Rosacea makes the skin extremely sensitive. Because the skin is so sensitive, many things can cause rosacea to flare. Time spent in the sun can lead to unexpected flushing that lasts for hours. Any number of skin care products may cause your face to sting, burn, or itch for what seems an eternity.
Anything that causes your rosacea to flare is called a trigger. Sunlight and hairspray are common rosacea triggers. Other common triggers include heat, stress, alcohol, and spicy foods.
Triggers differ from person to person.
Important to know what triggers your rosacea
Rosacea flares are more than a minor inconvenience. Each time your skin flushes, it can stay red a little longer. Rosacea may start to appear on more of your skin. In some people, repeated flushing leads to skin that stays permanently red. Visible blood vessels may start to appear. Skin can thicken.
With repeated flushing, treatment can also become more difficult. Treatment that may have worked earlier is no longer effective. Your dermatologist may need to prescribe stronger medicine or talk with you about an in-office treatment like laser therapy.
Knowing what triggers your flare-ups and making some simple changes can help you:
- Reduce flares
- Get better results from treatment
- Prevent rosacea from worsening
This is why dermatologists often ask patients to find their triggers before beginning treatment. Even when treating rosacea, triggers can cause rosacea flare-ups.
You can find your own rosacea triggers by using the following 3-step process.
Step 1: Discover what could be triggering your rosacea
To find your triggers, you’ll have to do a bit of detective work. A good place to start is by looking at this list of common rosacea triggers. Do you think any could be causing your rosacea to flare?
- Alcohol, especially red wine
- Spicy foods
- Some skin and hair care products
- Some makeup
- Wind and cold
- Some medicines
You may have other triggers. You’ll find a more extensive list of triggers on the National Rosacea Society’s website at:
Factors that may trigger rosacea flare-ups
Step 2: Confirm your triggers
Now that you have an idea of what could be causing your rosacea flares, it’s time to gather the evidence. The National Rosacea Society offers an online form to help you do this.
If you’re not sure when your face turns red, ask a close friend or relative to let you know when you seem flushed.
The National Rosacea Society recommends that you:
- Complete this form every day for at least 2 weeks.
- Look at the items you checked on the form to see what coincides with your rosacea flares.
You’ll find the online form at:
Rosacea diary booklet
Another option is to keep a notebook. Write down what foods you eat, beverages you drink, personal care products you use, and things you are exposed to (like cold and heat) that could cause a rosacea flare-up.
Are you unsure when your face turns red? If your cheeks feel warm to the touch or you feel warm, you may be flushing.
You’ll also want to describe your rosacea symptoms, jotting down how serious they are.
Keeping track of these things for a few weeks (or months) can help you pinpoint what causes your flare-ups.
Step 3: Make some changes
Once you know what’s triggering your rosacea flares, taking action can help you avoid those triggers. The following slideshow offers some simple solutions that can leave you feeling better without dramatically changing your life.
How to prevent rosacea flare-ups
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Pelle MT. “Rosacea.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008: 703-9.
Pelle MT, Glen H. Crawford GH, et al. “Rosacea: II. Therapy.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2004;51:499-512.
Steinhoff M, Schmelz M, et al. “Facial erythema of rosacea — Aetiology, different pathophysiologies, and treatment options. Acta Derm Venereol. 2016 Jun 15;96(5):579-86.