Rosacea: natural approaches to an incurable problem that really work

If you have rosacea, you are not alone.

Rosacea affects some 14 million people worldwide.1

Rosacea can be an unattractive and embarrassing skin condition in more ways than one. It not only creates bright red patches and painful, unsightly pustules on the face—even worse, the flare-ups often occur during times of high excitement or stress.

As Dr. Mercola adds,

“Rosacea is a chronic, progressive disorder which is often distinguished by flare-ups followed by remissions. The condition isn’t life-threatening, but it can certainly be life altering due to its effect on your personal appearance. According to the National Rosacea Society, over 75 percent of people with rosacea feel the condition has affected their self-esteem. Many rosacea sufferers are uncomfortable in public settings and avoid social activities.”2

- Dr. Mercola -

Do not feel alone.

In fact, many famous people suffer from rosacea (they just have better makeup artists than the common man/woman, and the general public rarely sees evidence of their condition). In fact, Cameron Diaz, Cynthia Nixon, Bill Clinton, Renee Zellweger, and Prince William all suffer from rosacea.3

To make matters worse, most individuals try a plan of attack against their rosacea that includes abrasives and drying chemicals that aggravate and worsen the condition when actually, oils and natural moisturisers work much better to treat the condition.

Fortunately, research in rosacea treatment is providing new hope for those who suffer from this life-limiting condition.

The rise of interest in more holistic methods of treating diseases of all kinds has led to some new discoveries in rosacea treatment that are proving to be much more effective than conventional medications have been.

Researchers are finding that natural compounds from plants are often more effective than taking antibiotics or using antibiotic creams, the two most commonly prescribed approaches.

This is because, although scientists have not isolated a cause of rosacea, they know that when gut bacteria is balanced, breakouts tend to cease.4 In fact, they’re finding that antibiotics and antibiotic creams may only make rosacea worse in the long run.

Today, natural remedies and natural products that contain herbs, essential oils, and plant extracts are helping millions of people to heal, suppress, and even prevent future rosacea flare-ups. It’s important when you see a flare up coming, to treat it the right way, naturally and gently without harsh creams or cleansers.

Rosacea: you have to understand the enemy to fight it

The truth is that you can manage rosacea but you cannot cure it. Although this condition has been around for centuries (even 15th-century painter Rembrandt is believed to have had rosacea), scientists are still completely baffled about its true cause and you cannot cure a disease until you know the root cause of it.5

In fact, conventional treatments, such as antibiotics, often worsen rosacea because they lead to imbalances and infections in the very gut bacteria, h. pylori, that is now directly linked to rosacea.6

What is rosacea really?

Rosacea is a common skin condition that causes red sometimes scaly-looking patches to appear upon the face, particularly the cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead. Rosacea often looks like eczema or acne, but unlike other skin conditions, rosacea only affects the facial skin. Today, doctors are still trying to figure out exactly what causes this bewildering skin disorder.

Rosacea patches sometimes resemble pimples on the face that do not easily go away on their own. Often, flare-ups can be caused by stress, eating foods that are spicy or that cause inflammation, an inflammatory condition such as Lupus, HIV, or diabetes, or exposure to sunlight. When individuals break out with rosacea, they frequently feel a “flushing” or “blushing” sensation on the face.

Strangely, this confounding skin disorder only afflicts individuals who are between 30 and 50 years of age. Because of the late onset of rosacea, some naturopaths recommend an anti-inflammation diet, believing that a diet of packaged and refined flours, sugars, and trans fats could be causing a gradual build-up of toxins in the body that cause inflammation and contribute to rosacea flare-ups.7

Types of rosacea

 There are four basic types of rosacea called rosacea “subtypes.” Individuals may suffer from one or several of these forms of rosacea. In fact, ocular rosacea is often present with types one through three and is a dangerous disorder of the eyes that requires immediate medical attention.

Subtype 1: Facial redness (Erythematotelangiectatic Rosacea):

This type is characterised by flushing, redness, and the appearance of visible blood vessels.

