April is Rosacea Awareness Month

With April being Rosacea Awareness Month, we are shedding some more light on this often overlooked, but common, skin disorder. It is a condition that causes significant embarrassment and distressing symptoms to those that have it.

Rosacea is a chronic disorder that primarily affects the face. It causes sustained inflammation or redness, and is associated with visibly enlarged blood vessels, red spots and pus-filled bumps. The skin becomes sensitive to commonly used skincare and cosmetic products. Rosacea may also affect your eyelids and eyes.

Rosacea affects all skin types, but those with lighter skin are more commonly affected. It usually starts around middle age, and women tend to be affected more often. Rosacea most likely results from a combination of factors including the way your immune system behaves, your genetic background, and environmental factors (such as prolonged sunlight exposure with resultant skin damage). It is important to remember that rosacea is not infectious.

There are many well-known triggers that can cause a rosacea flare-up. Some of these triggers are drinking alcohol, consuming spicy food, exercising, being exposed to high temperatures or having a hot drink.

One of rosacea’s main symptoms is flushing of your face, which can become permanent. Your face also becomes extremely sensitive to many skincare products, including makeup and sunscreens. Applying these products sparks an uncomfortable stinging or burning sensation. In ocular rosacea your eyes will appear red and you may feel pain or a rough sensation.

The exact clinical picture of rosacea varies, and the features often overlap. You may notice visibly increased redness of your face. Small red spots, and/or bumps filled with pus (pustules), start to appear on your face. Facial blood vessels become dilated, or widened, and are prominent. The nose can become thickened and abnormally shaped, with enlarged pores.  This is more commonly seen in men and is called rhinophyma.

There is no specific test for rosacea. If you concerned about it see your dermatologist who will ask you questions and carefully examine your skin. You will be referred to an eye specialist if the eye is affected.

Various treatment options exist, including:

  • Specific medicated creams or gels which are applied to the skin;
  • Courses of very specific oral antibiotics;
  • Vascular lasers and intense pulsed light therapy; and
  • Plastic surgery or carbon dioxide laser for rhinophyma.


How to look after your skin if you have rosacea:

  • Avoid any known triggers (such as eating spicy food).
  • Avoid sun exposure and choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher that offers both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Sunscreens that contain inorganic filters like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are generally safer.
  • Moisturisers containing ingredients such as petrolatum or glycerin can help to restore your skin barrier.
  • Use lukewarm water to wash your face.
  • Gently apply a soap-free cleanser by using your fingertips.
  • Avoid toners and harsh exfoliators.
  • Avoid harsh cosmetic skin procedures.
  • Avoid cosmetic products containing fragrance, menthols, eucalyptus oil, peppermint, camphor, witch hazel and alcohol.

Dr. Johann de Wet is a top skin specialist in Stellenbosch where he also specializes in Rosacea treatment.