Snow Melts Away, but Rosacea Stays

rosaceaRosacea is another phenomenon (in the bad sense of the word) that is common in winter’s past, and repeated this winter.  More people visit our office to treat rosacea flareups in the spring than any other season.

Winter in general is rough on the skin because of the drying effects of the season that cause increased redness and irritation.  These drying effect are especially difficult for people who have rosacea.

To review from blog posts’ past, rosacea is a chronic skin condition of unknown cause.  Starting on and around the nose, rosacea-related redness and bumpiness spreads laterally out over the cheeks.  In later stages, it can also involve the chin and forehead.

Rosacea typically starts around age 30, and over 16 million Americans have this condition.  It is thought to have a hereditary component with concentration in northern European ethnicities, especially the Irish and English.

alcohol_spicyThere is no cure for rosacea, but there are preventive measures and treatments to decrease flareups and reduce redness.  Preventative measures start with knowing what triggers rosacea, and avoiding them one you know what they are.

Many people have certain triggers that aggravate their rosacea, and avoidance of these will lessen outbreaks.  These common triggers include:

  • excessive sun exposure
  • eating spicy foods
  • overscrubbing the face
  • taking hot baths or saunas
  • alcohol intake, especially red wine.

Some people will have one or several of these triggers.  Each individual needs to assess for oneself their own triggers and avoid them.

Before I get into rosacea treatments, I have to give you this piece of advice:  Do not try to diagnose yourself based on an internet site or a friend’s advice.  Rosacea can take many different forms, and can look different from one person to the next depending on a number of factors.

If you think that you may have rosacea, I would be glad to take a look, or you can discuss it with your primary care provider.  A corollary to my diagnosis warning is to not self-medicate.  If you apply something to your skin for rosacea and what you have is not rosacea, you may make things much worse.

After diagnosis and in addition to the avoidance of triggers, there are several over-the-counter and prescription medications that I may recommend.  Unfortunately, there are no very good medications of any kind to remove redness from superficial blood vessels when they occur.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHowever, laser treatments are very effective in causing the collapse of these unsightly red areas. This therapy allows your body to reabsorb the blood and the capillaries themselves, resulting in significant reduction of the embarassing redness associated with rosacea.

Before I close, here are 4 tips for those with rosacea from a recent article:

  1. Do not use products with fragrances.  Heavily-scented products are more likely to irritate skin and worsen redness when present.
  2. Choose products that are oil-free.  Oil-free skin care products tend to have fewer ingredients that could irritate the skin, and thus tend to be more gentle.
  3. Avoid mint and botanical ingredients.  They have a tendency to irritate easily-reactive skin.
  4. Limit the use of exfoliating products.  These also irritate rosacea-prone skin.

Hopefully, this article adds to your base of knowledge about this common condition.  Winter has just ended, but rosacea still needs treatment and care year-round.


About Dr. John Burke

John Burke M.D. has practiced medicine for over 25 years, and is the founding partner of MidMaine Internal Medicine. He established Maine Laser Skin Care in 2004 after devoting years to learning the latest in laser and dermatologic technology. Dr. Burke has treated patients from all over the United States. He is one of Maine's busiest practitioners in laser treatments, and in the use of Botox for upper facial lines and excessive sweating.
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