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What causes Rosacea flare-ups?

Dr. Nancy Shannon

Medically reviewed by Dr. Nancy Shannon, MD, PhD on June 21, 2021

While medical researchers still may not be completely sure as to what causes rosacea in the first place, there is a large body of evidence that suggests certain environments and behaviors can cause flare-ups in those who have the condition. Everyone’s experience with rosacea will be different, but there are still a few common risk factors to be aware of. Here are some rosacea triggers that you may want to avoid in the future:

Certain Foods

The food you eat can have a significant impact on your body in general, so it’s no surprise that your diet can be closely linked to your rosacea. There are many different foods that can be triggers, but most can be categorized into a few different groups that you should be aware of, such as:

  • Foods That Cause Flushing

The face becoming flushed is perhaps the single most common rosacea trigger out there, and there are many different foods that can cause it to happen. Hot beverages, spicy foods, and alcohol all have the potential to redden the face and dilate blood vessels, making a rosacea flare-up significantly more likely. 

  • Histamine-Intensive Foods

Histamine is a neurotransmitter that causes the immune system to react in response to allergens. Histamines are fine in moderation, but some foods contain large concentrations of the compound, causing inflammation that can eventually result in a rosacea flare-up. Foods such as spinach, avocado, bananas, and tomatoes can elevate the body’s histamine levels to a point that significantly increases the likelihood of a flare-up.

  • Dairy

For most people, dairy is a natural inflammatory. While the skin’s reaction to dairy may be mild for the vast majority of people, those with rosacea may experience flare-ups as a result. 

Not all people with rosacea will react the same way to all of these foods, but keeping track of what you eat around the time your flare-ups occur may help you deduce which foods you might want to cut out of your diet.

Weather

Because the skin on your face is so often exposed, weather conditions can have an outsize impact on your rosacea. While excessive cold can irritate the skin in such a way that causes rosacea flare-ups, most people with rosacea will find that heat and sunlight are the worst offenders. One survey found that 90% of people with rosacea said their condition was affected by the change in seasons or extremes in weather, and 58% said that summer was the worst season for rosacea flare-ups.

There are no easy fixes here, but do your due diligence when it comes to taking care of your skin while outdoors: wear sunscreen SPF30+ or a broad-brimmed hat when outdoors, stay cool and in the shade if it’s warm, and bundle up when it’s cold. Irritated skin can flare rosacea, so try to protect your face whenever possible. 

Exercise

Anyone who exercises regularly knows that a strenuous workout can alter the natural blood flow of the body, leaving your face red and flushed. This phenomenon can cause rosacea flare-ups all by itself, and outdoor exercise brings along an additional set of risks in the form of weather conditions. If it’s warm outside, exercise in the morning or evening to avoid any midday heat and sun exposure; if it’s cold, consider an indoor workout or protect your face appropriately otherwise. 

Another golden rule for athletes to follow is to drink plenty of water. None of this is fully limited to exercise either: those with strenuous occupations may notice flare-ups following especially difficult days on the job. Take breaks, drink water, and don’t over-exert yourself if possible. 

Stress

It’s not just external or environmental factors that can aggravate your rosacea — your general state of being plays an important role, too. Momentary feelings of stress brought on by embarrassment can cause the blushing or flushing that induces flare-ups, but general feelings of stress can also have an impact. One study found that, among 15 patients with rosacea, flare-ups were positively correlated with protracted feelings of stress, while no correlation was found between flare-ups and other negative feelings such as depression or anxiety. 

Skincare products

Individuals with rosacea may be prone to sensitive skin, which can be irritated by certain types of topical products. For example, astringents, alcohol-containing products, toners, exfoliating products (e.g. topicals like retinols/retinoids, beta hydroxy acids, alpha hydroxy acids, and physical scrubbers) can be particularly irritating for rosacea-prone skin and should be avoided or used sparingly. 

This list of possible flare-up triggers is far from exhaustive, and everyone is different. Consider making a log of the food you eat, workouts you do, skincare products you use, and so on in order to see if anything seems to impact your likelihood of experiencing a flare-up. You have a set of triggers all your own that might take some work in order to fully deduce. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the intricacies of rosacea, we’re here to help you out. Get in touch with a member of our medical team today in order to learn which treatments might work best for you. 

 

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