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Rosacea face redness using skin care - woman

What are the best products for rosacea? Here’s everything you need to know

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Do you have redness or rosacea on your face? Try some of our cosmeceutical products for this condition, recommended by a doctor!

Or, if you live in the Vancouver area, contact us for a consultation. We’ll help you solve rosacea with advanced methods, like laser treatments.

Rosacea is a condition whereby the face becomes red, looking flushed, and sometimes revealing spider veins, small pustules or dry patches. In other cases, rosacea can present as skin thickening, usually around the nose. It can also make the eyes red. The problem is, discerning rosacea from an occasional flushed, red face can be hard.

If you’re not sure whether you have rosacea or another condition that causes a red face, you should first see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. Be patient when you do – it’s a long road to finding an answer about why your face is red.

In the meantime, if you want to try some over-the-counter solutions for facial redness, we have you covered! In this article we’ll discuss the best products for rosacea. We’ll mention a few that we sell. We’ll also explain what to look for in general, when shopping for rosacea skin care products.

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Follow these principles when choosing the best products for rosacea

When choosing any product for rosacea, the best-of-the-best will have certain features that you’ll want to look out for. They are explained below.

Always fragrance-free

Rosaceous skin is often fair-toned and sensitive. This means that it can be easily irritated. It can also be dry. One of the worst things to put on skin like this is fragrance. Fragrance can cause contact dermatitis, which is an itchy rash (and you don’t need more redness when you’ve got plenty already!).

However, not all products that smell nice have irritating fragrances in them. There are some natural ingredients found in good skin care products that smell wonderful. For example, aloe vera, shea butter and cucumber can be very calming to the skin, and they smell great.

On the flip side, essential oils, which may seem like a natural choice, can be just as irritating as synthetic fragrances. For example, peppermint, limonene, ylang-ylang, lavender and the citrusy essential oils are not helpful for sensitive skin.

So, for the confused consumer in you, it’s best to look for products that are both reputable, and formulated for rosacea or sensitive skin. They’ll often be labelled as ‘fragrance-free’ (but you should still check the ingredients lists). The cosmetic chemists making these concoctions should be aware of what the intended use of their products will be. This should make them mindful to avoid the ‘bad’ fragrances that can irritate skin with rosacea.

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No other irritating ingredients

It goes without saying that, when avoiding fragrance in skincare, rosacea patients should also avoid other irritants, such as drying alcohols.

Now, like with ‘smelly things,’ the distinction between what ingredients cause reactions on you may not be true for someone else. So, while you could google a list of specific, irritating ingredients, you’ll find that they’ll include things you’ve probably already been exposed to, and never had a problem with. For example, dyes and parabens can be considered potential irritants. As can sodium laureth sulfate and sodium laurel sulfate, which are found in many, many soap products.

Meanwhile, some of the beneficial ingredients for rosacea (which we’ll discuss below), can also be irritants to sensitive skin (which rosacea is). For example, high concentrations of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), like glycolic acid or lactic acid, can be too strong for sensitive skin.

To make things more confusing, the terms “dermatologist-tested” or “hypoallergenic” on product labels won’t guarantee that your skin will tolerate these products. If you have sensitive skin, this will be a game of trial and error.

If in doubt, you should do a test patch with the most mild skin care products as a start. Then, slowly add in products, so you can isolate the ones that give you a rash, stinging burn or other rosacea triggers.

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Plenty of calming ingredients

Rosacea is inflamed skin. Just like eczema, a rash or sunburn, it needs to be calmed and soothed. Inflammation is an autoimmune reaction, which may or may not be from something external.

If you go to the doctor for rosacea, you will likely be prescribed anti-inflammatory medications, such as topical metronidazole. However, alongside that, you can also reduce inflammatory responses in your skin with over-the-counter options.

So, what calming solutions should you look for?

Firstly, the biggest ‘celebrity’ ingredient in rosacea skin care is going to be niacinamide (vitamin B3). Many rosacea-targeted products will contain this ingredient. It helps to reduce inflammation, fight free radicals, regulate oil production, protect the skin barrier and smooth the skin.

