Have you ever tried a new skincare product and your skin instantly disagreed? Redness, irritation, mini breakouts, dry patches… the list goes on. I have combination skin so I often have trouble finding products that work for the various needs of my face. If I use a cream that’s too rich my t-zone breaks out, even though my drier areas love the added moisture. On the other hand, if I use a cleanser or toner with too much salicylic acid, my t-zone is instantly balanced while my drier areas become irritated and red. If you have sensitive skin too or skin conditions like rosacea, then you’ve experienced this first hand. So, I went on a hunt to uncover the best anti-aging products for rosacea to help a sister out.
During my research, I discovered just how common rosacea is. In fact, it’s one of the most common sensitive skin conditions. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, over 14 million people experience rosacea in the US alone. Despite these staggering numbers, I couldn’t believe the lack of anti-aging products for rosacea that are effective but safe-to-use. It’s pretty easy to find anti-aging products for dry, oily, combination, or acne-prone skin in mind but rarely for rosacea. And those with rosacea or sensitive skin don’t have the luxury of trying products until they find the right one as the wrong ingredients can cause serious flare-ups.
So, what exactly is rosacea? Is it treatable? How do you manage the symptoms? And, what products can you actually use? I asked Dr. Tomassian, MD, and Dr. Heather D. Rogers, dermatologist, dermatologic surgeon, founder, and CEO of Doctor Rogers RESTORE, to help us further understand.
So, What Is Rosacea?
According to Dr. Tomassian, rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that is characterized by redness (dilated blood vessels) and acne-like lesions (pustules and papules) that occur on the face. The cause of rosacea, however, is a little harder to pinpoint. “Several thoughts include UV sun exposure, abnormal immune response, weakened skin barrier, as well as mites (demodex),” he explained.
In essence, rosacea is a type of sensitive skin. All those tiny blood vessels near the skin’s surface make it better able to absorb whatever you put on your skin and more easily inflamed by the outside world. And most people might not know that there are actually three types of rosacea. “Papulopustular rosacea that causes little red bumps; erythematotelangiectatic rosacea where you have persistent redness of the face and broken blood vessels; and phymatous rosacea which is where the skin becomes swollen, like the lumpy, red nose we can see on older gentlemen also known as Rhinophyma,” outlines Dr. Rogers. “Rosacea can also affect your eyes with persistent redness called ocular rosacea.”
What Are the Symptoms?
The common symptoms include flushing, acneiform (pustules and papules) breakouts on the cheeks, forehead, and around the mouth as well as the above enlargement of the nose or eye grittiness/dryness, tenderness, and even soreness.
What Can Irritate Rosacea?
For most people, rosacea flare-ups are brought on by a genetic predisposition combined with outside stimuli like red wine, coffee, and working out that can all cause more flushing. Changes in the weather and even wearing a mask can also cause a flare-up as they dry out the skin causing it to lose its protective oils. Stress from life experiences or even too many skincare steps can change the skin’s pH leading to a rosacea flare because the wrong organisms—like yeast, bacteria, or mites—take over and irritate your skin. Sunscreen is a must and using topical medications with ingredients like sulfur, azelaic acid will help.
How Can You Manage Symptoms?
The goal is to minimize flares by strengthening the skin barrier so your skin is less easily irritated. But, once you are experiencing a flare-up, which is bound to happen, you have to focus on skin TLC. “Stop all your actives, including vitamin C, the AHAs, and BHAs, tretinoin, or retinol,” stresses Dr. Rogers. “Skincare should be limited to a gentle cleanser, a well-formulated, supportive face cream, and a zinc-based sunscreen. That is it! Do not add in any new products because you actually risk irritating your poor skin more!”
Ingredients to Look For:
- Vegetable oils
- Centella Asiatica
- Sunscreens with 10%+ Zinc
- Azelaic Acid
- Vitamin C
Dr. Rogers recommended seeing your dermatologist for prescription medication when necessary. Prescriptions like metronidazole, ivermectin, even low-dose anti-inflammatory antibiotics can help. She also highly suggests maintaining a healthy skin biome by taking skin probiotics.
Ingredients to Avoid:
There are several ways to fight rosacea. Avoiding your triggers can be one of the best ways to minimize the symptoms. Triggers can look different for everyone from different foods like dairy, gluten, or alcohol to certain types of ingredients or fragrances. And, of course, avoid ingredients that can commonly cause triggers such as the below.
- AHAs and BHAs
- Witch hazel
- Eucalyptus oil
Dr. Tomassians’s Favorites:
Kiehls Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide
One of the most common side effects when starting retinol is dryness and irritation, which can be extremely irritating for people with rosacea-prone skin. The Kiehls retinol serum has incorporated micro-dose technology, which enables the product to use a much smaller, yet clinically effective amount of active retinol to help limit those common side effects but give you the benefits of retinol. I recommend when starting any retinol, to start every three days, use only a pea-sized amount of product, and always moisturize after. You can increase the frequency of your retinol to every night as tolerated.
Kiehls Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide, $60
Bliss Youth Got This Prevent-4 + Pure Retinol Advanced Skin Smoothing Serum
Dry skin, redness, and irritation are not uncommon and lead many people to quit using retinol. This serum gives you a higher chance of less irritation as the formula contains primarily hydrating and moisturizing squalane, which is a plant-derived oil that mimics our own skin’s natural moisturizing oil called Squalane.
