February 23, 2020/Skin Care & Beauty

Are Mystery Triggers Causing Your Rosacea Flare-ups?

Learn about 5 common triggers, treatments & risk factors

Woman with rosacia on her face

If you have rosacea, you know how inexplicably your face can redden — even when you haven’t exercised or spent any time in the sun. Maybe you’ve figured out some of your triggers, like certain foods or lifestyle choices, but other times, you’re still puzzled about why your rosacea has flared up.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Experts don’t have a clear understanding of exactly what causes this chronic skin condition, but they do know that it runs in families.

“A number of things commonly act as triggers for rosacea flare-ups and not everyone has the same triggers. But if an individual or physician can determine specific triggers, that person may have an easier time controlling rosacea symptoms,” explains dermatologist John Anthony, MD.

He says five of the most common triggers include:

  1. Alcohol. Alcohol can dilate the tiny blood vessels in the face, causing the face to flush. Drink in moderation only on special occasions, if at all. Not only can drinking alcoholic beverages cause flare-ups, but so can topically applied alcohol in various facial cleansing products. Always check product ingredients and avoid those containing alcohol or other overly drying ingredients.
  2. Spicy or hot foods and drinks. Foods that contain spicy ingredients can affect the blushing areas of the face, leading to redness. If you love spicy food, go with mild spice and only enjoy these dishes on occasion. Since hot (temperature-wise) food and drinks often trigger facial flushing, you should allow your food or warm beverage to cool a bit before consuming.
  3. Exercise. Regular exercise is important for everyone, but it’s also a common trigger for rosacea flare-ups. But don’t abandon your exercise routine. Rather, limit outdoor exercising to morning or evening hours to avoid midday heat and sun exposure. When exercising outdoors, use shaded trails for cycling or jogging. And always remember to keep yourself well hydrated.
  4. Sun and wind exposure. Sun exposure, hot and cold temperatures and wind exposure frequently aggravate rosacea symptoms. Always wear a broad spectrum sunscreen when outside, even on cloudy days. If possible, stay inside on particularly hot, humid days. If you must venture out in the cold or wind, cover your cheeks and nose with a scarf.
  5. Anxiety and stress. Stress and anxiety can cause rosacea symptoms to worsen, so use stress management techniques when needed. Make sure to get plenty of rest and practice deep breathing when you feel anxiety creeping up.

Advertisement

Rosacea treatments

Dermatologist-prescribed medications that you apply directly to the skin, called topical treatments, that can help control rosacea symptoms and progression. Your physician may recommend an over-the-counter emollient cream to help repair the skin. For some forms of rosacea, you may need a topical or oral antibiotic to help control blemishes that occur during flare-ups.

“Treatments for rosacea include topical brimonidine, which helps control the redness of rosacea, and topical ivermectin, which helps with the papules and pustules that occur with some forms of rosacea,” says Dr. Anthony. These can complement many of the previously available treatments, when necessary.

He says that sulfur is a natural agent used effectively for many years as a home remedy for rosacea. You can purchase soaps and lotions containing sulfur in over-the-counter formulations at most pharmacies.

Dermatologists can remove thickening skin of the nose and flushing areas of the face using dermabrasion or electrocautery.

How to know if your rosacea is mild or severe

When discussing your rosacea with you, dermatologists ask how much the condition bothers you. Some patients don’t mind fairly extensive redness and pustules, while these symptoms affect others profoundly. “I tailor treatment to address the individual concerns of the patient,” says Dr. Anthony.

According to Dr. Anthony, rosacea most commonly appears on the face, but people can also experience symptoms on the neck, chest, scalp and ears. “When a person notices symptoms appearing in these other areas, it should prompt further evaluation by a medical professional,” he says.

Even less commonly, a form of rosacea called ocular rosacea can affect the eyes. Dr. Anthony considers this type more severe, warranting more aggressive treatment.

Advertisement

Talk to your doctor if you have frequent, unexplained flushing and prolonged redness in the facial area. A dermatologist can evaluate your condition, identify triggers and prescribe treatments to alleviate symptoms and prevent progression.

Why it’s important to treat rosacea

“The condition most commonly begins with frequent flushing of the facial skin and can progress, eventually causing the skin to appear red all the time,” says Dr. Anthony. Without treatment, you may begin to see a web of tiny blood vessels appear in the center of your face, usually the nose.

People with rosacea also may have thickening of the skin and frequent breakouts that are not due to acne.

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Person holding jar of moisturizer, with moisturizer on fingers
May 15, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
7 Tips for Treating Dry Skin on Your Face

Deal with dry skin by preserving your skin’s moisture, using moisturizing products and taking preventive action

female examining neck wrinkles
April 29, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Neck Wrinkles? Here’s What Can Help

Give the delicate skin on your neck some TLC by wearing sunscreen every day and trying a retinoid or topical antioxidant

Acrylic nails being filed by manicurist
April 24, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Are Acrylic Nails Bad for Your Nails and Skin?

Before your next manicure, weigh the reward against the risk of infection, irritated skin and damaged nails

Fingers with globs of petroleum jelly above container
April 18, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Slugging: Does This Skin Care Trend Work?

Go ahead and get goopy to help boost hydration and repair damaged skin

Salmon over lentils and carrots
April 15, 2024/Nutrition
Psoriasis and Diet: How Foods Can Impact Inflammation

A well-balanced diet with anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce flare-ups and severity of psoriasis symptoms

Healthcare provider holding bottle of prescription medication
April 12, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
These Common Triggers Likely Cause Your Psoriasis Flare-Ups

Stress, infections, skin injuries and environmental factors can trigger an onset of psoriasis symptoms

Person sitting in a yoga pose with calming vegetation behind them
April 8, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
10 Easy Steps To Prevent and Manage Your Psoriasis Flare-Ups

Stick to your treatment plan, but keep your provider updated on any new symptoms or triggers

Wet plastic loofah hanging on shower knob
April 2, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Is Your Loofah Full of Bacteria?

This puffy shower accessory can become lodged with skin cells (and other gross things), so make sure you dry it daily and clean it once a week

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey

Ad