Rosacea is a skin condition that causes a persistent redness on the face, in particular on the cheeks, nose and forehead. There are millions of people worldwide that are affected by rosacea and it tends to affect mostly fair-skinned people between the ages of 20 and 60 and is nearly three times more common in women. Although rosacea is a harmless condition, it often has a high impact on the quality of life.
What causes Rosacea and what are the symptoms?
Small areas of blood vessels on the face that normally blush become dilated, inflamed and visible through the skin as small red lines. These dilated blood vessels tend to get larger in size over a period of time. Often these symptoms may be accompanied by papules (red bumps) and pustules (pus-filled bumps), which resemble acne hence why rosacea is often referred to as Acne Rosacea. However, there are no whiteheads or blackheads in rosacea.
The exact cause of rosacea is still not fully understood and there are many possible causal factors which include:
- Genetics – approximately 30% of the people who suffer from rosacea are found to have a relative who also has this concern.
- H. Pylori – studies indicate that these bacteria cause the release of a protein called bradykinin and may play a role in the development of rosacea.
- Intestinal bacterial overgrowth – non-specific bacteria that flourish in the small intestine may release inflammatory compounds leading to the symptoms of rosacea. This would explain why antibiotics are frequently prescribed for rosacea.
- Skin Mite – a specific skin mite, Demodex folliculorum, that infects the hair follicles is thought to be a contributing factor of rosacea.
- Skin Colour – those with fairer skins are more prone to rosacea.
- Neuro-vascular irregularities – it is thought that the abnormal regulation between the nerves and the circulatory system may be responsible for rosacea.
A number of factors can intensify the symptoms of rosacea and include:
- Spicy foods and beverages
- Hot baths and saunas
- Stress and anger
- Certain drugs that affect the blood vessels
With a varied causal factor and numerous factors playing a role in rosacea, it is no wonder that rosacea is a difficult concern to treat, but not impossible. Using an appropriate regimen, most of the symptoms of rosacea can easily be kept at bay.
Ocular Rosacea often accompanies rosacea and the symptoms include red, burning and itchy eyes. Most patients describe the symptoms of Ocular Rosacea as a foreign body sensation in the eyes. If you have rosacea, it is very important to get your eyes checked regularly. Most people report positive benefits using Viva Eye Drops which lubricate, moisten and soothe dry irritated eyes.
Conventional Treatments for Rosacea
There are many treatment choices for alleviating the symptoms of rosacea but there is no established cure for rosacea. The mainstay treatment for rosacea involves the use of both oral and topical antibiotics suggesting that the gut connection is a common one. The problem with antibiotic usage is that these drugs destroy the beneficial bacteria in our guts and often stomach problems can be an issue. Even worse is the fact that antibiotic resistance can eventually become a further issue.
The most validated topical treatments include the use of metronidazole and azelaic acid. These medications have been known to help control the facial redness and the appearance of bumps on the surface of the skin but they have an unpredictable degree of success.
Laser treatments are used to minimise the occurrence of the symptoms of rosacea. The method often involves multiple sessions at specific timed intervals. Although effective, one must stay away from the sun after the procedure.
Other treatments for Rosacea
Many rosacea sufferers find that conventional treatments are either ineffective or in some cases may actually exacerbate the condition. Due to the inconsistent results, increasingly more people are interested in alternative therapies using natural products to ease inflammation and control the symptoms of rosacea.
Since inflammation sets off and exacerbates rosacea, it follows that any supplement that counters inflammation will be of great value in the alleviation of the symptoms. Whilst there are many herbs that possess anti-inflammatory properties such as Liquorice, Green Tea and Aloe Vera, I personally recommend the use of Burdock Root capsules by Swanson. Herbalists worldwide have used Burdock to treat skin diseases such as abscesses, acne, carbuncles, psoriasis and eczema. Burdock is used to improve liver function in order to remove toxins and purify the bloodstream. This dramatically helps to relieve rosacea because of the removal of inflammatory compounds from the bloodstream. When the liver is unable to cope sufficiently with these toxins, they pass into the bloodstream causing inflammation of the skin resulting in the symptoms of rosacea. Burdock Root also displays powerful antimicrobial properties and since the most common conventional treatment of rosacea is the use of antibiotics, this property of Burdock Root further helps to diminish the symptoms of rosacea naturally and without side effects.
As mentioned previously, bacterial overgrowth within the small intestine is another big factor for the symptoms of rosacea, which is why antibiotics are prescribed. Burdock Root does display antimicrobial properties but one should also consider the use of a good quality probiotic supplement such as Mega Probiotic ND by Food Science of Vermont. The use of a good probiotic supplement will help to ensure that the bacteria that are responsible for rosacea are kept in check and cannot thrive within the intestines.
Finally, I am not keen on some of the conventional prescribed topical products currently available for the control of rosacea due to their unpredictable levels of success and in some cases these topical can actually aggravate skin. There are many good topical products including HealGel Intensive, an advanced skin rescue gel, developed by five leading plastic and cosmetic surgeons, that soothes, repairs and protects damaged skin. HealGel Intensive contains Arnica, Madecassosside, peptides and biodynes which all work in synergy to reduce inflammation and to aid cellular renewal, boost collagen production and to reduce swellings and bumps on the face.
HealGel Intensive is excellent for controlling both the short term symptoms of rosacea and for its long term benefits because:
- It contains silicone which cools inflamed skin.
- Silicone also smoothes bumps and provides a protective barrier against external aggressions such as changes in humidity which can exacerbate the symptoms.
- Arnica helps to rapidly calm inflamed skin and thus reduce redness and itching.
- Madecassosside helps to boost collagen production which helps to strengthen the outer cell layers. This helps to minimize the impact of rosacea on a long term basis as well as working to reduce any scar tissue that may develop as a result of inflammation.
- It is absorbed easily and is non-greasy.
For maximum benefit, use HealGel Intensive onto clean, unbroken skin two or three times daily.
Do I need to use a sunscreen?
We all understand the importance of moderate exposure to the sun however for rosacea sufferers this can be very detrimental as ultraviolet light can aggravate the symptoms. Rosacea sufferers need to use a physical blocking sun filter such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These physical sunscreens will not irritate the skin and will provide optimal protection from ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
There are many physical sunscreens on the market but there is one specific sunscreen that I favour called Extreme Protect SPF30 by Innovative Skincare. This sunscreen cream contains microfine zinc oxide as a physical barrier coupled with a chemical sunscreen, octinoxate, which happens to be one of the few chemical sunscreens that does not irritate the skin. This combination is essential because Extreme Protect offers a much broader spectrum of UVA and UVB protection than simply using a physical sunscreen alone. Additionally Extreme Protect SPF30 contains vitamin E and Aloe Vera to help prevent inflammation of the skin when exposed to the sun.
A conscious effort is a must to eliminate the symptoms of rosacea. Conventional treatments for rosacea do work, but as pointed out they are not without side effects. Whilst most rosacea sufferers may not find the exact causal factor for their symptoms, they can all take comfort from the fact that looking after the skin both topically and by way of supplementation will greatly improve the quality of their skin without the need for harsh medications.
This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner.