The Guy’s Guide to Rosacea
From symptoms to skincare tips, learn everything you need to know about being a dude with this skin condition.
Let’s face it (pardon our pun): Most of the skincare advice out there on the Internet targets women, so you might not know where to start when it comes to managing skin issues. One of those potential problems? Rosacea, a chronic skin condition that mainly affects the face. So listen up, gentlemen—if you’re struggling with this often frustrating condition, we’ve got you: We asked experts to tell us how rosacea uniquely affects men and to share the best skincare and treatment tips for dealing with it.
First, a quick primer on rosacea. It’s a chronic skin condition mainly affecting the face—think rosy cheeks, chin, and nose. In people with darker skin tones, however, the flares may look more violet (less pink). Rosacea may also appear as pimples and bumps, or even visible blood vessels. Researchers think rosacea is caused by inflammation in the body and problems in the immune system, according to the National Rosacea Society. Most of the time, symptoms first show up after age 30.
While there’s no cure, there are effective treatments your dermatologist can prescribe to help you get your rosacea under control. The most common ones are creams and gels that are applied directly to your skin to reduce discoloration and bumps, antibiotics (either oral or topical), and laser therapy.
Does Rosacea Affect Men Differently Than Women?
The short answer here is yes—gender can impact your experience with rosacea. Feelings of embarrassment are incredibly common for people with rosacea, regardless of gender, per the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD)—but because of unfair cultural gender norms, many men may not feel comfortable speaking up about issues like rosacea that can affect their appearance and confidence.
“Men tend to tolerate rosacea a little more, so often go undiagnosed or untreated, whether that is more societal or just nature of the disease,” says Daniel Bach, M.D., a dermatologist at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. “Many just live with [the symptoms].”
That said, men can be treated for these problems, so don’t think you have to suck it up and deal—especially if you’re in pain or discomfort, Dr. Bach adds. Regardless of whether you’re in pain, you deserve treatment for your rosacea if you want it, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed. “Knowing treatments can work with the guidance of a dermatologist means you do not always have to settle for having ruddy cheeks or bumps on the skin if you don’t want to.”
Rosacea also tends to manifest differently in men versus women, with men being more likely to experience a type of rosacea called rhinophyma.
Rhinophyma is a later-stage type of rosacea, mainly affecting the nose, that’s less common than the other subtypes. Men are between five and 30 times more likely than women to have rhinophyma, and it most commonly affects white men over 50, according to a 2020 article in the journal Facial Plastic Surgery. Doctors used to think that rhinophyma was the result of drinking too much alcohol, but turns out that’s not the case, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Drinkers and non-drinkers alike get rhinophyma at the same rates. There may be other reasons for the gender difference, though.
“The thought is that men typically have significantly more oil glands in their face, with the nose having a greater number localized there, which is why men are thought to get it more,” Dr. Bach explains.
In rhinophyma, increased inflammation leads to thickening of the skin on the face, says Jessica Gandy Labadie, M.D., from Northwestern Medicine in Chicago Department of Dermatology. Why that inflammation occurs is less clear, but it’s likely the result of multiple factors, including genetics, environmental triggers, and microorganisms in the body.
The results of all that inflammation are the classic signs of rhinophyma: Redness, enlarged pores, and a bulbous nose due to skin thickening.
Early indications that you may be developing rhinophyma are any of the typical signs of rosacea (like redness and bumps on the face), as well as thickening of the skin around your nose or chin, says Dr. Labadie.
And it’s important to treat this type of rosacea as soon as possible because that skin thickening can become disfiguring over time if left to its own devices, leading to unwanted facial changes, says Dr. Bach.
Treatment for rhinophyma targets two main components: inflammation and skin thickening, Dr. Labadie says. “First you want to get rid of the inflammation, and that would be with an oral or topical antibiotic. Once it’s not inflamed, and if there’s thickening of the skin to the point where the nose is disfigured, we can treat that with laser surgery or just surgery in general.” Yep—plastic surgery can come into play here in more severe cases to remove excess skin and reshape the nose.
