10 Rosacea Triggers to Know and What Eases Flare-Ups

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Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that typically only affects the face and eyes. It is characterized by broken blood vessels, redness, and pimples.

Rosacea usually starts when someone is 30 to 60 years old and is more commonly seen in people with fair skin.

There are several factors, called triggers, that can make rosacea worse. Some of the most common triggers are sunlight, alcohol, and stress. This article will discuss rosacea triggers, and how to manage and treat flare-ups.

Woman looking in the mirror at red skin

AzmanL / Getty Images

10 Common Rosacea Triggers

A rosacea trigger is something that causes the symptoms to worsen. Symptoms can become so bad that when a person has a rosacea flare-up the redness, swelling, and pimples can decrease their self-esteem, make it hard for them to socialize, and change how they cope or think.

Identifying triggers is one of the best ways to avoid rosacea symptoms. Here are the 10 most common rosacea triggers:

  • Sunlight
  • Heat
  • Spicy foods
  • Alcohol (especially wine)
  • Certain medications
  • Cold weather
  • Skin and hair care products
  • Makeup
  • Exercise
  • Stress and anxiety

Related: How is Rosacea Diagnosed?

Identifying the Cause

Knowing the most common rosacea triggers is the first step in managing symptoms. But what causes one person's rosacea might not be what causes another's.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends keeping a rosacea journal. Write down things like foods, environmental exposures, and skin care products that could be triggering a rosacea flare-up.

When a rosacea flare-up occurs, refer back to the journal to find potential triggers. Over time patterns may evolve, and it will be easier to know what is causing the rosacea symptoms.

Once the triggers are identified, then it's time to make changes to avoid them.

Controllable vs Uncontrollable Rosacea Triggers

When looking at rosacea triggers, they can be labeled as controllable or uncontrollable. Controllable triggers are ones that can be avoided, whereas uncontrollable cannot usually be avoided.

Controllable:

  • Skin care product use
  • Makeup use
  • Food intake
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Exercise

Uncontrollable:

  • Weather
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Medical conditions
  • Family history/genetics

How to Manage Rosacea Flare-Ups

There is no known cure for rosacea. The primary focus on managing rosacea flare-ups is finding the triggers and then avoiding them. Lifestyle modifications and medications are two other treatments that can help manage symptoms.

Lifestyle and Non-Drug Options

There are several lifestyle and medication-free rosacea treatments available. Treatments are a bit of trial and error, they may work for one person and not the other.

Treatments start off by finding out which triggers make symptoms appear or worsen. Then implement changes to reduce exposure to the triggers. Other lifestyle and non-drug treatments also include:

  • Avoid sun
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats
  • Wear sunscreen with 30+ SPF
  • Moisturize dry skin
  • Use gentle face cleansers
  • Avoid using scented cosmetics
  • Avoid using toners and astringents

Medication

A healthcare provider or dermatologist can prescribe medications if needed for rosacea symptoms. Topical creams are usually the first-line treatment for mild to moderate rosacea. These topical medications can reduce redness, swelling, and pimples.

Oral antibiotics are another common medication used for rosacea management. Normally antibiotics are used to treat a bacterial infection. But for rosacea, they are used to decrease inflammation, redness, and skin blemishes. Antibiotics that may be prescribed for rosacea are:

  • Monodox (doxycycline)
  • Achromycin V (tetracycline)
  • Minocin (minocycline)
  • Metrogel (metronidazole)
  • Zithromax (azithromycin)

Accutane (isotretinoin) is another medication that may be prescribed to treat skin blemishes or pimples associated with rosacea. This medication shrinks the oil-producing glands in the skin to produce less oil.

Summary

Rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition that causes redness, swelling, and pimples. It currently has no known cure. Managing the symptoms of rosacea starts with finding out its triggers. Triggers for rosacea flare-ups will be different from person to person. However, some more common triggers are sunlight, weather, and stress. Avoiding triggers and consulting with a healthcare provider to determine the best medication regime can help reduce rosacea symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

Rosacea is a lifelong condition that has many treatment options. People can have periods of no symptoms, and then symptoms appear; this is called a flare-up. The first step in treating rosacea is finding out what triggers your flare-ups. Avoiding your triggers and using any prescription medications that your healthcare provider recommends is a great way to prevent flare-ups.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is food a common rosacea trigger?

    Yes, food is a common rosacea trigger. The foods that tend to be a trigger are spicy foods and alcohol. Avoid these if they make your rosacea symptoms worse.

  • What should you do to reduce rosacea flare-ups?

    Each person that has rosacea will need to avoid different things. Some common things that need to be avoided are sunlight, alcohol, and stress. But what causes one person's rosacea to flare up may not be what causes another person's rosacea to flare up.

  • Do masks make rosacea worse?

    Masks can make rosacea worse. A 2020 case study illustrated how face masks caused worsening rosacea symptoms. A mask close to your skin can irritate and cause a rosacea flare-up.

  • Can you naturally treat rosacea?

    There are many lifestyle changes and medication-free rosacea treatment options. Stress is one common trigger, so using stress management techniques like yoga and deep breathing can help treat symptoms.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Buddenkotte J, Steinhoff M. Recent advances in understanding and managing rosaceaF1000Res. 2018;7:1885. doi:10.12688/f1000research.16537.1

  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Triggers could be causing your rosacea flare-ups.

  4. Oge’ LK, Muncie HL, Phillips-Savoy AR. Rosacea: diagnosis and treatmentAm Fam Physician. 2015;92(3):187-196.

  5. NYU Langone Health. Oral medication for rosacea.

  6. Chiriac AE, Wollina U, Azoicai D. Flare-up of rosacea due to face mask in healthcare workers during covid-19Maedica (Bucur). 2020;15(3):416-417. doi:10.26574/maedica.2020.15.3.416

By Patty Weasler, RN, BSN
Patty is a registered nurse with over a decade of experience in pediatric critical care. Her passion is writing health and wellness content that anyone can understand and use.