Subtype 2: Bumps and Pimples (Papulopustular Rosacea):

This type of rosacea is characterised by a constant or persistent redness and bumps or pimples forming. This subtype is the most likely to be confused with acne.

Subtype 3: Enlargement of the Nose (Phymatous Rosacea):

This (rarer) subtype is characterised by thickening of the skin and enlargement of the nose.

Subtype 4: Eye Irritation (Ocular Rosacea):

This type is found around the eye, including dry eyes, excessive tearing, burning eyes, swollen eyelids, loss of vision, recurrence of sties, and corneal damage.8

Recognising the symptoms of rosacea

At first, most people with rosacea do not seek medical attention. They blame any redness on sunburn, heat, acne, or allergies until they note the presence of burning combined with pimples and seek medical attention.

How will you know if you have rosacea or just acne?

Well, rosacea has some distinctive symptoms and here are the key symptoms:

  • Redness in the face, especially on the high inner cheeks (close to the nose), on the nose, and sometimes on the chin and forehead
  • Stinging and burning in the skin
  • Flushing and blushing often
  • Parts of the skin that seem “thickened” –especially around the nose or chin
  • Skin that seems to have a rough or bumpy texture with very large pores
  • Painful, swollen skin
  • Spider veins and broken capillaries in the face
  • Blood vessels that seem to sit close to the surface of the skin
  • Raised patches on the skin—these often look like hives at first—they’re called plaques
  • Eye irritation and redness inside the eye (indicative of ocular rosacea)

Rosacea often starts out mildly for some individuals and gradually worsens, especially if the individual does not identify and manage triggers that cause flare-ups. Some individuals only experience mild rosacea flare-ups throughout life while others experience a gradual worsening of the condition over time.

What is key is identifying triggers, which are frequently diet, temperature, the sun, or inflammation-related.

What causes rosacea?

Although researchers have yet to pinpoint the exact causes of rosacea, they do have theories. There are five chief suspects that dermatologists and scientists believe might be to blame for rosacea.

  1. Too much of a skin protein

The most recent theory is something scientists discovered in 2007. At that time, scientists discovered that some individuals with rosacea had too much of an incorrectly processed protein called cathelicidin. Cathelicidins are a type of anti-microbial molecule that is part of the immune system’s artillery to combat illness. In ongoing research funded by the NRS, Dr. Richard Gallo has discovered that cathelicidins may cause inflammatory bumps and pimples as well as vascular effects such as flushing and visible blood vessels called telangiectasia, all primary characteristics of rosacea.9

  1. Demodex mites (demodex folliculorum).

Demodex mites are microscopic skin mites that live on human skin and usually cause no problems. People with rosacea, researchers have found, have an excessive amount of these mites in the skin, but here’s where scientists run into a kind of chicken and egg conundrum with rosacea: they don’t know if the excessive mites cause the rosacea or vice versa.10

  1. Abnormalities in blood vessels of the face

Some dermatologists believe that rosacea is caused by a blood vessel disorder caused by inflammation of the vessels in the face. What causes the inflammation, doctors do not know.11

  1. Complications associated with fair skin

Rarely do individuals with darker skin tones get rosacea, which has led scientists to speculate whether fair skin and the sun have something to do with rosacea.

  1. Dysbiosis in gut bacteria

An imbalance of the gut bacteria h. pylori cause inflammation of the blood vessels, leading dermatologists to wonder if this is one of the causes or the primary cause of rosacea. There are many studies going on right now to try to determine if h. pylori infection or imbalance may be the true cause of rosacea.12,13

  1. Genetics

Often, individuals who suffer from rosacea have a family history of this skin condition. The most famous example of this tendency is Princess Di, who had rosacea and so does her son, Prince William.

