosacea in women. The findings show that risk for rosacea increases significantly with increased body mass index (BMI), weight gain after age 18, and larger waist and hip circumferences. Rosacea has also been linked to other conditions outside of the skin including Alzheimer’s disease. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight may be a rosacea remedy. Of course, shedding extra pounds can also help lower your risk for a host of diseases.

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See your dermatologist

Is it acne or is it rosacea? It can be hard to tell, Dr. Friedman says. Unfortunately, acne medications may worsen rosacea symptoms. Better safe than sorry. See your dermatologist to get a definitive diagnosis and the best rosacea treatment or acne therapy. Learn more about the 17 daily habits of people who never get acne. Yup, they exist.

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Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, MD, on September 09, 2019

Denise Mann, MS
Denise Mann is a freelance health writer whose articles regularly appear in WebMD, HealthDay, and other consumer health portals. She has received numerous awards, including the Arthritis Foundation's Northeast Region Prize for Online Journalism; the Excellence in Women's Health Research Journalism Award; the Journalistic Achievement Award from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery; National Newsmaker of the Year by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America; the Gold Award for Best Service Journalism from the Magazine Association of the Southeast; a Bronze Award from The American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors (for a cover story she wrote in Plastic Surgery Practice magazine); and an honorable mention in the International Osteoporosis Foundation Journalism Awards. She was part of the writing team awarded a 2008 Sigma Delta Chi award for her part in a WebMD series on autism. Her first foray into health reporting was with the Medical Tribune News Service, where her articles appeared regularly in such newspapers as the Detroit Free Press, Chicago Sun-Times, Dallas Morning News, and Los Angeles Daily News. Mann received a graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and her undergraduate degree from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. She lives in New York with her husband David; sons Teddy and Evan; and their miniature schnauzer, Perri Winkle Blu.