In addition to niacinamide, look for ingredients like:

  • Aloe vera
  • Green tea
  • Licorice root extract
  • Ginger extract
  • Bisabolol
  • Chamomile
  • Oatmeal
  • Mandelic acid
  • Centella asiastica
  • Allantoin (a.k.a. aluminum dihydroxy allantoinate)
  • Fern extract
  • Arnica
  • Ambophenol

And others. Many rosacea-specific products on the market will tout some plant or other that calms the skin. So the above is not a comprehensive list by any means.

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Added hydration and moisture

splashing water on woman side view depicting hydration and beauty treatments in a spa

When rosacea causes dry skin, that skin is essentially damaged. It needs to be replenished with moisture and hydration before it can heal. This has to do with the skin-barrier function. It needs to be rebuilt.

However, if you have acne rosacea (not really acne, but it creates pustules that resemble acne), then you may need to avoid oily moisturizers. In these cases, look for “non-comedogenic” and “oil-free” on ingredient labels.

In this regard, it’s important to note that dry skin and dehydrated skin are two different things. The same is true of occlusive moisturizers and humectant moisturizers. The former ‘locks in’ water (often with fat), while the latter adds or binds to water. Most products labelled as “moisturizers” will use both of these types of ingredients. Serums, on the other hand, can include just hydrators (i.e. humectants). But, rosacea sufferers often need both occlusives and humectants (plus emollients).

There are many hydrating and moisturizing ingredients on the market, and many of these ingredients also perform other functions (e.g. occlusives can also be emollients). Below is a list of some of the main ones to look out for if you have rosacea:

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Humectants

  • Hyaluronic acid (it may be called sodium hyaluronate, sodium acetylated hyaluronate or hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid on the label)
  • Squalane
  • Glycerin
  • Sorbitol
  • Propylene glycol
  • Panthenol (pro-vitamin B5)
  • Lactic acid
  • Cetyl alcohol
  • Stearyl alcohol
  • Aloe
  • Urea

And others.

Occlusives

  • Petrolatum (i.e. petroleum jelly)
  • Lanolin
  • Dimethicone
  • Silicone (it may be named by its derivatives like dimethicone and cyclomethicone)
  • Isopropyl palmitate
  • Ceramides
  • Shea butter
  • Jojoba seed oil, mineral oil (and many other oils in an emulsification)

And others.

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Antibacterial properties

Rosacea is believed to be caused by an immune reaction in the skin. Because of this, doctors sometimes prescribe antibiotics to reduce its symptoms. In this context, prescribed antibiotics are not meant to fight bacteria. Rather, they are used to calm the same autoimmune reactions that infections cause.

When applying this principle to over-the-counter products, you can look for ingredients that are known to have antibacterial properties.

A popular antibacterial ingredient used in the treatment of rosacea is azelaic acid. Azelaic acid can come in prescription strength. However, it can also be found over-the-counter, in lower doses.

Azelaic acid fights the bacteria that causes acne rosacea breakouts. It also helps with exfoliation, for scaly rosacea, called phymatous rosacea. Finally, it is an anti-inflammatory, to help soothe rosacea too.

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Oil and acne fighters

Sometimes, rosacea presents as papulo-pustular rosacea. The colloquial term for this is “acne rosacea.” However, it is not actually acne. It appears similar to acne, but no whiteheads form. The bumps in the skin are mainly filled with fluid (i.e. pus).

But, given that it is so similar to acne, it can be treated with common acne solutions, to dry out those pustules. 

For rosacea, the most common solution for pustules is sulfur. Sodium sulfacetamide is another option.

You can find sulfur in some cleansers meant for acne.

The key, however, is not to irritate the skin while using this ingredient, since it can strip the skin of oil. If your rosaceous skin is not oily, you’ll want to avoid over-exfoliating (whether with chemical or physical exfoliants). Remember, you don’t want to exacerbate already-dry skin.

