After years of being able to swan around a party sipping a glass of wine (or, more likely, three) — suddenly I couldn’t. At least not without my face turning the exact color of the pinot noir I was holding. It took a fellow flusher to pinpoint what the problem was. The wine allergy I'd imagined was nothing of the sort. The real culprit was rosacea, a common skin condition causes telltale flushing and spots.
So what exactly causes rosacea to afflict some people and leave others alone? Turns out, no one really knows. “The exact cause of rosacea is still poorly understood,” says dermatologist Shereene Idriss, M.D. of Union Square Laser Dermatology in Manhattan, mostly because a variety of factors are probably at work. Everything from genetics (thanks, mom!) to sun damage — and even how our body reacts to microscopic mites that live on everyone’s skin — can spark an inflammatory response that dilates blood vessels, and voilà: redness.
Yes, skipping triggers like booze, caffeine, that extra sprinkle of chilis, and your gym’s steam room will help keep flare-ups away — but the skincare products you choose can also make a huge difference.
Your first step: Going minimalist with your skincare regimen by using only the products your skin really needs, like cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. “Less is more — always!” says Dr. Idriss.
Then make sure you’re really looking at your products’ labels. “Stick to gentle products, formulated for sensitive skin, ideally fragrance-free and allergy tested,” she suggests. If in doubt, test them out first by applying a small pea sized amount to a discrete area of your face or neck. “If it stings, or burns, avoid it.”
Ahead, Dr. Idriss’s favorite skincare products to help make your rosacea feel like nothing more than a memory.
Eucerin Redness Relief Soothing Cleanser
“Twice-daily cleansing is essential if you suffer from rosacea,” says Dr. Idriss. The reason: “It removes excess build-up, oil, environmental debris, and bacteria.” But, as you probably already know from experience, the wrong cleanser can leave your skin looking more flushed than if you sipped your way through an entire bottle of red, so always look for one that won’t throw skin’s pH out of whack. “Eucerin Redness Relief is a fragrance-free, non-soap cleanser making it one of your safest bets, since its neutral pH is closest to the natural acidity of your skin, and won’t leave you feeling dry or irritated.”
First Aid Beauty Anti-Redness Serum
Most serums are going to be far too harsh for rosacea-prone skin — especially if they contain AHAs or other exfoliators, so you want to choose products with anti-aging actives that won’t exacerbate redness. “I would recommend starting with First Aid Beauty Anti-Redness Serum, because it contains sulfur which is known to help alleviate flushing associated with rosacea as well as caffeine which constricts blood vessels, further lessening diffuse redness. In addition, aloe in this serum helps soothe and calm flare-ups,” says Dr. Idriss.
Avène Antirougeurs Fort Relief Concentrate
“This product helps restore the defective moisture barrier often associated with rosacea, while reducing redness and the appearance of blood vessels on your cheeks” — plus, it’s hypoallergenic and won’t clog pores, says Dr. Idriss. The trick to making the most of it: “Apply first thing after a shower as your skin will absorb it more readily and respond better to its anti-redness effects.”
Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream
After shelling out a couple weeks’ salary on dermatologist appointments over the past few years, you’re probably in the mood to save money wherever you can in treating your rosacea — and that’s where this moisturizer comes in. “Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream has one of the shortest list of ingredients you are likely to find in any drugstore product — and for many rosacea sufferers, simple is good!” says Dr. Idriss. Plus, the giganto tub rings up at under $15, which works out to less than $1 an ounce (take that, La Mer!).
Colorescience All Calm Clinical Redness Corrector SPF 50
Up to 80 percent of skin aging is caused not by brazenly baking in the sun, but from incidental exposure — like the half hour you spent sitting in traffic this morning and your 10 minute Starbucks run this afternoon. So — rosacea or no rosacea — shielding your skin is undeniably important. The problem, of course, is that slathering sunscreen onto rosacea-prone skin typically triggers an instant flare-up — unless, that is, you choose a ‘physical’ formula, which bounces rays off skin using minerals rather than chemicals. “A mineral formulation such as Colorescience All Calm helps reduce the possibility of irritation,” explains Dr. Idriss. An added bonus: The tinted sunscreen color-balances ruddiness. “Its neutral shade is infused with a green undertone which neutralizes redness instantly to rebalance skin color, and doubles as a foundation!”
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