Rosacea Causes and Risk Factors: Demystified

Shannon JohnsonSkin Insights

The exact cause of rosacea is not known. Which may be the reason so many sufferers feel unable to find concrete explanations of the causes and risk factors of rosacea. Researchers believe that it is a complex disorder that involves genetic, environmental, and immune factors. What adds up to rosacea for one person may not for another. So far, there seems to be a “uniqueness” to the recipe for each sufferer.

Triggers and Aggravating Factors for Rosacea

Some people have “triggers” that unmask or aggravate their rosacea symptoms. Common culprits include:

  • Heat. Exposure to hot weather, sun, saunas, steam rooms, or hot drinks can dilate the blood vessels on the face and cause flushing.
  • Cold. Exposure to cold weather, wind, or air conditioning can also trigger rosacea by irritating the skin.
  • Emotions. Stress, anxiety, anger, or embarrassment can increase blood flow to the face and cause redness.
  • Food. Spicy foods, alcohol, chocolate, cheese, citrus fruits, and fermented foods can worsen rosacea symptoms by stimulating certain receptors on the skin. If you suspect a food allergy, seek care from a medical professional. If you suspect a food intolerance, there are great resources available to guide diet planning to avoid particular food classes.
  • Skin care products. Some ingredients in cosmetics, cleansers, moisturizers, or sunscreens can irritate the skin or cause allergic reactions. Fragrances, alcohol, menthol, witch hazel, and exfoliants are some of the common culprits. Look for skincare and haircare that is free of common irritants and allergens.
  • Medications. Some prescriptions can cause flushing, make the skin more sensitive to light, or cause skin irritation and sensitization. These include blood pressure medications, niacin supplements, steroids, and tetracycline antibiotics (such as doxycycline). They also include some of the topical medications commonly prescribed for skin conditions.
  • Mites. Some studies suggest that a microscopic mite called Demodex folliculorum may play a role in rosacea. This mite lives on the skin of most people but may be more abundant in people with rosacea.
  • Bacteria. Some researchers believe that a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori may be involved in rosacea. This bacterium can cause stomach ulcers and inflammation in some people.
Composition of three images highlighting things that may de-escalate rosacea symptoms: self-kindness, irritant and allergen-free care products, and a diet that avoid trigger-foods.

Risk Factors for Rosacea

Some people are more likely to develop rosacea than others. The risk factors for rosacea include:

  • Age. Rosacea usually affects people between 30 and 50 years old.
  • Gender. Rosacea is more common in women than in men.
  • Skin color. Rosacea is more noticeable in people with fair skin than in people with darker skin tones.
  • Family history. Rosacea tends to run in families. If you have a parent or sibling with rosacea, you have a higher chance of getting it too.
  • Medical history. Rosacea may be associated with other conditions such as acne vulgaris (common acne) and seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff).

If you suffer with rosacea, remain hopeful: our understanding of the causes and risk factors continues to advance, and the approach to it is constantly evolving.