Gentle Skin Care Helps Control Rosacea

Skin care can help diminish rosacea or make it worse. The reason lies in your stratum corneum, the layer of skin you see when you look in the mirror. People with rosacea have a fragile stratum corneum, so skin is easily irritated. Gentle skin care can help reduce irritation and calm the skin. The following is what dermatologists recommend:

  1. Avoid scrubbing or rubbing skin affected by rosacea. Rubbing or scrubbing irritates the skin and tends to make rosacea worse. Even using a bath puff or washcloth on rosacea-prone skin can be too irritating.

  2. Gently cleanse rosacea-prone skin. Following these guidelines can help reduce the likelihood of irritating the skin:

  • Wash with lukewarm not hot water.

  • Use a mild, fragrance-free cleanser, or cleansing bar.

  • Apply the cleanser or lather gently with the fingertips.

  • Rinse the skin thoroughly and very gently with lukewarm water.

  • Gently pat water from the skin with an absorbent cotton towel.

  1. After washing, let the skin dry thoroughly. Skin is most absorbent when wet. Applying medication or anything else immediately after washing can cause burning and stinging. Waiting 5 or 10 minutes can help reduce this. If the skin still stings or feels irritated, allow more time to pass. Some people find it helpful to wait 20 to 30 minutes.

  2. Apply medication before applying sunscreen, a barrier-repair product, or makeup. This makes the medication more effective. Wait another 5 to 10 minutes before applying another product.

  3. Use a barrier-repair product. More than a moisturizer, this product helps repair the skin. Studies have shown that applying a barrier-repair emollient twice a day can help diminish rosacea because an emollient softens the skin and coats it to stop water loss. One dermatologist found that patients who used a barrier-repair emollient for one year regained a normal flush response and had little or no redness.

    To avoid irritating your skin, ask your dermatologist for a product recommendation.

  4. Wear sunscreen every day. Sun exposure can cause rosacea to flare. Applying a sunscreen in the morning helps to protect the skin, provided the product does not contain ingredients that irritate the skin.

    Ingredients to avoid: Sunscreen that contains alcohol or fragrance is likely to irritate the skin, so be sure to check the label before buying sunscreen. Some people with rosacea find that these cause the skin to burn, itch, or redden.

    What to look for: A sunscreen is often well-tolerated when it offers UVA and UVB protection, has an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30, and contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. A sunscreen that contains silicone also can help protect the skin and minimize stinging and redness. On the list of ingredients, silicone may be called dimethicone or cyclomethicone.

  5. Select skin care products carefully. A number of skin care products contain ingredients that can irritate the skin and aggravate rosacea.

    Products to avoid: People with rosacea should not use astringents, toners, and any product that exfoliates.

    Ingredients to avoid: A survey conducted by the National Rosacea Society found that several ingredients in skin care products can irritate rosacea-prone skin. These include alcohol, witch hazel, fragrance, menthol, peppermint, eucalyptus oil, clove oil, and salicylic acid. Menthol, camphor, and sodium lauryl sulfate also can irritate the skin. Many other common ingredients have the potential to irritate the skin. If a product causes burning or stinging even after waiting to apply it stop using it.

  6. Be wary of over-the-counter skin care products that claim to reduce redness. While many products now make this claim, this does not mean that the product can diminish the redness of rosacea. Unless the label specifically states that the product has been found effective for rosacea, it is best not to chance it.

  7. Choose makeup with care. Cosmetics can dry and irritate rosacea-prone skin, but this does not mean that makeup cannot be worn.

    What to avoid: Waterproof cosmetics and heavy foundations are best avoided because they often require makeup remover at the end of the day. Remover can irritate rosacea-prone skin.

    What to look for: The ideal makeup is a light foundation that contains silicone (for skin-barrier protection) and a broad-spectrum (offers protection against UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen.

    If the skin stings or burns after applying the foundation, make sure 25 to 30 minutes has elapsed since washing the skin and 5 to 10 minutes has passed since applying a medication or skin care product. Try another foundation if the skin still burns or stings.

  8. Journal it. Keeping track of what is applied to rosacea-prone skin and how the skin reacts is important. People often respond differently to products.

    Gentle skin care when used along with rosacea treatment and trigger avoidance can effectively keep rosacea under control.

Crawford GH, Pelle MT, James WD. Rosacea: I. Etiology, pathogenesis, and subtype classification. J Am Acad Dermatol 2004; 51: 327-41; quiz 42-4. 

Pelle MT, Crawford GH, James WD. Rosacea: II. Therapy. J Am Acad Dermatol 2004; 51: 499-512; quiz 3-4.

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology

If you have rosacea, the key to successful skin care is to avoid irritating your skin.



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Page last updated 3/3/09

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