Plus, how to avoid them.

By Tolu Ajiboye
Updated December 20, 2018

Anyone with rosacea knows it’s important not to aggravate your red, sensitive skin.

The skin condition causes redness and flushing, as well as sometimes pimple-like bumps or thickened skin. While it usually manifests on the face, rosacea can actually affect any part of the body. In more severe cases, rosacea can even lead to some eye problems. There’s no cure for rosacea; for most people, it is a long-term condition that can be managed with the right treatment.

Rosacea is sometimes mixed up with other conditions like allergies or acne, but there are actually different types of rosacea itself, which can make a diagnosis tricky. “An individual may exhibit just one type or, more often, a combination of any of the four types,” board-certified dermatologist Susan Bard, MD, tells Health.

Experts don’t fully understand what causes rosacea, but it is known that it runs in families. Managing rosacea is centered around avoiding flare-ups. And to avoid flare-ups, it’s important to know your triggers. Here are five things that can exacerbate rosacea—and how you can avoid them.

RELATED: The 4 Types of Rosacea–and How to Treat Them

Sunlight

Some people with rosacea have visible blood vessels under their reddened skin, and it’s thought that UV exposure from the sun might contribute to this, Dr. Bard says. “That heat may lead to further dilation of these vessels.”

She recommends avoiding direct sun exposure. “Wearing sun-protective clothing like hats and consistent sunscreen use is vital for those that can't avoid being outdoors,” she says. (Reminder: Look for an SPF of at least 30 and reapply regularly.) “I prefer mineral rather than chemical sunscreen for rosacea patients, as their skin is often sensitive and can be irritated by chemical sunscreens,” Dr. Bard adds.

Diet

Spicy foods, hot beverages, and alcohol are on a lengthy list of diet-related items that might exacerbate rosacea symptoms, Dr. Bard explains.

While your morning Joe would certainly fall into the hot beverage category, 2018 research found that coffee-drinkers were actually less likely to suffer from rosacea. “Coffee is known to decrease vasodilation and have immunosuppressant effects, which may potentially decrease the risk of rosacea,” the study authors wrote in their paper. “However the heat from coffee may be a trigger for rosacea flares.”

If you have rosacea, consider keeping track of the foods you eat—and which ones appear to cause flare-ups—to figure out what to stay away from.

RELATED: How Coffee Could Help Calm Your Rosacea

Stress

Emotional stress is one of the leading triggers of rosacea flare-ups, according to the National Rosacea Society (NRS). While it’s almost impossible to do away with stress entirely, you don't have to constantly live with it. Meditating or participating in other relaxing activities like yoga may help you keep stress levels in check. Getting enough sleep and maintaining a strong support network of friends and family can also help you feel less stressed.

Exercise

Exercise is an integral part of staying healthy, of course. However, for many people with rosacea, exercise commonly triggers flare-ups. The key is to avoid strenuous and high-impact exercises like jogging and running. “Stick with lower-impact exercise such as yoga or swimming,” Dr. Bard says. “Make sure to exercise in a cool room so you don't overheat, and bring a spray bottle of cool water.”

Skincare and hair products

Certain ingredients found in skin and hair products are too harsh for sensitive skin and can aggravate rosacea symptoms. Avoid products with ingredients like alcohol, fragrance, sodium lauryl sulfate, menthol, and lactic acid, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Witch hazel, peppermint oil, and eucalyptus oil may also trigger rosacea, according to the NRS. “Rosacea-prone skin is sensitive skin, so use gentle products,” Dr. Bard says.

Stick to fragrance-free and hypoallergenic products, and always patch-test any new skin or hair product you want to incorporate into your regimen.

RELATED: The Best Anti-Aging Products for People With Rosacea (That Won't Irritate Skin)

Certain medications

Vasodilator drugs, used to treat high blood pressure and other conditions, open up the blood vessels, which can trigger rosacea flare-ups. Go over the list of any medications you're taking with your dermatologist to figure out if they are compatible with your rosacea or to see if there are suitable alternatives. Topical steroids may also aggravate rosacea symptoms, according to the NRS.

Keep in mind that if you have rosacea, you’re not alone: A recent study estimated around 5% of the adult population worldwide is affected by it. While most cases of rosacea are mild, it’s still worth talking to your doctor about your symptoms and triggers.

To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter