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Rosacea 101

curious about rosacea?

If you suspect that you have rosacea, you're far from alone. Rosacea affects an estimated 16 million Americans. However, many people who have rosacea don't understand that their facial redness, acne-like blemishes, or other symptoms may actually be related to this common and treatable condition.

1. Rosacea is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition

FACTS: Rosacea is a vascular and inflammatory condition that is characterized by facial flare-ups and periods of remission. Researchers are still trying to pinpoint the exact cause of rosacea, but the immune system, genetics, and a mite that lives on the skin are some of the factors that may play a role. There are 4 types of rosacea, so depending on your specific condition, typical signs and symptoms may include:

  • A tendency to blush or flush easily
  • Persistent facial redness
  • Bumps or pimples on the face
  • Dry, tight, or itchy facial skin
  • A burning or stinging sensation in the face
  • Redness or thickening skin on the cheeks, nose, chin, or forehead
  • Small visible blood vessels on the face
  • Watery, bloodshot, or irritated eyes or swollen eyelids

Although rosacea can affect anyone, people over the age of 30 with fair skin and a family history of similar symptoms tend to be most at risk.

Think you may have rosacea? Take the quiz.

2. Rosacea usually includes redness

FACTS: True to its rosy name, rosacea's most common symptom is frequent flushing or ever-present facial redness. In fact, a recent study showed that 87% of rosacea sufferers experienced flushing or redness of cheeks, chin, or nose.

Get tips to help avoid irritating sensitive rosacea skin.

3. Rosacea is often confused with acne

FACTS: Rosacea is sometimes referred to as "adult acne," but rosacea has its own set of symptoms, triggers, and treatments. In fact, it is a distinctly different and often a more serious condition than acne vulgaris, which most commonly occurs during adolescence. While both conditions can cause pimples, rosacea requires different therapy because acne treatments can make it worse, and the chronic nature of rosacea symptoms means it rarely goes away by itself.

  • Unlike acne, rosacea occurs most often in adults between the ages of 30 and 50
  • While acne-like bumps and pustules are common in some types of rosacea, other symptoms like persistent redness, enlarged blood vessels, and thickened skin are unique to rosacea
  • Squeezing a rosacea pimple will typically only make a small amount of clear liquid come out. Unlike acne, where professional extractions can help remove whiteheads and blackheads, squeezing or extracting rosacea bumps does not help improve the rosacea
  • Many acne medicines are just too harsh for the sensitive skin of rosacea, and may, in fact, make rosacea worse
  • Rosacea is usually only found on your face, however it can also affect the eyes, whereas acne often affects the face, chest and back

See rosacea symptoms and what it can look like.

4. Rosacea affects certain groups more than others

FACTS: People of every gender, age, and ethnicity can get rosacea, but some groups seem to have a higher chance of getting it.

  • Oh, the luck of the Irish! People of all skin colors and nationalities can get rosacea, but if you are of Irish, German, or English ancestry and have fair skin, there’s a good chance you also have rosacea.
  • A family history of rosacea makes it more likely that you or other family members will have it too.
  • More women than men have rosacea, but severe symptoms like skin thickening occur more often in men.
  • People of any age can get it, but rosacea tends to first appear in middle age, between the ages of 30 and 50.

Watch dermatologists talk about rosacea.

5. Rosacea has trigger factors

FACTS: The exact cause of rosacea is unknown, though we do know that flare-ups can be provoked by a wide range of environmental, physical, and emotional factors. Rosacea triggers vary from person to person, but often include spending time in the sun, eating spicy foods, drinking alcohol, and stress. Learning to identify your triggers can help keep your rosacea symptoms in check.

Learn to identify your rosacea triggers.

6. Rosacea's impact can be more than physical

FACTS: With visible symptoms that can be hard to self-diagnose, it is easy to see why rosacea leaves many feeling self-conscious and isolated. In fact, many people feel that the condition affects their self-esteem to the point where they avoid public situations or even cancel plans.

If rosacea is affecting your quality of life, it’s important to know that support and treatment are available.

Learn about rosacea treatments.

7. Rosacea can't be cured, but it can be TREATED

Throughout this site, you’ll notice we stress one action above all: visit your dermatologist. That’s because rosacea can get worse if left untreated. Only a doctor can diagnose this condition and get you on the path to clearer skin.

Ready to see a dermatologist?
Learn about prescription options.

Because rosacea is a vascular condition, the first symptom is often flushing, especially after showering, exercising, or eating spicy foods.