  1. A poor diet over time

That rosacea never surfaces until one is in their 30s to late 50s leads many practitioners to believe that rosacea stems from dietary and lifestyle choices, poor nutritional habits, accumulation of exposure to various toxins, and unrecognised allergies that have worsened throughout one’s life. One guest blogger on Mark’s Daily Apple reveals how conquering a lifetime of bad eating choices and eliminating all trigger foods from gluten to processed foods and dairy not only cured his rosacea but also helped him lose 40 pounds as well.14

What makes matters more perplexing is that scientists do not know if it is one of these causes or some combination of many.15

Rosacea triggers: the cause of most flare-ups

The key for all patients who have rosacea is recognising triggers.

You can learn to feel when a rosacea flare up is coming—and you should immediately write down what you are doing, feeling, eating, drinking, or if you are just in the sun or heat when it happens.

For some individuals, eating spicy food, for example, triggers a flushing sensation in the face, which manifests into a strong stinging feeling on the cheeks. Typically, this means an outbreak of rosacea is coming. There are all kinds of triggers like these.

It’s important to note, however, that some people have no pain or feeling at all with breakouts.

In a 2009 study scientists found that among 69 individuals with rosacea, the triggers that caused rosacea flare-ups most often were:

  • Stress: 60%

  • Sun exposure: 56%

  • Alcohol: 33%

  • Exercise: 29%

  • Coffee 21.7% (but scientists don’t know if it’s caffeine or the heat of the beverage)

  • Eating a hot meal: 20.3%

Other common triggers include:  

  • getting hot/sweaty

  • spicy foods

  • sunlight

  • vigorous exercise

  • dairy products

  • extreme cold

  • feeling ashamed or embarrassed

  • feeling angry

  • corticosteroids

  • other medications – such as those for treating high blood pressure

  • inflammatory diseases such as Lupus, type I and II diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, MS, other medical conditions such as high blood pressure

  • Common illnesses such as a cold, cough, or fever

More on exercise and rosacea

Oddly enough, many women begin noticing they have rosacea when they begin really trying to get in shape.

In fact, a new survey by the National Rosacea Foundation found that over 80 percent of the survey’s 563 respondents said exercise aggravates their rosacea symptoms.  Aerobic exercise, in general, was cited as the most aggravating, mentioned by nearly 55 percent of the patients.  This type of exercise increases the demand for oxygen, resulting in higher respiration and heart rates.16

So if you’re used to walking really fast on a treadmill and finding that this aggravates your rosacea, you might try walking outside in the air on variable terrain to challenge the muscles and the heart as a way to get your intense walking exercise yet avoid the kind of heat, sweat, and cardiovascular intensity that triggers flare ups.

The importance of complete sun protection

Rosacea + sunlight = fission for people with rosacea. A writer at the National Rosacea Society notes that:

In patient surveys, the sun ranks as the most common trigger for rosacea flare-ups, so it is likely that the sun is the culprit in your case. Even incidental exposure, such as running errands on a sunny day, might be enough to cause an outbreak of rosacea symptoms in some individuals.17

As the National Rosacea Society adds, avoiding sunlight, quality sunscreens or natural sunscreens, and wearing protective eyewear, hats, shirts and long pants can alleviate 80% of rosacea flare-ups.

For the best sunscreen, seek a sunscreen that protects you against both UVA and UVB rays. You want a quality sunscreen without harmful toxins and chemicals in it, of course. So look for non-chemical sunscreens that contain zinc or titanium dioxide with an SPF of 45 or higher.

Also, try to limit or avoid any peak sun exposure, when the sun rays are strongest, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

As rosacea is a lifetime condition, focusing on managing the disorder and not curing it is key. You have to accept that this is a disorder with manageable flare-ups and make it your life’s mission to know and avoid yours.

The importance of a flare-up diary

A flare-up diary can help you isolate triggers. Try to write down all flare-ups quickly and what you did before the flare up happened (went out without sunscreen, took a long hot bath, had pizza with friends, drank milk, soy, ate nuts), so you can begin to chart your triggers and find ways to avoid them. The National Rosacea Society actually recommends a Rosacea Diary Booklet, which they sell on their website, which helps you learn what all kinds of triggers aggravate rosacea and gives you a journal to write them down in.

