What causes rosacea and how to get rid of rosacea permanently

What is rosacea, what causes the redness and bumps and how to get rid of it

20th June 2024 | Author: Victoria Woollaston-Webber

From what causes rosacea to how to get rid of the redness, bumps and irritation – here’s everything you need to know about the condition


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What is rosacea?

What causes rosacea?

Is rosacea itchy?

How to get rid of rosacea

Many of us experience redness from time to time, whether it’s from too much sun, through blushing or when our skin isn’t particularly happy.

However, the occasional redness is different from rosacea which is a chronic skin condition that affects millions of people around the world.

Yes, it’s characterised by redness, but it can also be characterised by visible blood vessels, acne-like bumps, or what’s known as “rosacea nose.”

While the exact cause of rosacea is unclear, in this guide we explain the various aspects of rosacea, including its causes, symptoms, and treatments.

FURTHER READING: 8 reasons why your rosacea keeps flaring up – and what to do about your triggers

What is rosacea?

What is rosacea, what the symptoms and triggers and how to get rid of rosacea permanentlyShutterstock

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that causes persistent facial redness – with the key word being persistent. People with rosacea have redness most or all of the time and it usually affects the centre of the face across the cheeks, nose, forehead and chin.

One of the more severe types of rosacea is rhinophyma, also known as rosacea nose. This is an extreme type of rosacea that causes the skin around the nose to become thick and look bulbous and swollen.

Rosacea can also affect the eyes, a condition known as ocular rosacea. This type causes redness, dryness, and irritation of the eyes and eyelids, potentially leading to more serious eye issues if you don’t get it diagnosed or treated.

What does rosacea look like?

Papulopustular Rosacea triggers and how to get rid of rosacea permanentlyShutterstock

Rosacea can make your face look sunburned, or as if you’ve just been doing an intense workout. It causes your cheeks to flush a deep red, almost like slapped cheek disease in children, and can make your nose look red too.

It’s usually distinct from the type of redness caused by irritation on sensitive skin, although depending on the irritation and how long it lasts it can be difficult to tell the difference.

In addition to redness, you might also notice:

  • Visible blood vessels across you face. These look like small red veins, and can often be described as spider veins.
  • Swollen red bumps or spots to either accompany the red skin, or on their own
  • Eye irritation, which includes redness, dryness, and swollen eyelids
  • Thickening of the skin, particularly around the nose

What causes rosacea?

Stress and anxiety on skinShutterstock

The exact cause of rosacea is unclear, but research suggests it’s caused by a combination of genetic, immune, environmental, lifestyle, and microbial factors that each contribute to its development and prevent it from going away.

These include:

  • Genetics: If you have a family history of rosacea, chances are you’re more likely to develop the condition yourself. This hereditary aspect suggests that certain genes may make skin more susceptible to rosacea and studies have shown that people with a fair complexion, particularly from Northern Europe, are at a higher risk.
  • Immune system: An overactive immune response is believed to be another causing factor for rosacea. The immune system, which normally protects the body from infections, can sometimes overreact to certain triggers and this can lead to chronic inflammation and the vascular changes seen in rosacea.
  • Environment: Exposure to the sun is a primary culprit for rosacea because ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage the skin and blood vessels. This causes increased redness and sensitivity. Extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, can make the symptoms worse by causing the blood vessels in the skin to expand or contract rapidly. Wind and humidity can further irritate sensitive skin, contributing to the condition’s persistence and severity.
  • Lifestyle: Stress is a notable trigger because it can cause an inflammatory response in the body. This can make rosacea symptoms worse. As can eating spicy foods, alcohol, and hot drinks, all of which can cause flushing anyway, meaning it intensifies the condition. Each of these also increase blood flow to the skin, leading to redness and, sometimes, bumps.
  • Mites: Demodex mites, which naturally live on human skin, have been linked to rosacea. People with rosacea tend to have a higher number of these mites on their skin and, in increased numbers, this can trigger an immune response leading to inflammation and the symptoms of rosacea.

FURTHER READING: 8 reasons why your rosacea keeps flaring up – and what to do about your triggers

Is rosacea itchy?

Is rosacea itchy?Shutterstock

While rosacea itself doesn’t typically feel itchy, it can create other sensations if the flare-ups are particularly bad. These often include burning, stinging, or a feeling of tightness.

The burning or stinging can sometimes come from the inflammation and dilation of blood vessels in the skin. This can lead to increased sensitivity and a feeling of warmth or irritation, especially when exposed to spicy foods, hot drinks, alcohol, and environmental factors like wind or the sun.

Some people with rosacea may experience itching if their skin becomes dry, but it’s less to do with the rosacea itself. When the skin barrier is compromised, it can lead to itching, flaking, and irritation. To manage dry skin, look for gentle, hydrating skincare specifically formulated for sensitive skin.

