Rid Your Face of Redness

Treatment options for rosacea

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that affects adults. Although it may make you feel self-conscious, you are not the only one to deal with rosacea. Even Bill Clinton and Princess Diana have battled with the condition.

Rosacea makes your face turn red and produces small, pus-filled sores that can look like acne. Inflammation can make your small blood vessels visible from under the skin. It can also affect your eyes.

Even though rosacea is harmless, it still can cause some patients to feel embarrassed. If the condition goes untreated, it can get worse over time. Luckily, there are ways to treat it and keep sores and redness at bay.

There is no cure for rosacea. However, treatments are designed to manage and diminish symptoms. If you are experiencing redness of the face, this article - along with the help of your doctor - will give you some guidance on how to deal with your condition.

What is rosacea?

Rosacea is characterized by inflammation of the skin on your face. It is a chronic condition, meaning it is a long-term problem that comes in episodes.

There is no known cause of rosacea, but some people are more prone to the condition than others. Rosacea usually affects people between 30 and 50 years of age. While men usually have more severe symptoms, women and fair-skinned people have a higher risk of developing the condition. Alcohol consumption and certain foods have also been linked to rosacea and rosacea flare-ups.

The primary symptoms of rosacea include:

  • Redness of the face
  • Small, puss-filled, acne-like bumps
  • Visible, spider-like blood vessels on your nose and cheeks (telangiectasia)
  • Red, bulbous nose (rhinophyma)
  • Burning, watery eyes (ocular rosacea)
  • Burning or stinging sensation in the face

When rosacea affects the eyes, it is called ocular rosacea. This condition may cause the eyes to become irritated, watery, or bloodshot. The inside of the eyelids also can become swollen and appear scaly, a condition called conjunctivitis.

Rosacea does not go away on its own. If left untreated, the condition tends to get worse over time. So, if you are experiencing the symptoms above, it may be time to see a doctor or a skin specialist (dermatologist). These experts can provide you with a diagnosis and the treatment you need. It is important to work with your doctor or dermatologist when treating rosacea, especially because many over-the-counter skin products contain ingredients that can make your symptoms worse.

How do I treat rosacea?

There is no way to totally rid yourself of rosacea. However, taking the proper steps can reduce signs and symptoms.

Effective treatment usually involves some combination of drug therapy and lifestyle changes. Your doctor may suggest using certain skin products while recommending against others. You may also need to avoid certain triggers, such as hot weather or spicy foods.

The point of treatment is to reduce flare-ups and get your skin looking healthy again.


Your doctor will most likely prescribe two types of medications: topical (lotions, creams, and gels) and oral (pills, capsules, and tablets) medications.

Oral antibiotics are commonly used to treat rosacea. Even though antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria, doctors prescribe them to rosacea patients for their anti-inflammatory properties. In other words, antibiotics can reduce the swelling associated with rosacea. Oral antibiotics also work faster than topical treatments.

Commonly prescribed oral antibiotics for rosacea include:

Isotretinoin may be used in severe cases of inflammatory rosacea where other medications fail. Isotretinoin - which is sold under the brand names Accutane, Amnesteem, Claravis, and Sotret - is usually prescribed to patients with severe acne. This drug works by stopping the production of oil from glands in the skin.

Although isotretinoin may reduce skin sores, it can lead to some serious side effects. Patients who are taking this drug need to be watched closely by their dermatologist because of the possibility of depression, suicide, bone pain, joint pain, skin infection, and rash. Isotretinoin also can cause birth defects. As such, if you plan on getting pregnant or already are pregnant, then you should stop taking this drug immediately.

Topical medications - or prescription-strength lotions or gels - are used frequently in the treatment of rosacea. Applying these medications to your skin once or twice a day may reduce the redness and swelling caused by your rosacea. You may need to use topical medications along with your oral medications in order to stop a flare-up. You may also need topical medications to prevent symptoms from returning.

Commonly prescribed topical medications include:

Lifestyle Changes

It is important to realize that your struggle with rosacea is not going away. You may need to make some lifelong changes to your lifestyle in order to prevent redness and sores from reappearing.

Your doctor can help you pinpoint those things, or triggers, that make your symptoms worse. Steering clear of your triggers is key to preventing future flare-ups of rosacea.

Here are some tips for preventing flare-ups and relieving symptoms:

  • Avoid overexposure to the sun
  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or above every day
  • Avoid doing too much activity in hot weather
  • Try reducing stress through activities like yoga and deep breathing
  • Avoid overeating
  • Limit your intake of spicy foods and hot beverages
  • Avoid drinking alcohol
  • Wear a scarf or ski mask to protect your face in cold weather
  • Wash irritated areas with a gentle soap or cleanser
  • Do not use skin products with alcohol or other irritants
  • Wait until your topical medication has dried before applying a moisturizer
  • Use noncomedogenic skin products, as they will not clog your pores
  • If you wear makeup, use products that fight skin redness, such as green-tinted and yellow-tinted pre-foundation creams and powders

The things that trigger your flare-ups may be different than those for other rosacea patients. Keeping track of those triggers can help you avoid them and prevent future flare-ups.


In some cases, doctors may recommend surgery for rosacea patients. Laser surgery and electrosurgery can remove visible blood vessels, reduce extensive redness, and correct disfigurement caused by tissue buildup around the nose.

In the end, your treatment will depend on your personal situation. While certain medications may work for some patients, they may pose certain threats to your health. Depending on your condition, you may need only to change some aspects of your lifestyle to keep your symptoms at bay. It is up to you and your doctor to figure out the right combination of treatment to get your face looking healthy and smooth once again. 

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Last Updated:
August 12, 2013