Seek help: rosacea can permanently damage the skin

Rosacea will only get worse if you are doing nothing to manage flare ups. Rosacea can permanently damage the skin and create a lasting redness of the face, or move into frightening skin conditions when left unmanaged, such as the red, bulbous nose that is a consequence of one type of rosacea called rhinophyma.18

Therefore, you need to see a professional dermatologist who can help you pinpoint the subtype of rosacea you have and determine if there are any other skin conditions present. They can also tell you if you show signs of ocular rosacea, which is very important to seek help for, as it can lead to permanent damage to the eyes and cornea.

How to treat rosacea naturally

Although you do want to speak to a dermatologist about rosacea and hear what he/she has to say about medication options, here are the natural remedies and lifestyle changes that will help you avoid rosacea flare-ups and take care of the skin gently.

  1. Drink lots of purified water only

Toxins aggravate and may actually cause rosacea, and water helps to flush them out. Drink lots of purified water in BPA-free bottles only. You don’t want the xenohormones in plastics creating a hormonal imbalance that can aggravate your condition. Stay hydrated, as dehydration can aggravate rosacea, especially in the heat.

  1. Eat a clean, organic, anti-inflammatory diet

The basic rules of an anti-inflammatory diet include

  • Get 25 grams of fibre a day

  • Eat 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day

  • Use healthy fats only

  • Eat enough crucifers and alliums (garlic, onions)

  • Eat fatty fish 3 times a week and get Omega 3s in the diet

  • Healthy fats only (no industrial seed oils)

  • Avoid all processed food, fast food, refined sugars and flours

  • Avoid toxins and “artificial” foods

  • Add anti-inflammatory spices such as cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, rosemary, ginger, sage, and thyme.19

  1. Lose weight

Being overweight or having a lot of belly fat can cause inflammation, one of the root causes of all skin disorders, not just rosacea. Losing weight, eating right, getting quality exercise that does not aggravate rosacea is key.

  1. Use natural moisturisers, cleansers, and cosmetic products

Although you may think your skin is oily, dermatologists and rosacea specialists know that it is absolutely essential to moisturise rosacea-prone skin to restore the skin’s barrier layer. Natural emollients that contain plant extracts have proven to soothe the skin of rosacea patients, such as moisturisers rich in rosehip, coconut oil, aloe vera, or jojoba oil. Natural rosacea treatment products tend to be less irritating to rosacea-prone skin and are a low cost, readily available alternative to prescriptions that might disrupt gut bacteria and make matters worse.

  1. Manage stress levels

Stress is one of the most common triggers of rosacea that can bring on flare-ups. Try your best to control stress in your life. Stress worsens autoimmune reactions and inflammation which will lead to even more exaggerated flare ups.

Fully understanding rosacea and how to manage your flare ups is key. It gives you a sense of power over your flare ups that can help minimise stress and the consequent flare ups it causes.

Try lots of stress-reducing activities that can enhance your life in all kinds of ways like transcendental meditation, yoga, or walks in the woods. All of these are proven ways to banish stress, balance hormones, and heal the body from stress.

  1. Look for and eliminate any and all possible irritants: especially detergents, cosmetics, scented cleaning products and fabric softeners.

When you are diagnosed with rosacea you have to pay attention to what’s in your environment and limit your exposure to chemicals of all kinds because if they’re everywhere, how will you ever determine what’s causing your flare-ups? This is why you want to log everything you eat, drink, any cosmetics you are using, any products that contain irritants, harsh chemicals when you wash your clothes and if that detergent causes a breakout. You need to keep a note of literally everything. You will have certain things that are specific to you that cause your rosacea flare-ups that you might not even have read about. Once you know all of them you can avoid flare-ups altogether.

