The Truth About Rosacea

by Sue Chung Patient Expert

I've heard that people can cause rosacea by using too many skincare products. Is this true?

According to the National Rosacea Society, theories abound regarding what causes rosacea, but no one knows exactly what triggers the condition. Some doctors believe that a disorder of the blood vessels causes the redness and blisters that characterize rosacea. Others believe the culprits are bacteria, skin mites, or fungus.

Still others believe that more people today suffer from rosacea because of the increased use of exfoliating cosmetics. However, this may be the result of people remaining unaware that they exhibit rosacea symptoms and using products that continue to aggravate the skin. For example, anti-acne and anti-aging ingredients such as salicylic acid, alpha-hydroxy acids, and retinoids will cause irritation to people who suffer from rosacea. If a patient has not been diagnosed with rosacea, it's possible that he or she may believe that the products responsible for the flare-up are also responsible for the condition itself.

While there's no definitive answer for what causes rosacea, there are several key facts that can help you gauge whether or not you have it.

  • It is not infectious

Rosacea is a non-infectious illness that does not transfer from one person to the next. It cannot be spread by contact or inhalation. While antibiotics are often prescribed to combat rosacea's symptoms, they work by reducing inflammation, not fighting bacteria.

  • Rosacea is hereditary

Medical evidence demonstrates that rosacea is often a hereditary condition. In one survey performed by the National Rosacea Society almost 40 percent of rosacea patients mentioned a relative who also had rosacea symptoms.

  • Ethnicity plays a factor

Rosacea has been referred to as the "curse of the Celts" due to its prevalence among those of Irish and English ancestry. In general, it affects mainly those with fair skin who tend to blush easily. People with Scandinavian backgrounds also report higher rates of rosacea than other ethnic groups.

  • There is no test that determines rosacea

Unfortunately, since there is no known or proven cause of rosacea, there is also no test that a patient can take to gain a definite diagnosis. The best way to determine whether or not your symptoms indicate rosacea is to track your symptoms for several weeks and discuss them with your dermatologist.

  • There is no cure for rosacea

Rosacea is not a short-term disorder. It's a chronic condition that can seem to disappear for months or even years before another flare-up. Some patients experience a complete remission of symptoms for years while others continue to experience relapses throughout their lives. While there is no cure, many patients are able to control their symptoms by identifying and avoiding their personal triggers and maintaining a skin care and health regimen that reduces inflammation.

  • Rosacea does not cause skin cancer

Many patients worry that rosacea will cause skin cancer or that it appears as a precursor to the disease. The two may appear linked because many people who suffer from rosacea have fair skin-also a risk factor for skin cancer. In addition, rosacea sufferers often react to sun exposure. However, rosacea and skin cancer are not linked conditions. While the two are unrelated, it is possible for a person who suffers from rosacea to develop skin cancer. It is still crucial to check your skin routinely for any irregular moles.

Sue Chung
Meet Our Writer
Sue Chung

Sue wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Healthy Skin.