Acne Rosacea: What It Is, What It Looks Like, And How To Treat It

What Is Acne Rosacea? Everything To Know About This Skin Disorder

July 8, 2021 Updated October 13, 2021

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Rosacea might sound a little fancy, but it becomes much less flattering when you pair it with a term it’s commonly called — rosacea acne. Not a true form of acne, rosacea (pronounced roe-ZAY-she-uh) is a skin condition that can present with similar symptoms to acne vulgaris: redness and small, pus-filled bumps. Middle-aged women who have fair skin are often affected the most. That said, it’s not uncommon. Over 16 million Americans suffer from rosacea, and some doctors are still puzzled over how it happens and why it affects some people’s health more than others.

There’s no cure for rosacea acne, but it’s generally not a harmful condition. Still, it might make someone feel a little less confident, so we understand wanting to learn everything you can about this skin disorder and how to reduce symptoms through treatment.

What is rosacea?

Even though doctors might not know why it happens, they’re knowledgeable on how it appears. According to the National Rosacea Society, rosacea is officially labeled as a chronic skin disease. Technically, there are four types of rosacea, and people can be affected by more than one type.

1. Erythematotelangiectatic Rosacea

Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (ETR) is very common, showing up as persistent redness on the skin. This happens when small blood vessels beneath the skin’s surface become enlarged and are therefore more visible. The severity of this subtype can increase without treatment, even covering more skin and leading to permanent redness.

2. Papulopustular Rosacea

You’re probably thinking, Papulo-what? What is papulopustular rosacea? This type of rosacea involves breakouts that look like the whitehead pustules of acne, which can occur often in adults. They’re so commonly misidentified as acne that the misnomer of “rosacea acne” developed. Papulopustular rosacea doesn’t travel far from the face, although those with severe cases may see it creep up to their scalp or down to their neck and chest.

3. Phymatous Rosacea

Subtype three a type of rosacea acne that’s not as common as subtypes one and two. Occurring more frequently in biological men than women, this rare rosacea causes the skin to thicken and scar, giving it a bumpy and swollen appearance.

Phymatous is generally characterized in severe cases by rhinophyma — an accompanying skin disorder that causes the nose to enlarge and become red, bulbous, and bumpy. While it’s still a mystery, many believe that rhinophyma happens to people with severe, untreated forms of rosacea. It usually takes a few years to become an issue.

4. Ocular Rosacea

As you may have guessed by its name, ocular rosacea affects the areas around the eyes, causing them to look watery or bloodshot. It may also cause a burning or irritating sensation in the eyes, as well as chronic dryness and eyelid cysts.

Much like the other subtypes, ocular rosacea is most common with people in a specific age range — people seem to get it most between the ages of 30 and 50. Doctors have also learned that it often presents in people who naturally blush easily.

How do doctors diagnose rosacea?

Since there’s no test to determine whether or not you have rosacea, most doctors diagnose it due to your skin and health history. More advanced versions of rosacea acne may require a dermatologist. Doctors might ask questions about your diet or lifestyle, as certain foods have been known to trigger rosacea. The following foods have been linked to flare-ups in the past:

  • Liver
  • Chocolate
  • Vanilla
  • Soy sauce
  • Avocados
  • Spinach
  • Eggplant
  • Citrus fruits
  • Alcohol
  • Hot foods
  • Cheese
  • Sour cream

Aside from diet, some weather conditions may trigger rosacea. They include:

  • Too much sun
  • High winds
  • Humidity
  • Coldness

If you have a rosacea flare-up, you may want to examine whether or not you’ve recently traveled to an area with different conditions. In general, skin can often react poorly to change.

What is the treatment for rosacea?

As mentioned, there’s no cure for rosacea. But there are plenty of rosacea treatment products and solutions that can help the issue, especially if you’ve already tried to eliminate some of the problem foods from your diet:

  • Sulfur or a topical gel containing azelaic acid may be recommended by your dermatologist, both of which may help control the issue.
  • Certain oral medications prescribed by your doctor may help control ocular rosacea. However, having a good eye care routine will help the issue immensely by itself.
  • Good skincare is actually an excellent treatment plan for all types of rosacea. There are many products out there to help balance the redness in your skin.

While you can easily pick up many at the drug store, it’s always best to take the advice of your dermatologist, who’ll likely have the perfect solution for your exact skin type. Often, those with rosacea are susceptible to particularly sensitive skin, making a dermatologist’s recommendation even more vital.

What are some possible rosacea triggers? 

Sometimes rosacea flare-ups are uncontrollable. However, if you want to minimize breakouts, follow these tips:

  • Reduce the amount of stress in your life. Practice meditation or other calming exercises to minimize anxiety. 
  • Keep your skin routine simple. Too many facial cleansing combinations can cause irritation and trigger a flare-up. 
  • Stay away from cold drinks and stick to mild foods.
  • Avoid too much exercise or heavy exertion.
  • Skip super-hot or steamy baths. Saunas can also cause flare-ups.
  • Take caution using certain medications like steroids, blood pressure medicine, and a few types of painkillers.
  • Be mindful of the hair products you use. Certain chemicals can cause flare-ups, so find a mild shampoo and wash your hair regularly to keep your face clean. 
  • Ask your doctor about medical conditions that can trigger acne rosacea, like menopause, chronic cough, and caffeine withdrawal syndrome.

How do you deal with rosacea flare-ups?

Dealing with a rosacea flare-up can be very uncomfortable. So, to help manage your skin, here are a few things you can do to relieve any redness or inflammation. 

  • Try an aloe vera mask or rub some of the gel from the plant on your face. It’s soothing and can help tone down irritation. 
  • Stay indoors to get away from any heat or cold.