  1. Get tested for all allergies

All kinds of allergies can trigger rosacea from food allergies to pollen and even sun allergies. You need to know all the possible things for you that can cause flare-ups so you can avoid them. Get tested for food, environmental, and synthetic allergies of all kinds.

  1. Try supplements and essential oils that can help rosacea

Many herbal supplements and essential oils can help fight inflammation that is the root cause of rosacea.

Some of the best essential oils and plant-based extracts to look to care for your skin are

  • rosehip oil

  • aloe vera

  • jojoba oil

  • coconut oil

  • raw honey

  • ginger

  • lavender

  • chamomile

  • rose

  • rosemary

These herbs and plants have all been found to fight skin inflammation and help treat sensitive skin.

To use essential oils to treat inflamed skin, simply rub three drops of essential oil mixed with a carrier oil such as coconut or jojoba.

starter-kit

griffin+row skincare products are made from a cocktail of the purest plant-based extracts and natural oils, including aloe vera, jojoba oil, lavender, rose extract, rosemary extract, rosehip oil and more. If suffering from rosacea, you should look at griffin+row Nourish and Enrich in particular, which are our two moisturisers.


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  2. Mercola. (2009). A misunderstood skin condition that’s sweeping the baby boom generation.
    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/08/01/A-Misunderstood-Skin-Condition-Sweeping-the-Baby-Boom-Generation.aspx

  3. Everyday Health. Famous faces with rosacea. http://www.everydayhealth.com/rosacea-pictures/famous-faces-with-rosacea.aspx#05
  4. Szlachcic, Al. (2002). The link between helicobacteria pylori infection and rosacea. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology,16(4):328-33.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12224687
  5. National Rosacea Society. Now Widely Recognized, Rosacea Was First Noted in 14th Century. https://www.rosacea.org/rr/1996/winter/article_1.php
  6. Wheeler, R. Dr. P. Bass III. The h-pylori-rosacea connection. http://www.everydayhealth.com/rosacea/the-h-pylori-rosacea-connection.aspx
    [7] Metrus, L. (2017). The rosacea diet: what to eat and not eat for calm, happy skin.http://www.byrdie.com/rosacea-diet

  7. American Academy of dermatology. Rosacea. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne-and-rosacea/rosacea
  8. Yamasaki, K. et. al. (2007). Increased serine protease activity and cathelicidin promotes skin inflammation in rosacea. Nature Medicine, 13:975-980. http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v13/n8/full/nm1616.html
  9. Stanislaw, J. et. al. (2012). A Potential role of Demodex mites and bacteria in the induction of rosacea. Journal of Medical Microbiology 61: 1504-1510.
    http://jmm.microbiologyresearch.org/content/journal/jmm/10.1099/jmm.0.048090-0

  10. National Rosacea Society. Causes of rosacea: neurovascular system.
    https://www.rosacea.org/patients/causes/neurovascularsystem

  11. The link between Helicobacter pylori infection and rosacea. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venerology, 16(4):328-33. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12224687
  12. Zandi, S. et. al. Helicobacter pylori and rosacea. East Mediterrean Health Journal, 9(1-2):167-71.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15562747
  13. Mark’s Daily Apple. How I lost 40 pounds and banished rosacea using primal principles.
    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-i-lost-40-pounds-and-banished-rosacea-using-primal-principles/

  14. National Rosacea Society. What causes rosacea. https://www.rosacea.org/patients/materials/understanding/causes.php\
  15. National Rosacea Society. Exercise may cause flare ups but can be controlled.
    https://www.rosacea.org/rr/2013/spring/article_3.php

  16. National Rosacea Society. The sun.
    https://www.rosacea.org/tags/sun

  17. National Rosacea Society. All about rosacea. https://www.rosacea.org/patients/allaboutrosacea.php
  18. Mind body green. 9 foods for the ultimate anti-ifnlammatory diet. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-22607/11-food-rules-for-the-ultimate-anti-inflammatory-diet.html