Rosacea Triggers

Rosacea is a relatively common chronic disorder characterized by redness of the facial skin. It often involves flare-ups and remissions, so we’ll discuss the basics of rosacea and the common triggers that can lead to those flare-ups.

The etiology, or cause, of rosacea is unknown. Various factors have been suspected to contribute to rosacea, but none have been confirmed. Abnormal vessel and nerve control seem to play an important role. Although rosacea has been linked to the presence of the Demodex folliculorum mite, there is no definite evidence that rosacea is caused by any bacteria, virus or parasite.

Rosacea occurs in stages and primarily affects the skin of the nose, cheeks and forehead. It often begins with an embarrassing flushing and blushing that is brought on by certain triggers. Common triggers include but are not limited to sun exposure (sunblock use cannot be stressed enough for those with rosacea), heat, cold, strong emotions, alcohol, spicy foods, hot drinks, and wind. If left untreated, the flushing leads to permanent facial redness and may be associated with swelling with multiple small, visually apparent blood vessels near the surface of the skin. The most severe stages of rosacea manifest as crops of pimple-like lesions that come and go and coarse tissue overgrowth of the cheeks and nose (rhinophyma) caused by tissue inflammation, collagen deposition, and sebaceous gland overgrowth.

Rosacea is a treatable disease, and there are various topical and oral treatments available. The main treatment of rosacea while it is still in its early stages, however, is avoidance of triggers. These triggers vary greatly from patient to patient. While the list of potential rosacea triggers in various individuals may be endless, a survey of 1,066 rosacea patients done by the National Rosacea Society found that the most common factors include:

sun exposure (81%)

emotional stress (79%)

hot weather (75%)

wind (57%)

heavy exercise (56%)

alcohol (52%)

hot baths (51%)

cold weather (46%)

spicy foods (45%)

humidity (44%)

indoor heat (41%)

certain skin care products (41%)

heated beverages (36%).

Of note, 24% of these patients said that “other factors” contributed to worsening of their rosacea, highlighting the fact that triggers vary widely from person to person.

Here are some measures you can take to better control rosacea flare-ups:

*Avoid sun exposure and wear a hat and sunscreen when outdoors during the day.

*Pat your skin dry instead of rubbing, which can worsen rosacea.

*Avoid products that irritate skin or cause burning or stinging.

*Food triggers are not universal, so you should avoid foods you think worsen your rosacea.

*If rosacea is temperature related, avoid saunas, hot baths, and hot showers.

*If rosacea is weather related, protect yourself from sun, wind, and cold.

Originally written for SkinSight


McCoy, K. Acne and Related Disorders: Rosacea. The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library Web site. Updated August 2008. Accessed 04/04/2010.

National Rosacea Society Web site., Accessed 04/04/2010.

Plewig, Gerd, and Thomas Jansen. “Rosacea.” Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine. 6th ed. 2003. Print.


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