Each week, Health and Beauty Expert Sue Chungwill discuss skin health topics suggested by members of theHealthCentral community. To ask Sue a question, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.
Reader's Question: I get really red in the sun and I think I might have rosacea. I've heard people with rosacea are more sensitive to sunlight and should avoid the sun. How can I do that in the summer without staying indoors all the time?
Sue' Response: It's quite possible that you do have rosacea. According to http://www.rosacea.org/, the disorder affects approximately 14 million Americans and most of these people remain unaware that they are affected. In fact, many people who suffer from rosacea think that they have acne, which can create further problems since these conditions differ dramatically. For instance, acne is caused by clogged pores, whereas doctors still don't know what exactly causes rosacea.
Rosacea mostly consists of periods of flushing and redness that occurs on the face. When it first starts occurring, the symptoms may fade between flare-ups. Other symptoms also include the presence of small raised bumps, small visible blood vessels, and watery or irritated eyes. Over time and without treatment, the redness can become more persistent and the development of bumps and pimples may increase. There is no cure for rosacea, but doctors can ease and regulate symptoms with treatment.
Part of the treatment for rosacea is recognizing and avoiding any "triggers" that can cause flare-ups. Dermatologists can prescribe some oral and topical medications that address the bumps and pimples and they can also treat dilated blood vessels with laser therapies. However, most patients can extend their symptom-less periods by removing themselves from their personal triggers.
While each person's triggers are different, some of the most common include sun exposure, emotional stress, heat, heavy exercise, alcohol, and spicy foods. 81% of rosacea sufferers cite sun exposure as a trigger for flare-ups. In additions, researchers at Boston University say that sun exposure is linked to the presence of visible blood vessels in rosacea patients.
In order to prevent flare-ups, people with rosacea should treat themselves in the same manner as those with very high risk for skin cancer. Particularly, staying out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and maintaining a consistent and liberal use of sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.
Sunscreen presents another problem for many people who suffer from rosacea. Since many people with rosacea also have sensitive skin, they run the risk of aggravating symptoms when applying potentially irritating sunscreens. Most doctors recommend sticking with fragrance-free formulas made specifically for sensitive skin types, including children's sunscreens. Avoid formulas labeled "unscented," since these can include fragrant ingredients that mask the scents of other chemicals within the product.
In addition, avoid using chemical sunscreens if possible. While physical sunscreens like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide work by reflecting UVA and UVB rays, chemical sunscreens such as Parsol 1789 absorb theses rays, causing skin to retain more heat, aggravating rosacea flare-ups. In terms of makeup, follow similar guidelines. Use fragrance-free formulas specifically targeted for sensitive skin. If any product causes a flare-up, discontinue use.
In general, patients with rosacea may find that it's easier to avoid the sun by remaining in shady areas or using protective coverings such as wide-brimmed hats. It may seem like a burden, but the extra precautions will help you avoid both flare-ups and sun damage.