Do You Know What’s Triggering Your Rosacea?

Characterized by red flushing of the skin that is sometimes accompanied by small pimple-like lesions, rosacea is a common, yet often misunderstood skin condition that affects millions of Americans each year. Click here to see a brief animated video about rosacea. One of the most difficult aspects of managing your rosacea symptoms is that there is a wide range of environmental factors that can cause a flare-up. Better understanding which triggers worsen your skin condition can make a huge difference in its treatment and management.   

According to a survey conducted by the National Rosacea Society, here are some of the top environmental causes of red skin flare-ups. Although not everyone with rosacea will respond to all of these triggers, this list is a good place to start if you’re still working towards figuring yours out.

Sun Exposure

The National Rosacea Society survey found that of the 1,066 participants, 81 percent found that sun exposure triggered rosacea symptoms. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, though, because the sun’s UV rays are also linked with painful sunburns and skin damage that can become permanent.

Because of this, sun protection is a must for everyone, whether or not your skin tends to flush. However, those with rosacea do need to pay special attention to the amount of time they’re spending in the sun, particularly between the hours of 10am and 4pm, when the sun’s UV rays are at their strongest (American Skin Association). You should also choose a sunscreen that will be gentle on your sensitive skin while offering effective sun protection. Elta MD Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 and PCA Skin Weightless Protection SPF and Obagi SunShield SPF  are a great options for rosacea-prone skin because they are gentle on sensitive skin, free of fragrances and do not contain the chemical sunscreens that cause stinging in rosacea sufferers.


With 79 percent of survey participants having reported emotional stress as a rosacea trigger, taking steps to better manage your stress levels can have a profound effect on your skin’s appearance. Because flare-ups of red flushing can cause even more emotional stress and feelings of stigmatization, it’s important to talk to your doctor about taking a more comprehensive approach to its treatment (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology) to address both physical and emotional symptoms.

You can also adopt healthy stress-management habits on your own, such as practicing breathing exercises, listening to soothing music, or even joining a support group.


Very hot or cold temperatures, wind, and humidity can all bring about skin flushing and other symptoms of rosacea. Take steps to avoid these triggers by using preventative skincare when the temperature is expected to change. In cold, windy winter weather, cover up as much exposed skin as you can before heading outdoors and use barrier repair moisturizers. On hot, sunny summer days, bring a hat, sunglasses, plenty of sunscreen, and a cover-up to help give your skin some relief from the heat.  Choose physical sunscreens that will not sting your stinging prone rosacea skin such as Obagi Sunshield, Elta MD Physical. Or PCA Skin Weightless Protection SPF.

Intense Exercise

Heavy exercise can make just about anyone’s face flush a little red, but more than half of the rosacea patients reported that exercising is a major trigger for their symptoms. If this is the case for you, all hope is not lost.  In the past you had to switch your exercise routine to avoid facial flushing, but now the FDA has approved a new prescription medication to treat facial redness called Rhofade (oxymetazoline). Applying it every am will decrease facial redness so that you can enjoy your exercise of choice.  Studies showed that applying it in the am resulted in less facial redness at hours 3, 6, 9 and 12.  Exercising is one of the best things you can do to maintain a healthy body and complexion, so don’t let your rosacea stop you.

If exercise triggers your flare-ups, consider these tips to decrease facial redness during exercise:

  • Apply Rhofade (oxymetazoline) every am (available only by prescription)
  • Avoid exercising outdoors on hot, humid days
  • Turn up the air conditioning
  • Choose a lower-intensity workout over high-intensity cardio (National Rosacea Society)
  • Keep your facial skin cool:
    • Mist your face with cool water
    • Place a damp cloth around your neck to help you cool down
    • Put a bottle of water in the freezer.  Roll the cold bottle on your face during workouts
  • Try exercising for shorter periods of time more frequently
  • Avoid using the towels at the gym that contain irritating detergents
  • Avoid exfoliation before and after exercise such as facial scrubs that increase skin redness and irritation

Spicy Foods, Hot Beverages, and Alcohol

Many people find that certain foods and drinks often cause a flare-up of rosacea. Try avoiding spicy foods, alcohol, and hot drinks like coffee, hot chocolate, and hot cider to help reduce your symptoms.

Some Skincare Products

Pay special attention to the skincare products you’re using if you’re having trouble managing rosacea. Many ingredients that may be suitable for more resistant skin types could spell disaster for sensitive rosacea prone skin. Steer clear of most fragrances, essential oils, astringents, and harsh exfoliants (National Rosacea Society). Use caution with retinol, glycolic acid and any treatments such as microdermabrasion.

For advice on the best skincare products for you, consult your dermatologist for an accurate assessment of your skin type and professional suggestions for gentle, non-irritating products.  If you have rosacea, ask about the new prescription medication Rhofade (Oxymetazoline). Find a physician to help you find a skincare routine to help with your rosacea.


Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D. and her team at Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology believe in proof, not promises. World-recognized for both cosmetic and general dermatology, our treatment strategies rely exclusively on evidence-based, scientifically verified products and procedures that promote skin health and a natural appearance. We combine effective medical procedures with individualized instruction on proper skincare, nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle in order to maximize the health of the skin and body as a whole while minimizing the effects of aging. For more, visit Dr. Baumann’s blog for daily updates Monday through Friday, or inquire about an appointment through

January 30, 2017 Rosacea