Unfortunately, none of these treatments are a cure, Dr. Labadie says. But with rhinophyma, after using a laser or other surgery to reshape the nose, you may be good to go for a long time. “However, it varies from person to person in terms of number of laser treatments and how often they are needed.” And remember, everyone’s rosacea is different, she reminds us—some men with well-managed rosacea may have long periods without symptoms flaring up.
In short, staying on top of your condition is super important when you have this type of rosacea. “Being proactive can help prevent disfiguration from rhinophyma,” says Dr. Bach. “Seeing a dermatologist early is important to get an accurate diagnosis and discuss the various preventative measures to minimize flares.”
Skincare Tips for Men With Rosacea
Whether you’re looking to combat redness or ease pain and discomfort, there are some skincare dos and don’ts you can learn that may help keep your rosacea in check and prevent flare-ups. Yes, skincare routines are for all genders! Here are the basics.
Do use gentle products. “Gentle skin care products are helpful to avoid flares as many men tend to use much harsher products thinking they work better for the skin, but they can do the opposite. More pain isn’t always more gain,” Dr. Bach says.
Clean your face with a mild and non-abrasive facial cleanser, the National Rosacea Society recommends. Rinse with lukewarm water and gently blot your face dry with a cotton towel—not a rough washcloth.
Do read your product labels before you buy. Make it a habit to scope out the ingredients list on a skincare product and test them on a small patch of skin on your neck before you go all in—things like fragrance, alcohol, menthol, witch hazel, peppermint, and eucalyptus oil may aggravate your skin, says the National Rosacea Society.
Don’t overdo time in the sun. Sun exposure is the top trigger for 81% of people with rosacea, says the National Rosacea Society. “Compared to women, men are much less likely to use sunscreen, so picking ones that are easiest to use to make it less big of a deal is key,” says Dr. Bach. “There are many more products that are designed to be gentle for men nowadays or easier-to-apply sunscreens to reduce the barrier in wanting to use them,” Dr. Bach says.
The National Rosacea Society recommends you look for mineral-based sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of at least 30. Look for a product specifically made for sensitive skin, and wear it every day, year-round—not just when you’re hitting the pool.
Do be careful shaving. “Shaving can aggravate if it irritates the skin or using products that can be harsh to the face, so optimizing skincare with gentle products or avoiding super-close shaving can help. Sometimes a trick is using an electric razor instead of a close mechanical razor, which can irritate the skin,” explains Dr. Bach.
Don’t drink too much alcohol. While drinking alcohol isn’t the cause of rosacea, in some people, drinking alcohol may trigger flare-ups, Dr. Bach says.
Do be careful with potential trigger foods. Chocolate and spicy foods may be a no-go if you’re trying to avoid rosacea flares since they can trigger flushing, says Dr. Bach. He knows, this is a major bummer: “Risk factors for all types of rosacea unfortunately include all the ‘fun things in life,’ as I like to say.”
Don’t let stress take over your life. Surprise, surprise—stress is bad for you! That includes your rosacea. Try to take steps to reduce stress in your life since it may trigger your flares, says the AAD.
Get to know your triggers and what works best for you, and know that it may not be the same as your buddy who has rosacea, too. Everyone is different. Remember—you don’t have to suffer in silence when you’re struggling with rosacea. A dermatologist can help you get the right treatment and learn to manage your condition—all so you can put your best face forward.
Stats on Rhinophyma Study: Facial Plastic Surgery. (2012). “Nuances in the management of rhinophyma.” pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22562574/
Rosacea Sunscreen Tips: Sunscreen for Rosacea. (2019). The National Rosacea Society. rosacea.org/patients/skin-care/sunscreen-for-rosacea
Rosacea Triggers: Skin Care, Trigger Management Can Help Control Rosacea. (2020). The American Academy of Dermatology. aad.org/public/diseases/rosacea/triggers
Common Ingredients to Avoid With Rosacea: Rosacea Skin Care & Cosmetics. (2019). The National Rosacea Society. rosacea.org/patients/skin-care-and-cosmetics
Rosacea Facts: All About Rosacea. (2019). The National Rosacea Society. rosacea.org/patients/all-about-rosacea
What Is Rhinophyma?: Rhinophyma. (2020). National Institutes of Health. medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001037.htm