Have combination skin? We feel you. The best solution is to use mild-as-possible cleansers, while trying different products for different areas of the face, to target their needs.

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Minerals for sun protection

All Calm liquid mineral cream treatment with SPF showing shade colour on hand

When it comes to treating any skin condition, sunscreen multiple times a day will be a must. With rosacea (and melasma) sufferers, this advice can not be emphasized enough. Rosacea can be triggered by UV exposure and heat. And, while different people have different rosacea triggers, you will want to avoid UV exposure for plenty more reasons. Don’t forget that your skin will already be irritated by rosacea, which means it can be photosensitive, and thus, prone to sun damage. Wrinkles, brown spots, and more can form out of sun damaged skin, not to mention cancer!

No, when it comes to sunscreens, there are two main types on the market: mineral sunscreens (a.k.a. physical sunscreens, or “sunblock”) and chemical sunscreens. There are also combination sunscreens, which include both mineral and chemical sun protectors.

People with rosacea should always choose a quality, 100% mineral sunscreen. Mineral sunscreens include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Minerals sit on top of the skin, rather than being absorbed into it. This results in far fewer chances of irritation.

Quality mineral sunscreens can also include beneficial ingredients to reduce inflammation and irritation. The zinc oxide in mineral sunscreen can also be soothing; it’s the same ingredient in baby diaper rash cream!

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Soooo, what are the best products for rosacea?

It can be hard to ‘decode’ ingredients lists to understand the best products for rosacea. Below are the products we recommend (and sell) at our clinic, which we feel are excellent for rosacea. Click on their links below to see more details about them in our shop!

Top cleanser for acne rosacea:

Starting Up Face Wash with Glycolic Acid by Prescribed Solutions - unpackaged - available in Canada at Beautiful Canadian Laser and Skincare Clinic

Starting Up/Face® Wash by PRESCRIBED solutions® – this product uses glycolic acid and salicylic acid as chemical exfoliants. It also includes green tea, aloe, panthenol, and allantoin to soothe the skin while cleansing. It can be too harsh for ‘dry’ rosacea (called erythemato-telangiectatic rosacea). But it can help exfoliate papulo-pustular rosacea and phymatous rosacea.

Acne Control Booster by Prescribed Solutions - styled shot - available in Canada at Beautiful Canadian Laser and Skincare Clinic

Acne Control Booster by PRESCRIBED solutions® – this is not a standalone product, but rather, a booster that is meant to be mixed with the Starting Up/Face® Wash noted above. This booster contains the sulfur that may help acne rosacea, mentioned above. It also contains denatured alcohol to kill bacteria. This booster may add effectiveness to your rosacea routine, or it may create unnecessary dryness. Only a test can tell. Use sparingly if you see improvement alongside dryness.

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A skin soother for rosacea:

Control Tactics Healing Gel by Prescribed Solutions - styled shot - available in Canada at Beautiful Canadian Laser and Skincare Clinic

Control Tactics® Skin Healing Gel by PRESCRIBED solutions® – this is a skin treatment often used for post-procedure care, but can be used for rosacea patients too. It includes intense hydrators and skin soothers, as well as antioxidants and collagen-builders.

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A hydrator for rosacea:

HA5 hyaluronic acid serum by SkinMedica - held with sweater - product available in Canada

HA5™ Rejuvenating Hydrator by SkinMedica® – this hyaluronic acid (HA) serum packs in value with five different types of HA to reach multiple layers in the skin. It also trains your skin to make its own hyaluronic acid. Then, it adds in peptides for collagen production, and other beneficial ingredients. Don’t use this if you’re allergic to whey or milk proteins.

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Moisturizers for rosacea:

TNS Ceramide Treatment Cream - growth factor moisturizer by SkinMedica - box package flat - available in Canada

TNS® Ceramide Treatment Cream by SkinMedica® – this moisturizer includes ceramides to rebuild skin, as well as growth factors, to boost collagen production. Together, these provide ultra skin repair. Multiple humectants, peptides and vitamins are also added to this formula.

