Simple Rosacea Skin Care Steps

Because rosacea can leave your skin inflamed and extremely sensitive, rosacea care requires patience and a gentle touch. Good skin care can help alleviate many rosacea symptoms, while improper skin care can worsen the disease.

The problem for those with rosacea is that they have a fragile stratum corneum, the topmost layer of skin. This means that scrubbing and harsh cleansers will make matters worse.

“I tell my patients they should care for their skin like a fine silk scarf," says Zoe Diana Draelos, MD, clinical and research dermatologist in private practice in High Point, N.C., and consulting professor at Duke University in Durham, N.C. Her simple and straightforward advice: "Treat skin gently."

Rosacea Skin Care Step 1: Choose the Right Cleanser

Start with the right cleanser. "A gentle foaming face wash is a good idea," Dr. Draelos says. "These contain synthetic detergents that mildly cleanse the face."

Other cleansing options include a gentle but non-foaming face wash or a mild soap. Whichever type you choose, it should be fragrance-free, as fragrance can cause an allergic reaction, exacerbating your red skin and other rosacea symptoms.

Avoid all products with the potential to irritate the skin, including:

  • Alcohol-based products. These include drying agents like astringents and aftershave lotion. "When the skin gets dry, it gets very irritated," Draelos says. Witch hazel is another product that can cause drying.
  • Facial scrubs and exfoliators. Avoid those with ground fruit pits or nutshells in particular. "Those are designed to scrub away the top layer of skin and they can be very irritating," Draelos says.
  • Products with other potentially irritating ingredients. Menthol, camphor, sodium lauryl sulfate, peppermint, eucalyptus oil, clove oil, and salicylic acid can all cause irritation. Stop using any product that causes a stinging or burning feeling on your face, Draelos advises.

Rosacea Skin Care Step 2: Wash Gently

"Suds up the foaming face wash on your hands, gently wash your face, then cup your hands and use lukewarm water to rinse your face," says Draelos.

After washing, blot, don’t rub, your face almost dry with a thick cotton towel and allow it to completely air dry for 5 to 10 minutes before applying anything else to the skin. Skin is most absorbent when it's wet, and putting on medication or makeup too soon can cause burning and irritation.

Other cleansing tips:

  • Don't use a washcloth. "You can scrub too hard with a washcloth, whereas with your hands you can feel how hard you're scrubbing," Draelos says.
  • Use lukewarm water. "Hot and cold water can make the face turn redder. You basically want your water at room temperature," adds Draelos.

Rosacea Skin Care Step 3: Use Sunblock

The skin of rosacea patients can be particularly sensitive to sun damage, and sun exposure can trigger rosacea flare-ups. Use a sunscreen or sunblock with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher whenever you're out and about. Be sure your sunscreen doesn't contain alcohol or fragrance. However, always put on your rosacea medication before applying sunscreen or makeup to increase the medication’s effectiveness. Draelos also recommends wearing a wide-brimmed hat or considering staying out of the sun altogether.

Nurture your skin with a barrier-repair product. These creams and lotions can help repair damage done to the skin and help hold in moisture. Researchers have found that rosacea symptoms diminish in people who apply a barrier- repair emollient twice a day. Ask your dermatologist for a specific brand recommendation.

By pampering your complexion with tender, loving care, you can be very effective in managing your rosacea and feeling more comfortable in your skin.

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