Hi! What are your favorite skin-care and makeup products for rosacea? Thank you!
Kathleen, my fellow rosacea sufferer, I’m about to do that annoying advice-columnist thing where I bring up another issue tangentially related to your original question and focus on that first. But hold tight and we’ll get to the products! It’s just that changing the way I eat (specifically: eliminating artificial sweeteners and eating less sugar) has improved my rosacea way more than rubbing stuff on my face. And, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, trying to find the right stuff to rub on your face can often make your condition worse.
Rosacea is a bit of a medical mystery. Dermatologists diagnose it based on signs and symptoms — such as persistent redness, frequent flushing, a burning sensation, and visible blood vessels — that vary greatly between patients, and there’s no definitive cause. But researchers have found two areas of the human genome that are linked to rosacea, and there’s a grab bag of unpleasant conditions that are correlated with it, including an overgrowth of skin mites, a hyperactive immune system, neurogenic inflammation, and a bacterial imbalance in the small intestine. Sexy, right?
If you see a dermatologist for help with your rosacea (a very good idea, btw), they’ll probably give you a list of foods that may cause your rosacea to flare up. It’s comically long and often includes hot beverages, spicy stuff, and alcohol (yes, white wine too), as well as citrus, plums, peas, avocados, aged meats, cheese, vanilla, and … more. Everybody’s food triggers are unique, and it’s an annoying process to figure out yours — but I think it’s worth the time. In a survey of 400 rosacea patients, 95 percent of those who changed their diet experienced fewer flare-ups!
You could start by eliminating the most common rosacea food triggers, but I had to dig deeper. After my initial experiments with this rosacea diet from board-certified dermatologist Rajani Katta, M.D., I thought hot coffee was the issue. But then I tried a ridiculously restrictive elimination diet and realized the Splenda in my coffee was actually the issue — and sugar wasn’t great, either. Dr. Katta says a high-sugar highly processed diet affects the bacterial balance in the gut, and there has been some evidence that artificial sweeteners disrupt the gut microbiome too. “In a study of patients with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, known as SIBO, when they treated their SIBO, in almost every single one of them, their rosacea resolved,” says Dr. Katta. “So, affecting the gut microbiome might trigger the inflammation in rosacea — that’s the theory.” All I know is eliminating that yellow packet made a huge difference. And if I want my skin to look extra good, I cut back on sugar too.
Speaking of skin that looks extra good, let’s get to the products. Ramya Garlapati, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles, suggests that people with rosacea avoid potentially irritating ingredients like “alcohol, fragrances, alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid, and urea — to name a few.” Fragrances don’t typically bother me, but my no-no list also includes exfoliating acids, retinoids, and ascorbic acid (vitamin C), which all seem to make me redder. Instead, I lean into moisturizing skin care (rosacea-prone skin tends to be dryer), and my makeup is a strategic cover-up act.
Here goes: I wash with a soothing, not-too-foamy face cleanser or balm (I’m currently into Paula’s Choice Ultra-Gentle Cleanser and Shani Darden Cleansing Serum). Since I can’t do retinoids, I get all my line-reducing and texture-improving needs met with SkinMedica TNS Advanced Serum, which also seems to help with the redness (the key ingredient is a growth-factor blend, but it also has the anti-inflammatory probiotic lactococcus ferment lysate). Then, instead of a vitamin C serum, I get my protective antioxidants and skin brightening in a more hydrating form: PillowTalkDerm Major Fade Active Seal, which has a type of vitamin C (tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate) that causes less sensitivity. In the morning, I finish with sunscreen (the new Krave Beauty Beet the Sun SPF 40 is great). But at night, I throw a face oil on top. If my rosacea is flaring, I use one that contains only fatty carrier oils — not essential oils, which can be irritating. A few of my favorites are: Le Prunier Plum Oil, Trilogy Rosehip Oil, and Shea Terra Organics Egyptian Carrot Seed Oil.
For makeup, It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better Foundation is usually enough to cover the redness. But if you’re not into foundation, try Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment SPF 30. Dr. Garlapati says its green undertone “can cancel out the redness, which is a convenient way to mask rosacea cosmetically.” But be warned: It only works on beige-y skin tones and leaves a cast on those with lighter or darker skin. If you have light skin, try Erborian’s color corrector, CC Red Correct. If you have dark skin and rosacea, skip the color corrector and go for a tinted moisturizer with some coverage (the Cut’s beauty director Maya Allen loves Nars Tinted Moisturizer).
Lastly, and I know this is controversial: I swipe on red lipstick. People with rosacea are always scared of putting red anywhere near their faces, but I think the color is a sublime deception: If I had rosacea, would I be wearing a bold, red lip?! Besides, if everybody is looking at my mouth, they’re probably not going to notice my flushed nose or the squiggly veins near my nostrils. So, feel free to steal that trick (and find your perfect red lipstick here). But before you start adding things to your cart, at least consider identifying your diet triggers. Once you’ve adjusted the way you eat, you may not even need beauty products to feel great in your skin.
My Skin-Care Routine for Rosacea
Makeup Products for Covering Redness
Jennifer Sullivan answers all your beauty-related questions with practical advice and zero judgment. Send your questions to AskABeautyEditor@nymag.com. (By emailing, you agree to the terms here.)
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