Last updated:

Reviewed by:

Dr Rhianna McClymont

, Lead GP at Livi

Medically reviewed

Rosacea is a long-term skin condition which usually affects the face, causing it to look flushed. We explain the symptoms, triggers and what you can do to reduce symptoms.

What is rosacea?

Rosacea is a skin condition which typically affects the face. Symptoms of rosacea are primarily visible on the cheeks, nose, forehead and chin.

Rosacea can affect both men and women, but it’s more common in women – particularly those with very fair skin. It’s a chronic condition, and most people affected have intermittent rosacea skin flare-ups throughout their lives.

What are the symptoms of rosacea?

  • Red, blotchy skin on the cheeks, nose, forehead and chin

  • Small broken blood vessels under the skin

  • Flushing

  • Whiteheads or little red spots on the cheeks

  • Soreness of the skin or a burning sensation, particularly when using products

  • Red and sore eyelid margins (in some people)

After many years of rosacea, the skin may become thickened - particularly around the nose.

What triggers rosacea?

Although the exact cause of rosacea is not known, there are certain triggers that can make episodes of rosacea worse. They include:

  • Alcohol

  • Cardio exercise, like running

  • Hot drinks and caffeine

  • Spicy foods

  • Cheese

  • Temperature extremes and strong weather conditions (such as bright sunlight or severe winds)

  • Stress

Rosacea is not infectious, nor is it related to poor skin care or hygiene.

What are the types of rosacea?

Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea 

Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea is persistent redness on the face caused by small blood vessels that become enlarged. Symptoms tend to flare up and disappear, but without treatment, the redness can cover a greater area of skin and become permanent.

Papulopustular rosacea

Papulopustular rosacea is often misidentified as acne because it occurs on more oily skin, causing whiteheads and red, swollen bumps to appear on the cheeks, chin and forehead. If you have papulopustular rosacea you'll also have persistent redness and blotchy skin.

Phymatous rosacea

This rare type of rosacea causes the skin to thicken and scar, making it bumpy and sometimes discoloured. It mostly affects the nose and is more common in men than women. The enlarged, red nose is also referred to as rhinophyma.

Ocular rosacea

Ocular rosacea is when rosacea causes inflammation around the eye area. Your eyes may look watery and bloodshot and have burning or itching sensation. Ocular rosacea can cause persistently dry, sensitive eyes, and cysts may form that look like red spots on the eyelids.

How to treat rosacea

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for rosacea. But there are treatments that can effectively control the symptoms.

A GP can prescribe topical creams to apply to the affected areas. These need to be applied daily and often, for a period of several weeks, before any improvement is noticed.

In more severe rosacea cases, oral antibiotics may be needed.

If your rosacea is not responding to these treatments, you may be referred to a dermatologist for specialist medication or light therapy.

Simple things you can do to prevent rosacea flare-ups include:

  • Protect your skin from the sun by wearing high SPF sunscreen

  • Avoid extremes of weather – cover your face in very cold weather, and keep away from very hot, humid or sunny conditions

  • Avoid the dietary triggers mentioned above

  • Try to avoid stress

Rosacea skin care

As well as seeking help from a GP, it helps to follow a skin care routine that's kind to rosacea.

  • Use a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser that will not aggravate the skin, and cleanse morning and night

  • Moisturise every day with a fragrance-free emollient

  • Avoid scrubbing or exfoliating the skin

  • Test any skin care products before using them daily – use once and wait a couple of days to make sure the product hasn't caused irritation

When should I seek help?

  • If you suspect you have rosacea symptoms you should see a GP for diagnosis (which is usually made after a clinical examination – tests are not normally required), and get prescription medication to start treatment

  • Follow up with your GP to discuss specialist care if you’ve been using rosacea skin care treatments for several weeks without noticing any improvements

Last updated:
Reviewed by:
Dr Rhianna McClymont, Lead GP at Livi