Rosacea can also sometimes coexist with other skin conditions that cause itching, like eczema or seborrheic dermatitis. Again, it’s not the rosacea causing the itching. It’s these overlapping conditions that can make it feel like it’s the rosacea causing the itchy skin. Having multiple skin conditions can also make it difficult to diagnose and treat rosacea, making it essential to speak to a dermatologist.

How to treat rosacea

Due to the fact we don’t exactly what causes rosacea, it can be difficult to treat it effectively. It can take a bit of experimentation to work out what helps, and what doesn’t. In summary though, there are a couple of routes you can take.

Topical Treatments

Azelaic Acid benefits and how to useShutterstock

Topical treatments are often the first line of defense against rosacea. These medications are applied directly to the skin to help with inflammation, redness, and bumps. Any cream for sensitive skin can help repair your skin barrier, but if you want something more targeted look for the following ingredients:

  • Metronidazole: This antibiotic gel or cream helps to reduce inflammation and redness. It is typically applied once or twice a day and is suitable for long-term use. Metronidazole works by reducing the population of certain bacteria on the skin and you can buy products like Rozex gel online, or get a prescription for similar treatments from your GP.
  • Azelaic Acid: Azelaic acid helps to clear up bumps and reduce redness. It has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, making it great at treating spots too. It is usually applied twice daily and you don’t need a prescription. There is an increasing number of everyday skincare products that contain azelaic acid and you can learn more in our guide to azelaic acid.
  • Ivermectin: This anti-parasitic treatment also has anti-inflammatory properties and targets the overpopulation of Demodex mites specifically.

Oral Medications

Oral medications can be prescribed for more severe cases of rosacea or when topical treatments don’t work.

  • Antibiotics: Doxycycline is commonly prescribed to help with rosacea. Unlike topical antibiotics, oral doxycycline works systemically to decrease the overall inflammatory response in the body. It is typically taken at a low dose and helps keep rosacea under control in the long-term.
  • Isotretinoin: For severe cases of rosacea, isotretinoin can be prescribed. It’s a powerful medication that reduces the size and activity of your sebaceous glands. This can significantly reduce symptoms and it’s also prescribed for acne. However, isotretinoin requires careful monitoring because its side-effects can be quite severe.

Laser and Light Therapies

Cellreturn Platinum LED MaskCellReturn

These therapies are effective in targeting and reducing visible blood vessels as well as the persistent redness that comes with rosacea.

  • Laser therapy: Vascular lasers, such as pulsed dye lasers (PDL), target and collapse the dilated blood vessels that cause redness. This can significantly improve your skin’s appearance but it can be pricey and you need multiple sessions to see the best results.
  • Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy: IPL uses broad-spectrum light to reduce redness and inflammation. It penetrates the skin to target pigment and blood vessels which helps with redness as well as texture.

Skincare Routine

Best rosacea cream and treatment for face nose and acnemamabella | mamabella

A gentle and consistent skincare routine is essential for managing rosacea. Harsh products can make the symptoms worse, so it is crucial to look for products designed for sensitive skin.

  • Gentle cleansing: Use a mild, non-abrasive cleanser twice daily. Avoid products with alcohol, fragrances, or other irritants that can make redness and irritation worse.
  • Moisturising: Keeping the skin well-hydrated is important. Choose a gentle, non-irritating moisturiser for rosacea that helps maintain the skin barrier without clogging pores. Look for ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid.
  • Sun protection: UV exposure can trigger rosacea flare-ups so make sure you’re using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Physical sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are often recommended for sensitive skin.

FURTHER READING: Best rosacea moisturiser UKAzelaic acid: Everything you need to know about the acne, rosacea and hyperpigmentation saviour


Identifying and avoiding triggers is an annoying, but necessary part of managing rosacea.

  • Identify and avoid triggers: Keep a diary to track flare-ups and identify potential triggers such as certain foods, drinks, or environmental factors.
  • Diet: Certain foods and drinks, like spicy foods, alcohol, and hot drinks, can trigger rosacea symptoms. Modifying your diet to avoid these items can reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups.
  • Stress: Stress is a common trigger for rosacea. Try yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises to help manage stress levels and minimise its impact on your skin.

How to get rid of rosacea permanently

While there is no definitive cure for rosacea, meaning it’s hard to get rid of rosacea permanently, you can significantly control and reduce its symptoms to balance the skin in the long-term. The main and best way to do this is through consistency – consistent use of treatments, consistently avoiding known triggers, being consistent with your skincare and consistently managing stress.

Consulting with a dermatologist or your GP can help get you on the best route to treatment quickly, and they can give you personalised treatment options and strategies.

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