What is Facial Rosacea?

Kirsten C. Tynan

Facial rosacea, sometimes called acne rosacea, is prolonged facial redness resulting from dilated blood vessels that allow greater-than-normal blood flow near the surface of the skin. It may occur on the cheeks, chin, nose, and forehead. Although facial rosacea is cyclical in occurrence, it is a chronic condition that does not typically clear up without treatment.

Using saunas may trigger rosacea flare ups.
Using saunas may trigger rosacea flare ups.

People with fair to light skin and those from 30 to 60 years old are at increased risk for facial rosacea. Women, especially those going through menopause, are more prone to this condition than men, but men typically experience more severe symptoms. There is some evidence that it may be a hereditary condition. Family history of facial flushing is considered a risk factor, as are Irish, English, Scandinavian, Scottish, Welsh, and Eastern European ethnic backgrounds. Facial rosacea cannot be contracted through the air or through direct skin contact.

Certain skin care products may trigger rosacea.
Certain skin care products may trigger rosacea.

A physician or a dermatologist typically makes a diagnosis of facial rosacea after an examination of a patient’s symptoms and a review of his or her medical history. Symptoms that a patient may experience include burning, itching, stinging, swelling, blemishes similar to pimples, visible blood vessels on the nose and cheeks, and, sometimes, a bulbous nose. Facial rosacea is also sometimes accompanied by ocular rosacea, an inflammatory condition of the eyes.

Triggers for rosacea vary by patient, but some triggers are more common than others. Certain cosmetics and skin care products and some drugs, especially those that dilate blood vessels, may trigger episodes of facial rosacea. Hot flashes associated with menopause; emotional stress; and activities that heat the face, such as drinking hot beverages, engaging in strenuous exercise, and taking hot baths or saunas; may also trigger flare-ups. Other common triggers include exposure to the sun, wind, humidity, or hot or cold weather and consumption of alcohol or spicy food.

Rosacea is a relatively harmless condition aside from its uncomfortable effects. Medical treatment can help alleviate troublesome symptoms, though there was no known cure in 2010. Therapies such as antibiotics prescribed for their anti-inflammatory properties, laser therapy, and other surgical treatments may help to reduce symptoms. Treatment is generally most effective when begun early, and the condition usually gets worse over time if not treated.

Lifestyle changes are also commonly recommended to patients. Keeping a diary of facial flushing incidents may help a patient to identify his or her personal triggers so these triggers may be avoided in the future. A gentle regimen of skin care in which a mild, non-abrasive soap is applied to the face with the fingers or a soft washcloth is often suggested. The face may be rinsed with lukewarm water to avoid temperature extremes and gently blotted dry rather than rubbed. Carefully selected cosmetics may reduce the appearance of rosacea, and a full-spectrum sunscreen of sun protection factor 15 or greater may help protect sensitive skin from flare-ups.

Facial rosacea can be triggered by the hot flashes associated with menopause.
Facial rosacea can be triggered by the hot flashes associated with menopause.

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Discussion Comments

There is really not downtime, Rundocuri. My face is usually a bit tingly and red after treatment, but that goes away in a day or two. The procedure itself doesn't cause much pain, just a little discomfort. Tell your sister to make sure she chooses a dermatologist or plastic surgeon that is qualified to use lasers. Typically doctors that are board certified and have specific laser training are the best choices for performing this type of treatment.

Hi Heavanet. My sister has the same problem, and has been considering having her facial redness treated with lasers. Does this procedure cause much pain or discomfort? Is there any downtime?


I have facial rosacea, and I have found that the best rosacea treatment is laser surgery. I go to a dermatologist once or twice a year to have my rosacea treated with lasers, and the redness goes away for several months. In between treatments, I use natural skin lotion and try to avoid being outside in extreme cold, wind, and heat.

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