What causes rosacea? Dermatologists and skin experts give us the lowdown

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  • When you have a persistent skin condition, all you really want to know is what causes it and how can I treat it? In terms of rosacea treatment, you can arm yourself with the correct skincare routine, make the necessary changes to your lifestyle and use the best make-up for rosacea to ease your symptoms and neutralise the redness. But when it comes to the cause, it’s a slightly trickier question to answer. So we asked dermatologists and skincare experts, what causes rosacea?

    What causes rosacea?

    Rather annoyingly, there isn’t really a known route cause of rosacea. ‘We don’t know the exact cause, but we do know is that there are several things that can increase your risk of having it,’ says Dr Kemi Fabusiwa, aka Dr Fab, founder of the Joyful Skin clinic. ‘Those who are most at risk are fair-skinned women between the ages of 20 and 50, but actually anybody can have it. Risk factors for rosacea that you can control include alcohol, spicy foods, UV radiation from the sun and your levels of stress.’

    ‘There are many potential contributing factors [of rosacea]; an impaired skin barrier can allow irritants to enter the skin, causing inflammation. Free radical damage can also play a part in intensifying inflammation,’ explains Daniel Isaacs, Director of Research at Medik8. ‘That’s why we advise those with rosacea to implement daily sun protection (something like the best facial sunscreens) as well as anti-pollution skincare in their regimes.

    ‘Abnormalities in blood flow through facial blood vessels can cause flushing and persistent redness, and having a family member with rosacea may also make you more prone to developing the condition. Rosacea has also been linked to certain bacteria found in the gut, which may play a role in developing it.’

    Medical and cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross agrees that lifestyle habits play a big part in it. He has seen a spike in the issue as a result of people wearing masks, thanks to Covid-19. ‘Recent studies have found that masks can cause those with pre-existing rosacea to flare up as the fabric rubs and irritates the skin.’

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    Rosacea triggers

    To those that suffer from rosacea, ‘what are my triggers?’ is probably a more important question than ‘what causes rosacea’? Lex Gillies was diagnosed with rosacea when she was 21. She blogs about skincare and nail art as Talonted Lex and is a rosacea ambassador for the British Skin Foundation. ‘Over time, I have identified most of my triggers and learned to remove them or minimise them as much as possible – which is often easier said than done!’ she says.

    ‘My main trigger is definitely stress. And although I’ve made some changes to reduce my stress levels – including leaving a very intense job – some stress is unavoidable.

    ‘My other triggers are common ones,’ she adds. ‘Extremes of temperature – hot showers, the hair dryer – the sun, air conditioning, alcohol, hot drinks, and certain skincare ingredients. It was a long process to isolate what makes my skin unhappy. It was also hard to accept such drastic changes to my lifestyle.

    ‘At times it felt insurmountable, but I’ve found a great balance with my rosacea. If I want a huge plate of cheese or a glass of wine after a bad day, I’ll weigh up that need against how my skin will react. Sometimes it’s worth it, sometimes it’s not. But once you know your skin better, it gives you the control to choose how you deal with it.’

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