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Tracking Your Rosacea Symptom Triggers
Exercise, very cold or hot weather, and lifestyle and environmental factors can trigger rosacea symptoms. Identifying triggers can help you prevent rosacea flare-ups.
By Regina Boyle Wheeler
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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Physical activity, heat, stress, and certain foods and drinks can trigger rosacea symptoms, like a flushed face. But what causes flare-ups — more intense outbreaks of red skin and pimples or bumps — varies from person to person. An important key to managing this troublesome skin condition is to identify and avoid your personal rosacea symptom triggers, whenever possible.
Along with the proper treatment, steering clear of rosacea triggers can keep the condition from getting worse. Keeping a list or journal of what causes your face to flush or break out will help you and your doctor spot patterns.
Rosacea Trigger No. 1: The Weather
Sun exposure, humidity, hot or cold weather, and wind are common rosacea symptom triggers. If weather is a problem for you, here are ways to avoid the red skin of rosacea:
- Protect your skin from the sun.Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher all year. In the summer, wear a broad-brimmed hat and stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Keep cool.Try to stay in air conditioned spaces when it’s hot and humid outside. If you can’t stay indoors, try to lower your skin temperature by sipping a cool drink or sucking on ice chips and spraying cool water on your face.
- Combat the cold.In the winter, stay out of the cold as much as possible. When you must go outside, cover your nose and mouth with a scarf and wear a hat. Use moisturizer during the winter to keep your skin from drying out.
Rosacea Trigger No. 2: Stress
Does your rosacea flare up when you are stressed out? Emotional stress is a common rosacea symptom trigger. Here are some ways to reduce stress and help avoid red skin, bumps, and blemishes:
- Take care of yourself.Get enough sleep, eat right, and do moderate exercise.
- Learn to relax.Deep breathing and yoga can reduce stress. Visualizing something pleasurable, like a beautiful vacation spot, can calm you down, too.
- Get a dog or cat.Pets can reduce stress in many people.
Rosacea Trigger No. 3: Food and Drink
Alcohol, spicy foods, and hot beverages are three top food and drink culprits that can cause a flushed face. Here are some ways to keep your diet “rosacea-friendly:”
- Turn down the heat.Reducing the temperature of hot beverages or soups may be all it takes to reduce flare-ups.
- Avoid alcohol.If drinking causes symptoms, cut it out. If you don’t want to become a teetotaler, cut down or change what you are drinking. For example, if beer or wine causes a flushed face, try gin, vodka, or whiskey mixed with very cold water.
- Watch your spices.Cayenne, chili powder, salsa, and white, black, and red pepper are common rosacea symptom triggers.
Rosacea patients report a variety of foods that trigger their individual symptoms. Additional common culprits include:
- Soy sauce
- Cheese, yogurt, and sour cream
- Citrus fruits
- Yeast extract (MSG)
- Spinach, avocados, and eggplant
If histamine in foods like aged cheeses and soy sauce is a trigger for you, taking an antihistamine a couple of hours before a meal can help. If niacin-rich foods, such as liver, cause problems, an aspirin may be effective.
Rosacea Trigger No. 4: Exercise
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but overheating when you exercise can be a real problem for people if you have rosacea. Moderation is the key:
- Break up your routine.Try three 15-minute sessions a day instead of one 45-minute session to reduce overheating.
- Tone it down.Replace high-intensity workouts like running or cycling, which can bring on flushing, with lower-intensity exercises such as walking or yoga.
- Keep cool inside or out.If you exercise outdoors, go during brisk morning or cool evening hours. When exercising indoors, make sure the room is well ventilated. Stay hydrated and consider draping a cool cloth around your neck.
- Skip the steam room or sauna after a workout.
Other Rosacea Symptom Triggers
Everyday items and even the common cold can act as a trigger for a rosacea symptom:
- Check your makeup case.Some cosmetics or skin care products can make your skin condition worse, not better. Ingredients such as alcohol, witch hazel, peppermint, clove oil, and eucalyptus oil may burn and irritate the skin.
- Stay on top of your health.Fevers, coughs, and colds can cause flushing, as can menopausal hot flashes. High blood pressure can trigger flare-ups, too.
- Check your medicine cabinet.Vasodilator drugs used to treat heart disease by dilating blood vessels can cause “vasodilator rosacea.” Topical steroids applied to the face can aggravate rosacea or induce rosacea-like symptoms.
With proper skin care routine and by identifying and avoiding your unique triggers, you can help keep your skin looking its best every day.
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