According to the National Rosacea Society, approximately 16 million Americans have rosacea—and some of them don’t even know it. The trouble with rosacea is that many of its symptoms can be mistaken for acne or sensitive skin. Most acne-treatment methods, including vigorous exfoliation, will only aggravate a rosacea sufferer’s skin, worsening the condition instead of curing it.
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According to the National Rosacea Society, rosacea is a chronic skin disorder that manifests itself in four different ways. People with rosacea may experience facial redness, red bumps and pimples, skin thickening around the nose, or eye irritation. Rosacea affects everyone a bit differently—in most cases, it begins after you turn 30, with recurring flare-ups that tend to get worse over time. The National Rosacea Society reports that there is no cure and scientists aren’t even sure what causes it.
According to CNN Health, rosacea often begins with flushed facial skin. The blood vessels in your face, especially those close to your nose, may dilate and give your skin a continually red appearance. Instead of subsiding, symptoms usually get worse. Sufferers may develop visible blood vessels in the nose and cheeks, changes in the sensitivity level and oiliness of the skin, along with red bumps that are frequently mistaken for acne. CNN Health reports that over time, these symptoms can lead to permanent changes in your appearance, such as a reddened, bulbous nose.
Some rosacea sufferers can handle gentle exfoliation while others cannot. If you aren’t sure whether your skin can handle it, it’s best not to risk further irritation. According to the American Academy of Dermatology’s RosaceaNet website, this is the best way to avoid an outbreak. If you scrub or rub your skin, whether with an exfoliating product or a loofah or a washcloth, you risk irritating the fragile outer layer of your skin, called the stratum corneum. Gentle cleansing with a soap- and fragrance-free cleanser is all you need to do to care for your skin.
Most people who have rosacea have identified particular environmental or lifestyle “triggers” that bring on an outbreak. According to a survey of 1,066 rosacea sufferers conducted by the National Rosacea Society, the top five triggers are sun exposure, stress, heat, wind and vigorous exercise. Other common triggers include alcohol, spicy food, hot beverages and certain skin care products or cosmetics.
Treating rosacea requires a combination of lifestyle strategies and topical or oral medications. According to CNN Health, topical remedies such as antibiotics, tretinoin and azelaic acid may help control skin redness, while oral antibiotics such as tetracycline may help reduce inflammation. It notes that it may take up to two months to see an improvement once you begin treatment under a doctor’s care. In extreme cases of enlarged blood vessels and thickened nasal tissues, you may want to talk to a cosmetic surgeon about laser surgery.