Rosacea: What is it and how can you manage it?

Back to Basics: Don’t waste time or money having facials or peels – seek medical advice

Paler, sensitive Celtic skin can be especially prone to rosacea, and while most people might overlook the skin condition as simply redness in the complexion, it is much more complicated than that. If you have been struggling to manage it – according to the HSE, as many as one in 10 Irish people have rosacea – or experienced dismissive attitudes, you're certainly not alone.

I turned to consultant dermatologist at the Blackrock Clinic's Centre for Restorative Dermatology, Dr Rosemary Coleman, for some clarity on what rosacea actually is, and how it can be managed.

"Rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition," she says. Far from what your granny might have described as just "high colour", rosacea manifests as "spots, lumps, bumps, new blood vessel formation and sometimes enlargement of the nose and thickening of the skin. It most commonly affects the centre of the face." Coleman says the condition is called "the curse of the Celts" for a reason – we are genetically predisposed to it, which is why it is so common in Ireland.

If you notice increased blood vessels, skin sensitivity, roughness, spots and bumps, and dry, flaky skin, you might well be suffering with rosacea

“If you notice increased blood vessels, skin sensitivity, roughness, spots and bumps, and dry, flaky skin” mostly in the central area of your face, Coleman advises, “you might well be suffering with rosacea.” It can even affect your eyelids.


If you are experiencing symptoms, Coleman says the first stop should be your GP or dermatologist. “Don’t waste time or money having facials, peels and beauty treatments,” she says. Rosacea is a medical condition – the best way to figure out how to manage it is to get the advice of a medical professional who can assess your skin. She recommends doing this sooner rather than later to minimise damage.

There are steps you can take at home, however. A high level of sun protection is important, Coleman confirms, and proper cleansing is essential – “Remove facial cleansers at night with a facecloth and water, not cotton balls or pads as these leave a film of cleanser on your skin. This allows the overgrowth of a mite called Demodex Folliculorum, which can cause flare-ups of Rosacea.”

Yes, apparently most of us have microscopic mites living on our skin, though that is probably a topic for another column. Heavy creams and oils should be avoided if you have rosacea, while fragrance-free pharmacy skincare brands offer gentle ranges especially for sensitive, rosacea- and redness-prone skin.

If you’re feeling down about the effects of rosacea on your skin, like broken blood vessels, Coleman says: “Laser therapy will remove them, while topical medications and oral tablets will stop the inflammation.” If it is causing distress or discomfort, rosacea isn’t something you simply have to put up with. To prevent flare-ups, Coleman says that apart from proper, thorough cleansing, avoiding sun exposure can help, as can avoiding some spicy, histamine-rich foods and alcohol. She advises against applying steroid creams without medical supervision, as this can make things worse.

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