Bliss Youth Got This Prevent-4 + Pure Retinol Advanced Skin Smoothing Serum, $27
MDSolarSciences Mineral Tinted Crème SPF 30 Sunscreen
This lightweight tinted sunscreen that blends well into most skin types and is filled with vitamin C and E to soothe the skin. Mineral sunscreens are best for people with sensitive or rosacea-prone skin as the ingredients are chemically inert and physically block UV damage, rather than get absorbed into the skin. One of the biggest obstacles to mineral sunscreen use, however, is “white cast” or seeing the sunscreen residue on your skin. We all have different skin tones and colors which makes picking a sunscreen quite difficult. In my experience tinted sunscreens blend in much better on most skin types. This has a light tint, which can be used on people with fair skin types (which are commonly the ones affected with rosacea). Furthermore, the MDsolarsciences brand has BB cream which is almost like an SPF foundation with several shades of tint to accommodate several skin types.
MDSolarSciences Mineral Tinted Crème SPF 30 Sunscreen, $25.99
EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 Face Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin
An allstar sunscreen that blends in seamlessly and contains niacinamide which helps with skin redness and inflammation. Niacinamide has become very popular over the past year and for good reason. Niacinamide enhances your skin barrier, reduces inflammation by inhibiting pro-inflammatory markers, improves hyperpigmentation, as well as inhibits degradation of collagen and elastin which improves fine lines and wrinkles.
EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 Face Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin, $37
Maelove Glow Maker
Maelove’s Glow Maker is a potent antioxidant with 15% L ascorbic acid as well as ferulic acid and vitamin E to help supercharge your sunscreen, reduce inflammation, as well as decrease fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin E and ferulic acid help stabilize L ascorbic acid and make it more potent. L ascorbic acid has three main roles in skincare: antioxidant/photoprotection, regulating hyperpigmentation, and antiaging. It also helps protect any free radicals from UV exposure and environmental pollutants that damage our skin’s DNA. And it’s a critical factor in collagen synthesis as well as stimulates the cells to produce more collagen. Lastly, L ascorbic acid interferes with the enzyme needed to make more pigment and therefore improves hyperpigmentation.
Maelove Glow Maker, $29.95
Vichy LiftActiv Peptide-C Ampoule Serum
This is a stable formulation of L ascorbic acid 10% with Hyaluronic acid and Peptides. The overall effect of L ascorbic acid is as above, improving fine lines and wrinkles, collecting free radicals that damage our skin, and fading hyperpigmentation. Concentrations above 15% L ascorbic acid are not uncommon to irritate the skin with little to no increased benefit which is why I personally like the 10% ampoules. The ampoules also ensure that your product does not become oxidized quickly and you get active L ascorbic acid with every use.
Vichy LiftActiv Peptide-C Ampoule Serum, $29.50
Tatcha Indigo Overnight Repair Serum In Cream Treatment
This is a deeply hydrating moisturizer that can be used on all skin types. It contains indigo extract which has been used for years and calms the skin as well as ceramides and hyaluronic acid to help hydrate, moisturize and support your skin barrier. There are times when your moisturizer can feel like it’s stinging your face, especially when irritated, however, this one never does.
Tatcha Indigo Overnight Repair Serum In Cream Treatment, $88
Olay Retinol24 MAX Night Moisturizer
This retinol is great for people with dry skin and really want to focus on fine lines and wrinkles. It is fragrance-free (super important if you have easily irritated skin), contains glycerin to hydrate and moisturize the skin, as well as niacinamide (benefits above) and peptides. Peptides are becoming more popular in skincare as they are slowly showing promise in regards to antiaging as well as being anti-inflammatory.
Olay Retinol24 MAX Night Moisturizer, $32.98
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
This is a great product to use if you struggle primarily with the acne type of rosacea. Azelaic acid is one of our main treatments for rosacea (prescription dosing around 15%). This topical antibiotic has activity against acne-producing bacteria as well as can be used to treat hyperpigmentation as it inhibits the enzyme needed to make pigment. This product is also great for those who struggle with acne while pregnant or breastfeeding as many of the ingredients used typically to treat acne are not safe during pregnancy.
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%, $7.90
Dr. Jart+ Cicapair™ Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment SPF 30
This is an especially great product for those who struggle with the Erythematotelangiectatic (redness type) rosacea. The green tint in the sunscreen camouflages the redness on your skin and gives you great UV protection. The product also contains Centella Asiatica Complex which is an anti-inflammatory plant as well as niacinamide which also reduces inflammation and enhances the skin barrier.
Dr. Jart+ Cicapair™ Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment SPF 30, $52
Dr. Roger’s Favorites:
Dr. Rogers RESTORE Face Cream
I formulated my own line for sensitive skin called RESTORE to heal highly-sensitized post-procedure skin, soothe inflammation, and improve skin barrier function. This makes them ideal for treating a rosacea flare-up. I recommend starting off with a gentle yet effective cleanser then using Doctor Rogers RESTORE Face Cream which delivers a powerful combination of two plant-based ingredients: niacinamide visibly reduces pores, fine lines, and irritation, and Centella Asiatica extract improves the skin barrier function, promotes healing, and soothes the skin.
Dr. Rogers RESTORE Face Cream, $72
Dr. Rogers Restore Healing Balm
After using the RESTORE Face Cream, I recommend locking in all those key ingredients with a light coat of the Healing Balm for a powerful, restorative mask. One of the Healing Balm’s key ingredients is castor oil—a well-known and well-studied, hypoallergenic plant oil that is known to hydrate the skin and decrease inflammation.
Dr. Rogers Restore Healing Balm, $30
ISDIN Photo Eryfotona Actinica
ISDIN Photo Eryfotona Actinica comes in white and a universal tint better suited for darker skin types. The consistency is milk-like, so it’s easy to use on your face and body. One of the reasons why I love it is that it has DNA Repairsomes® to correct previous sun damage while protecting you from new damage. It is also water-resistant, so it is the closest sunscreen that does it all.
ISDIN Photo Eryfotona Actinica, $60
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