Effective rosacea skin care requires a very specific approach, with soothing and calming products that won't aggravate sensitive skin.
Nailing the right routine is also really important for all sensitive skin types, whether that means using the best moisturizer for dry skin, or sticking to the best skincare routine for acne-prone skin. These are the best skincare products for rosacea-prone skin—as well as how and when to use them.
I managed to reach my late 20s before I realized I suffered from rosacea. The telltale sign of flushed cheeks and blotchiness had always been there, but I had never identified them as being part of a wider condition. An impromptu analysis allowed me to understand my sensitive skin type a lot better. During a routine facial, dermatologist Dr. Ifeoma Ejikeme, aesthetic doctor and medical director of Adonia Medical Clinic, quickly spotted the classic signs of rosacea.
“Do your cheeks flush while eating spicy foods?” Yes. “How about while drinking wine?” Doesn’t everyone’s? “Is your skin sensitive to the sun…?” As the questions continued, it soon became clear that my skin issues were textbook, and I’d been suffering from mild rosacea for years, possibly decades. My flare-ups—now I can identify them—aren’t as intense as those with a more chronic condition. But eating spicy foods, alcohol, and caffeine—essentially all the fun things in life—definitely make them worse. As does spending time in the sun, even with a high factor SPF on.
Rosacea is a common skincare condition that can affect anyone, but it’s most common in women. A flare-up will lead to red, blotchy skin that feels inflamed. In more severe cases, this can also lead to swelling and pimples, not to mention super sensitive skin and sometimes stinging. Ouch. While rosacea is an extremely common skin condition, it's also one of the trickiest to treat, as the root cause isn’t fully understood. “The cause of rosacea is not yet certain; theories include bacteria that live in the colon, an allergy to a natural mite (demodex mite) that lives in our skin, unstable blood vessels, genetics, and sun exposure,” said Dr. Beatrice Mollina, founder of Medikas. “What we do know is that something irritates the skin, leading to chronic inflammation with intermittent flare-ups.”
Recognizing my rosacea condition led me to switch up my skincare routine entirely, and my skin reacted with gratitude. Before I was actually using products that were likely to aggravate my skin, most notably slathering on oil before bed every night, which is a big no-no for rosacea-prone skin. “Skin that has rosacea will feel more sensitive but often has an oily component,” Dr. Ifeoma Ejikeme told me. “Oily products and products that clog the pores can really aggregate rosacea.” It's been a steep learning curve, but my skin has never felt better and, with a little help from skin care experts, I've found the perfect rosacea skin care routine.
What to look for in rosacea skin care products
Sensitive skin doesn’t need a myriad of ingredients, in fact for an effective rosacea skin care routine it’s better to stick to more natural formulas. “Stick with gentle, water-based products and products, which are non-comedogenic. Ensure you wear a non-comedogenic SPF,” Dr. Ejikeme told us. “You could speak to your healthcare professional or skin expert about adding in professional ingredients such as azelaic acid to reduce redness and, when needed, prescription options are available for more inflamed skin. But start off with simple formulas.”
French pharmacy beauty products fit the bill perfectly here, with brands like La Roche-Posay, Bioderma and Avène often touted as being good options for rosacea-prone skin. “The main ingredients to look for within skincare products are botanicals, antioxidants, and natural plant extracts along with amino acids,” KerryLou Herbert, a senior aesthetician at Omniya Clinic, told us. “These all help to restore and support the skin's barrier and reduce irritation and inflammation which leads to flare up, by fighting against environmental factors that can worsen the condition.” And remember, while oil-based products may be moisturizing, they’re likely to aggravate rosacea.
“Rosacea-prone skin is sensitive skin,” says Dr. Ejikeme. “It is important to be gentle with it and stay away from products that will strip the skin.” This means watching out for abrasive formulas and looking out for super-gentle, natural ingredients that are non-irritating, hypoallergenic, and non-comedogenic (a fancy way of saying oil-free - I swear by Origins’ GinZing moisturizer for a daily pick-me-up, sans oil).
A four-step rosacea skincare routine
While rosacea itself has no cure, it’s a condition that can react well to the right rosacea skin care routine. There are two golden rules when it comes to catering for sensitive skin; keep it simple and keep it consistent. Our skin responds well to a routine, in fact, studies have shown that sticking to a regular skincare routine is more important than the formulas of products. In the interest of consistency, I’ve found using the same cleanser, serum, and moisturizer morning and night leaves my skin feeling calmer, though this is by no means a one-size-fits-all approach.
Your first step after removing makeup, dirt, and grime should be to relieve irritation before moisturizing. “Calm the skin with skin-soothing ingredients such as hinokitiol, sea whip, and aloe,” suggests Dr. Beatrice Mollina. As with any daytime skincare routine, the final step should always, always be a reliable SPF. Rosacea-prone skin is much more sensitive to the sun.
Step 1: A gentle cleanse
“A gentle cleanser that contains calming and soothing ingredients is best for rosacea,” KerryLou Herbert told us. “You would avoid any cleanser that is too abrasive or stimulating to the skin that would potentially worsen the redness." Brands like CeraVe offer a gentle approach to cleansing, with ingredients that help repair the skin's barrier function. I love CeraVe's Hydrating Cleanser.
Step 2: Soothing serum
Now that dirt, grime, and dead skin have been washed away, it's time for the active ingredients. As serum penetrates the dermis deeper than a moisturizer, many argue that this is the step of your skin care routine where spending a little more will reap the most rewards.
When looking for a serum for rosacea skin care, active ingredients like niacinamide, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid are a winning formula for soothing sensitive skin. CeraVe's Skin Hyaluronic Acid Serum also contains three essential ceramides, to boost barrier function.
Step 3: Barrier-boosting moisturiser
Moisture is key for an effective rosacea skin care routine. “Maintaining the skin’s natural barrier is crucial to preventing further moisture loss and improving cell turnover,” Dr. Mollina explains. “Choosing the right moisturizer depends on whether there are any other skin factors to consider but all will help protect and support the skin's barrier function which will provide healthy skin and help normalize.”
Dermalogica Intensive Moisture Balance helps combat dry skin by restoring lipid balance to depleted skin for better barrier performance.
Step 4: High factor SPF
It’s important to choose the right SPF for your rosacea skin care routine as well. “Choose mineral-based broad-spectrum sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which keep the skin cooler than chemical sunscreen ingredients by reflecting UV rays,” Dr. Mollina told us. “Choose a lightweight non-comedogenic sunscreen that provides powerful broad-spectrum protection against harmful UVA and UVB rays.”
For me, Super Fluid Daily UV Defense SPF 50 is a great all-rounder, with extra protection against pollution.
Lauren is deputy editor at woman&home.com and became a journalist mainly because she enjoys being nosy.
As well as keeping up with the latest news and most-talked-about TV shows, Lauren loves helping people share their stories, bringing experiences and adventures to life online. A big fan of adventure herself, she also loves sharing tips on where to find the best places to eat, drink, and be merry off the beaten track. Lauren has written a series of travel guides for London hotels and loves sharing her insights into a destination's cultural and culinary offerings. At the weekend, you'll usually find her hanging out with her pet cat (or anyone else's pet she can get her hands on), escaping to the countryside, or devouring a good book. You can mainly find pictures of her cat (and a few humans for good measure) on Instagram at @laurenkatehughes.
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