What We Know About Rosacea
Many people have heard of rosacea, but few of us really understand what it is. We naturally think of the hallmark symptoms such as reddened cheeks, but there is much more to this complex condition, and being aware of all the symptoms of rosacea might help you identify if this is the cause behind your skincare issues. If you already cope with rosacea, then you can take solace in knowing that there are many natural ways of treating and soothing your symptoms.
To begin with, rosacea is not just a skin condition, but rather a chronic health issue. About 14 million, or 1 in 20, people suffer from this often-misunderstood ailment. While most of the symptoms of rosacea involve changes in the appearance and condition of the skin, more severe symptoms can include facial swelling and irritation to the eyes. One of the most troubling aspects of rosacea is that we have been unable to identify the exact cause or causes. There are several theories on what factors might be behind the development of rosacea, some of which include blood vessel abnormalities, bacterial infections, microscopic skin mites and genetics.
So, without knowing the exact causes of rosacea, the best thing you can do is arm yourself with the knowledge of what the symptoms and triggers are and how to best treat them so that this condition, which can often be painful, doesn’t interfere with daily life.
To begin, the symptoms of rosacea are more than the characteristic red flush. Here is a rundown of both some of the most common and lesser known, symptoms.
- Flushing: This is one of the earlier symptoms of rosacea, where the skin on the face and chest becomes flushed and sometimes warm. While flushing resembles the common blush from embarrassment or excitement, there is usually no corresponding emotion to this symptom. It is common for flashes of flushing to appear periodically before prolonged redness begins to occur.
- Redness (known as rosacea subtype I): After periods of flushing, you might find that your skin has periods of prolonged redness and irritation. Just like flushing, the redness can occur anywhere on the face, down to the neck, however persistent flushing across the cheek area is most common. The cause of persistent redness is all the dilated blood vessels just below the skin’s surface.
- Spider veins: One of the telltale signs of severe rosacea is the appearance of spider-like veins on the face. This is caused by the dilation of blood vessels which then become visible, primarily on the cheeks and across the nasal area.
- Hyperreactivity: Rosacea can cause the skin to become hyperreactive to everyday stimuli such as sunlight, cleansers and sometimes even touch. This symptom of rosacea is often confused with having generally sensitive skin.
- Inflammatory rosacea (known as rosacea subtype II): This type of rosacea appears as pimples, pustules and small raised bumps. Many times, this is mistaken for acne, however there is a subtle difference between the two. If you think that you have inflammatory acne, but have never noticed any blackheads in the area of your breakouts, there is a good chance that what you are suffering from could actually be rosacea.
- Swelling: As more blood vessels become damaged, fluid drains out of them and accumulates in the skin tissue.
- Padding around the nose (known as rosacea subtype III): A more rare side effect of rosacea is the thickening of skin around the nose, with the area appearing swollen and bulbous. Although rosacea is more common in females, this particular side effect is more common in males.
- Ocular rosacea (known as rosacea subtype IV): This is when the symptoms of rosacea affect the eye area. Common signs of ocular rosacea include burning and bloodshot eyes, sometimes with a gritty or sandy sensation. Stys are also common with ocular rosacea. In the most severe cases, vision can become blurry and impaired.
The good news is that you do not need to just sit back and accept the symptoms of rosacea as a fact of life. There are medical treatments for this skin condition which include topical medications, antibiotics and laser treatments. If you prefer the more natural route, there are several natural remedies that can help to ease the symptoms of mild to moderate rosacea.
Ten Natural Ingredients to Help Calm and Soothe Rosacea
- Aloe Vera: Aloe is most famed for soothing burned skin, but the same components that help to take the sting out of a bad sunburn are the same ones that will help soothe the irritating and painful symptoms of rosacea. Smooth a little bit of the gel, fresh from the plant or a tube, right onto your sore, inflamed skin. Or, did you know that you can also ingest aloe? You can purchase pure aloe vera juice that is intended for consumption, or you can try one of the many flavored aloe drinks that are available at your grocery or health food store. Do not consume aloe unless the packaging specifically tells you that you can do so. Sometimes, aloe gel is mixed with other ingredients, including preservatives, that might not be suitable for consumption.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Drinking this natural tonic is thought to help to ease rosacea by balancing the pH levels in your body. Add a little apple cider vinegar to your favorite homemade salad dressing, or even a smoothie. The fruitiness and sweetness of a smoothie will help to balance out the acidy and sharpness of the vinegar. Or, you can be brave and add a teaspoon or two to a glass of water and drink it straight down.
