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What is Rosacea Cream?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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Rosacea cream can refer to a variety of gels, ointments or other topical lotions and creams that may help reduce symptoms of rosacea. There are a number of products that may be fall into this category — some are prescription only medications and others are available over the counter or in natural foods or health food stores.

When discussing rosacea cream available by prescription, the medications likely to be mentioned include the following: metronidazole, azelaic acid, sulfur creams, medicines with retinol, especially tretitnoin, and benzoyl peroxide. Sometimes lower strength over the counter medications contain similar ingredients. For instance, it’s common to find sulfur creams, antibiotic lotions, gels with retinol and other topical products with benzoyl peroxide.

One thing that must be noted about all of these medications is that they can have side effects and at best they can control but not cure rosacea. The condition continues to mystify professionals and as yet there is no cure. Patients may respond in unique ways to any of these rosacea creams, though most people find greatest benefit from metronidazole, available in name brands like MetroGel® and MetroCream®. It is thought the combination of anti-swelling agents and antibiotic elements helps to address discoloration, appearance of pustules and papules, and additional inflammation from bacterial agents.

Ironically, some prescription and non-prescription rosacea cream types may work for some people and exacerbate rosacea for others. In particular, products with retinol or benzoyl peroxide may dry the skin and promote redness or even breakouts. It can take some experimenting to find creams or other topical treatments that are most effective with fewest side effects. A few things should almost always be avoided. Even though rosacea can look red and irritated, creams with hydrocortisone may ultimately exacerbate the condition and shouldn’t be used unless a doctor recommends it for very short-term use.

Over the counter treatments for rosacea may contain low strength versions of ingredients in prescription rosacea cream, or they may veer off and offer different “active” medications that might help the condition. Most dermatologists recommend strongly that people avoid these creams because of the potential harm to skin instead of help. This especially applies to over the counter cortisone, retinol, and alpha hydroxy acids, or beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid. Especially when rosacea is first noted, doctors help patients through modifying diet and activities, which may exacerbate the condition, and by giving both prescription oral and topical medications. These may help control the condition and minimize long term side effects of rosacea like the development of red lines on the skin and scarring.

Another definition of over the counter rosacea cream are creams that are safe to use with rosacea but that don’t necessarily improve it or exacerbate it. Many people still would like to use a moisturizer on the skin that won’t cause more problems. Though there are again many products that claim to be safe, it’s a good idea to ask a doctor to look over any ingredient list for potential irritants. There are some good lotions and creams that may not create extra problems for the person with rosacea, and these include those with minimal ingredients and with none of the ingredients listed in the previous paragraph.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon150001 — On Feb 06, 2011

I tried just about every OTC cream available and it made my rosacea worse. I ended up going to my dermatologist and he gave me prescription topicals. Clarifoam EF, Halog and Hylatopic Plus. He also said the best cleanser and moisturizer is Cerave, which is available OTC.

By EarlyForest — On Oct 07, 2010

So I've been reading all these rosacea cream reviews in hopes of finding the best rosacea cream for my daughter, but I'm finding them hard to decipher.

Can somebody tell me in plain, unvarnished words how to choose a good rosacea cream? All the reviews talk about are miracle cures and overnight fixes, and I just want something simple and reliable.

I'd really appreciate it if any of you rosacea sufferers out there could help me with this.

Thanks!

By googlefanz — On Oct 07, 2010

What can people with rosacea do about skin aging? I would think that that much stress on the skin would really speed the aging process along, so are there any creams for rosacea that deal with that.

I mean, I know they've got acne/rosacea creams, so I would assume that somebody could stick an anti-oxidant into a rosacea cream without too much trouble.

Are there any creams like that?

By rallenwriter — On Oct 07, 2010

Is there any really effective rosacea cream sold over the counter? Or are all the good ones only available by prescription?

I've been looking for a good rosacea treatment face cream for a friend, and neither one of us can find an OTC one that seems worth buying.

Am I just missing out on something, or do we just need to get a prescription for a medical-grade rosacea skin cream and stop wasting time trawling through the lotion section?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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