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Rosacea treatment: How to treat the redness

If you have rosacea, you’ll likely have redness on your face at some point. The redness may show up as flushing that lasts a little longer each time. Without treatment for rosacea, this redness can become permanent. Another cause of permanent redness is visible blood vessels on the face.

No matter what the cause, you don’t have to live with the redness. If the redness bothers you, a dermatologist can create a treatment plan that includes one or more of the following:

Sun protection: This is essential 365 days a year. Sunlight is the leading cause of rosacea flare-ups, which leads to redness. Even when you treat the redness, you still have to protect your skin from the sun.

To protect your skin, dermatologist recommend the following every day:

  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every day. If the sunscreen irritates your skin, try one that contains only titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or both.

  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors during the day.

  • Seek shade.

  • Avoid the midday sun.

Trigger management: Even when you treat the redness, triggers can make your face red. You can prevent this by learning what triggers your rosacea and making some changes.

You’ll learn how to do this at: How to prevent rosacea flare-ups

Skin care: Your skin care products and even the way you wash your face may be contributing to the redness. Anyone who has rosacea needs gentle skin care.

Rosacea friendly skin care involves:

  1. Finding a mild cleanser to wash your face.

  2. Using only your fingertips to gently apply the cleanser to your face.

  3. Rinsing with lukewarm or cool water.

  4. Gently patting your face dry with a soft, clean towel.

You want to skip the washcloths, toners, astringents, and deodorant soaps on skin with rosacea. These can increase redness.

If most skin care products cause redness, burning, or stinging, a dermatologist can recommend skin care products that are gentle enough for you to use.

Green-tinted makeup: This cannot reduce the redness, but it can hide it. Some companies make green-tinted makeup specifically for people with rosacea.

Lasers and other light-based treatments: For people who have a constantly red face or visible blood vessels, a laser or other light-based treatment can be effective. Some patients see complete clearing of their redness. This clearing can last for years.

Most people need a series of treatments to see results. Insurance rarely covers the cost, so treatment can be expensive.

In skilled hands, side effects tend to be limited to temporary redness and swelling.

Without proper training in lasers and medical knowledge of the skin, the risk of serious side effects rises. Burns, blisters, permanent scars, and skin discoloration are possible.

To find out if this type of treatment could help clear your redness, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends seeing a medical doctor like a dermatologist. A doctor who regularly uses lasers and treats rosacea can tell you if you would be a good candidate for this treatment. Not everyone who has rosacea is. 

Brimonidine (bri-moe-nə-dean) gel and oxymetazoline (ox-ē-meh-taz-oh-lean) hydrochloride cream: These prescription medications can reduce the redness on your face caused by rosacea. They work for up to 12 hours. Once the effects wear off, the redness returns. With daily use, you can have reduced facial redness for up to 12 hours a day.

Both medications have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the facial redness of rosacea. In clinical trials, these medications safely and effectively treated the facial redness of rosacea when used daily.

The most common side effects are mild. They include increased facial redness, flushing, a burning sensation, and contact dermatitis. A few people develop itch, redness, or pain where they apply the medication. All of these possible side effects are temporary.

Talk with a dermatologist

When it comes to treating the redness of rosacea, you have options. A dermatologist can explain which options can work best for you.

Jackson JM, Knuckles M, et al. “The role of brimonidine tartrate gel in the treatment of rosacea.” Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015 Oct 23;8:529-38.

Mansouri Y and Goldenberg G. “Devices and topical agents for rosacea management.” Cutis. 2014 Jul;94(1):21-5.

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.