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What is rosacea and what causes it?

Rosacea affects around 10% of the UK population. It is characterised by redness, flushing, and sometimes pimples or pustules, particularly in the central areas of the face such as the cheeks, nose, and forehead. Although rosacea is not typically considered a serious medical condition, it can cause significant discomfort and self-consciousness for those affected (we’ll write more on the mental health impacts of rosacea over the coming months).


The exact cause of rosacea is not fully understood, but there are several factors that are believed to contribute to the development of the condition.


Genetics

People with a family history of rosacea seem to be more likely to develop the condition themselves. This suggests that there may be an inherited susceptibility to the condition.


Immune system

In people with rosacea, the body's immune system reacts to certain triggers in a way that causes inflammation and blood vessels to dilate, resulting in the characteristic redness and flushing of the skin.


Triggers


One of the most common triggers of rosacea is exposure to sunlight, which can cause inflammation and redness in the skin. Other triggers can include:

  • hot weather (or extremes of temperature and weather)

  • spicy foods

  • alcohol

  • caffeine

  • emotional stress.

These triggers can cause blood vessels to dilate and trigger an inflammatory response in the skin.


Other factors

Other factors that are believed to contribute to the development of rosacea can include:

  • Demodex mites These tiny parasites are found on the skin of almost everyone, but in people with rosacea, they may be more abundant and cause an inflammatory reaction.

  • Bacteria Certain types of bacteria that are present on the skin may contribute to the development of rosacea, although the exact mechanisms are not fully understood.

  • Abnormal blood vessel function People with rosacea may have blood vessels that are more prone to dilating, which can contribute to the characteristic redness and flushing of the skin.

We cannot stress enough that rosacea is definitely not caused by being ‘dirty’ and it is also not contagious.


Risk Factors

While the exact causes of rosacea are still being studied, there are several known risk factors that can increase a person's likelihood of developing the condition. These include:

  • Age: Rosacea is more common in people over the age of 30.

  • Gender: Women are more likely than men to develop rosacea.

  • Skin type: People with fair skin and a tendency to blush easily are more likely to develop rosacea.

  • Family history: As mentioned earlier, people with a family history of rosacea are more likely to develop the condition themselves.

Treatments

While there is no cure for rosacea, there are several treatment options that can help manage the symptoms and reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups. These include:

  • Topical medications Creams, gels, and lotions that contain anti-inflammatory or antibiotic agents can be applied directly to the skin to help reduce inflammation and control bacteria.

  • Oral medications Antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and other medications may be prescribed by a doctor to help manage the symptoms of rosacea.

  • Laser and light therapies Certain types of lasers and light-based treatments can be used to reduce the redness and inflammation associated with rosacea.

  • Lifestyle modifications While this can feel incredibly unfair and 'limiting', taking the time to systematically avoiding triggers such as sunlight, spicy foods, and alcohol can help identify your main trigger factors from a lifestyle perspective and reduce the frequency and severity of rosacea flare-ups. In addition, gentle skin care, including the use of mild cleansers and moisturisers, can help soothe the skin and reduce inflammation.

We are going to be adding more and more content over the coming months to cover off many of the issues raised in this blog, so check back in with us regularly for updates and more detail.


We truly understand that rosacea that can cause significant discomfort and self-consciousness. While there are many treatment options available that can help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life for people with rosacea, it can be a bit of a personal journey of discovery.

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