- Cucumber: Keep cool as a cucumber by taking a few slices of the vegetable and placing them over the affected areas. Lay back and relax while the cucumber helps to cool the skin and ease inflammation and other symptoms of rosacea.
- Green Tea: Green tea is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it perfect for soothing the red, inflamed symptoms of rosacea. You can use green tea as a tonic, by brewing a cup and then placing it in the refrigerator to cool. Once cool, gently pat the tea onto your skin or spray it on using a misting bottle. Don’t forget that green tea is also antioxidant rich and delicious, so enjoy a cup or two daily and reap all of the benefits while treating your rosacea from the inside out.
- Honey: One of the lesser known symptoms of rosacea is uncomfortable dryness. Honey works to help the skin maintain moisture without being heavy, oily or irritating to already fragile skin. Try a light layer of honey as an evening facial mask.
- Lavender Essential Oil: There are several essential oils that are thought to be good options for soothing and calming rosacea-inflamed skin. Lavender is not only one of the best, but also one of the most readily available. You can find quality lavender essential oil in many health food stores, where some of the other options might be a little more difficult to track down. Dilute a few drops of lavender essential oil in an ounce of carrier oil or distilled water and lightly pat on your face.
- MSM: MSM, or Methylsulfonylmethane is a naturally occurring sulfur compound. Sulfur has been recognized as an effective treatment for acne and other inflammatory skin conditions. MSM is thought to treat most symptoms of rosacea. Look for lightweight, gentle products that contain MSM and apply as directed.
- Oatmeal: Oats are one of the go-to natural ingredients for calming all types of inflamed, dry, painful and itchy skin conditions. Rosacea is no exception. Make a paste using ground oatmeal and a little water and smooth it over the areas of your face which are affected. You can also dissolve some ground oats in water and splash the mixture over your face after using a mild cleanser.
- Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil is an anti-inflammatory and an antiseptic, which is the perfect combination for the irritated, sore and inflamed skin that comes with rosacea. Keep in mind that while tea tree oil is great for many skin ailments, it is also quite strong. Therefore, it should only be used when properly diluted. Never apply the pure oil directly to your skin, as it can cause further irritation and in some cases, even blistering.
- Turmeric: This spice is touted as one of the best anti-inflammatory ingredients available. Turmeric contains the powerful anti-inflammatory curcumin. You can take advantage of the anti-inflammatory powers of turmeric in a couple of ways. First, of course you can add it to a variety of dishes. You can also purchase turmeric or curcumin in supplement form.
In addition to knowing which medical and natural remedies are available to treat the symptoms of rosacea, it is also important to recognize the triggers which make the condition worse. Some common rosacea triggers are:
- Extreme cold
- Harsh winds
- Hot food and drinks
- Spicy Food
- Activities that increase your core body temperature such as exercise, hot baths and saunas
- Certain medications
Finally, one of the most important steps of treating rosacea is developing a regular gentle and non-irritating skin care routine. First, make sure that your skin care routine does not involve too much touching or stimulation of the skin. This means rinsing your face with lukewarm water and patting it dry, rather than rubbing it. You should refrain from using any type of facial scrub, brush or rough textured cloth on your skin.
The products that you use should be the gentlest that you can find. Make sure that the products that you use do not contain any alcohol which can further dry out and irritate already inflamed skin. Keep your skin care routine to a base minimum number of products to reduce the amount of times that you need to touch your skin.
Lightweight moisturizers and serums can work wonderfully for rosacea, but one of the most important products you can apply is a high-quality sunscreen that does not contain any extra added irritating ingredients. Look for zinc and titanium dioxide-based sunscreens that have an SPF of at least 15, preferably 30.
One more thing to keep in mind. Rosacea is not a typical acne flare or sensitive skin. It is a condition that is best treated by working with a physician who can help guide you to the best treatment options for your individual case. As is the case with many things that affect appearance, rosacea can leave you feeling embarrassed and self-conscious. You have options for treating and soothing your rosacea so that you can confidently put your best face forward, knowing that the glow on your cheeks is actually from happiness and living a beautiful life.
-- Angela Irish, Certified Aesthetician & Co-Founder OZNaturals