Rosacea, from the Latin word rosaceus, meaning ‘rose coloured’, describes the main feature of rosacea: rosy red skin. Sometimes known as acne rosacea or adult acne, rosacea is not related to pimples (acne vulgaris) even though there can be red bumps and lumps that may look a little similar. Rosacea becomes noticeable as small blood vessels (capillaries), become dilated and eventually burst, resulting in a constant state of redness. Rosacea affects mainly light-skinned folk of Celtic and northern-European origin, occurring mainly between the ages of 30 and 50. It occurs more frequently in women but more severely in men. The redness can present as an attractive blush of the cheeks, but for some people, over time, the skin thickens and small bumps and fluid-filled cysts can erupt. In extreme cases, the nose itself enlarges, creating the bulbous schnoz of a chronic boozer – without the years of drinking. Although not a threat to health, rosacea can be an embarrassing condition causing some to avoid social situations and may even lead to depression.
- Redness affecting the central region of the face, most commonly cheeks, forehead and lower half of the nose.
- Bumps and thickening of skin, mainly over nose and cheeks.
- On occasion, rosacea may affect the eyelids and eyes, causing inflammation, itching and dryness.
- A tendency to blush or flush easily.
What causes it?
- Rosacea is a baffling condition. No-one knows the cause, however, there is often a genetic link, with cases flaring up among various family members. – There appears to be a connection between a small mite (demodex folliculorum) that is commonly found in the hair follicles of rosacea sufferers. There are two possible scenarios. Firstly the activity of the mites set up an inflammatory response in surrounding blood vessels, or the mites might convene after the skin is already inflamed. – Another theory is that rosacea occurs due to an under-functioning digestive system. In particular, hypochlorhydria, or low stomach acid. If you burp, bloat and fart, improving your digestion may also improve your rosacea. A win–win situation. – Although not causative, the following factors are common triggers of rosacea: strong sunlight, wind, cold, heat, humidity, hot drinks, alcohol, caffeine, spicy food and stress.
What to do
- Reduce dietary triggers such as spicy foods (especially chillies), caffeine and alcohol.
- Drink your beverages warm rather than piping hot.
- Increase foods containing proanthocyanins, the type of bioflavonoids that strengthen capillary and other blood vessel walls. This will serve to reduce the progression of the condition and improve the appearance of your skin. Proanthocyanins are found in many foods but particularly apples, pears, red grapes (particularly skin and seeds), nuts, cocoa, and green tea (drunk warm), cherries and all berries.
- If you burp and bloat (signs of low stomach acid), eat bitter foods including cress, endives, raddichio, olives and grapefruit.
- Try 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar (the best ones are with the ‘mother’) with honey in warm water each morning. This is an excellent way to start the day, especially if your digestive system is under par.
- One thing is clear: those fragile little blood vessels bear the brunt of rosacea, becoming irreparably broken after repeated dilation. The following supplements all serve to strengthen capillaries: quercetin, vitamin C, rutin, resveratrol, pine bark and grape-seed extract.
- Herbs that help treat and prevent capillary fragility include horse chestnut, ginkgo biloba, bilberry, grape seed, butcher’s broom and gotu kola, the great repairer of tissue.
- A combination of digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid will assist a feeble digestive system. There are tablets that combine both. Take 1 before each meal.
- Another digestive remedy to boost stomach-acid production is old-fashioned herbal (or Swedish) bitters. Take 1 teaspoon of bitters in a small glass of water before dinner.
- Avoid overheating the body as it will dilate the blood vessels and trigger rosacea. Choose gentle rather than vigorous exercise. Swimming is perfect.
- Saunas and steam rooms are no-go zones.
- The topical application of creams can address the problem externally. You also need to combat the condition by using natural antibiotic remedies to decimate the mites, as well as strengthen the integrity of capillary walls. Calendula, tea tree and colloidal silver are antibiotic for mite control, while green tea, grape seed, resveratrol, Coenzyme Q10 and gotu kola are capillary strengtheners. Search for face creams containing these ingredients. Or you may wish to use diluted colloidal silver as a toner between cleansing and moisturising.
- Wear a hat in sunny weather and try to protect your face from harsh cold and winds.
- If stress triggers rosacea, look at remedies and techniques to help including meditation (see Stress).
- Rosacea sufferers often tend to be shy. If this describes you, and it affects your self-confidence, would you consider some counselling?
- If you are a shy person who easily blushes, the Bach flower Mimulus is for you.
Use this calming, soothing, cleansing and restorative blend mixed with 30 g of aloe vera gel as needed on cleansed skin.
- 2 drops of chamomile (German) oil – anti-allergenic, analgesic, anti-bacterial, tissue repair
- 2 drops of yarrow oil – anti-inflammatory, astringent, promotes healing, anti-itch
- 3 drops everlasting oil – anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, blood purifying
- 5 drops of lavender oil – analgesic, anti- microbial, anti-toxic, antiseptic, tonifying and tissue repairing
- 3 drops of palmarosa oil – antiseptic, hydrating, stimulates circulation
At a glance
- Reduce foods and dietary triggers that may set off an episode of rosacea.
- Proanthocyanins are bioflavonoids that strengthen capillary walls, thereby reducing the appearance and slowing down the progression of rosacea. Proanthocyanins are found in apples, pears, red grapes (particularly the skin and seeds), nuts, cocoa, green tea (drunk warm), cherries and all berries.
- Try supplements and herbs to strengthen capillaries (see above).
- Bloating and burping may be signs of low-stomach acid. Take a combination of digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid before each meal.
- Avoid overheating the body with vigorous exercise, saunas, steam rooms or going out in the noonday sun.
- Use facial creams that have an antibiotic action to control the mites as well as creams that include capillary-strengthening substances.
- If you are shy and retiring and would prefer to be more extroverted, why not enrol in some self-assertiveness training or seek counselling.