Ultra sheer moisturizer by SkinMedica closeup wet

Ultra Sheer Moisturizer by SkinMedica® – this is an oil-free moisturizer which can be suitable for acne-prone skin. It includes vitamins for antioxidants and multiple humectants.

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The absolute best sunscreen for rosacea:

All Calm redness skin care by Colorescience with mineral tinted SPF

All Calm™ Clinical Redness Corrector SPF 50 by Colorescience® (Tinted) – this is a 3-in-1 treatment, sunscreen and cover-up made especially for redness in the skin. It includes a ‘star’ ingredient for rosacea: niacinamide. It can act as your daytime rosacea fighter, while providing UV protection at the same time. Its slight green undertone helps to hide redness – an extra bonus.

Then follow with:

Colorescience Sunforgettable brush on sunscreen being applied on face

Sunforgettable® Total Protection™ Brush-on Shield SPF 50 w/ EnviroScreen™ by Colorescience® – this is a powder sunscreen that is meant to go over your base layer of sunscreen throughout the day. It makes it easy to reapply sunscreen every two hours (which we all should be doing), especially when wearing makeup.

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Skin treatments that ‘take it up a notch’ for rosacea:

SkinMedica Lumivive System - Woman holding bottles up close to camera - available in Canada

LUMIVIVE™ Day Defense Serum and LUMIVIVE™ Night Revitalize Complex by SkinMedica® – this is a two-bottle system to help guard skin from environmental pollution and blue light. In clinical studies, it was proven to reduce redness and discolouration in as little as 12 weeks. It contains several ‘next level’ antioxidants and skin ‘boosters.’

SkinMedica Retinol Complex three bottles with three strengths - available in Canada

Retinol Complex 1, 0.5 or 0.25 by SkinMedica® – this is a retinol product that has been shown to be just as effective as prescription tretinoin (sold under the brand name, Retin-A). Retinol has many ‘claims to fame,’ and one of them is reducing erythema (redness) and acne. However, it can be very strong. On normal skin, it can cause stinging and peeling when first adapting to it. The good news is that most skin types eventually tolerate it. Start with the lowest dose two times a week, and work your way up. Stop using it if it makes your rosacea worse. Don’t use it if you’re pregnant.

TNS Advanced+ Serum with Allure Breakthrough Award logo - available in Canada online - pink background

TNS® Advanced+ Serum by SkinMedica® – this is a fragrance-free, third-generation growth-factor product that helps to ‘buffer’ the skin from many angles – one of which is by reducing redness. Growth factors spur faster collagen production, which aids in healing. Antioxidants in this product also help with free radical damage. It’s a great product to use if your skin can’t tolerate retinol. But, if you can handle both, then you’ll reap even more benefits!

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The best products for rosacea make sense for all-around, good skin health

As we’ve seen above, the best rosacea skin care products will often be fragrance free, free of irritants, full of skin soothers and antioxidants, and include hydrating and moisturizing factors. Mineral sunscreen is also recommended for rosacea, in contrast to chemical sunscreen. In general, these are all-around, good skin health tips for anyone to follow when selecting skin care products. Even if it turns out you don’t have rosacea, but are suffering with symptoms that coincide with rosacea, you may benefit from the same skin care products that rosacea patients use. 

For acne and skin-thickening issues associated with rosacea, exfoliating with sulfur and azelaic acid can help. These can also be used for ‘regular’ acne, or oily skin.

On that note, don’t feel like you can’t use products that aren’t marketed as being for rosacea, specifically. Many ingredients that are beneficial for rosacea are also excellent for other skin conditions, such as melasma, acne and wrinkles. Use our guide above to understand what your skin can likely tolerate, if you have rosacea. But, be mindful that you’ll always go through a trial-and-error process when selecting products to treat rosacea, redness and sensitive skin.

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Do you have redness or rosacea on your face? If you live in the Vancouver area, contact us for a consultation. We’ll help you solve rosacea with advanced methods, like laser treatments.

CALL / TEXT 604 580 2464

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