Winter Rosacea Triggers and How to Mitigate Them
From harsh indoor heating to biting wind.
If your complexion reddens easily—and you seem to blush even when you aren't nervous or embarrassed—you could have rosacea. "When someone has rosacea, an increased amount of blood vessels come into the skin," says Dr. Morgan Rabach, dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical. "There are a few different stages to it. The first is blushing. As it progresses, the increased blood vessels can make little bumps in the skin that look more like acne. Over time, there's so much increased blood flow that the skin gets thick."
Though rosacea is most common in the fairest skin types, and more common in women than men, it's also genetic, Dr. Rabach says. Those with rosacea can benefit from a gentle, fragrance-free skincare regimen, but there are lifestyle and climate factors that can trigger rosacea—especially during the harsh winter months, when skin can get easily aggravated. Here, the rosacea triggers to watch out for during the winter, and how to mitigate their effects.
Think sun damage is a summer skin concern? Think again. Exposure to ultraviolet rays can trigger a rosacea flare, and the sun's rays are strong during the winter, too—especially when you're outside skiing or sledding. Exercise can also cause a flare, so add that in with a day on the slopes, and you could end up with reddened cheeks by sundown. Dr. Rabach recommends protecting your skin with a zinc-based sunscreen. Zinc not only acts as a physical sun protectant, but it's also anti-inflammatory. Try Elta MD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46 ($28.50, dermstore.com).
It feels so nice to step into a warm, heated house after being out in the blistering cold, but that artificial heat is drying—and can cause rosacea. Dr. Rabach recommends counteracting the effects of the drying artificial heat with humidifiers, especially in your bedroom, where you sleep.
While there's nothing better than snuggling up by the fire with a glass of red wine in hand, that cozy, cold-weather drink is another rosacea culprit. All types of alcohol can trigger rosacea, Dr. Rabach says; a flush can occur after just one drink. But a survey conducted by the National Rosacea Society found that red wine is the worst offender, followed by white wine, beer, and then spirits. "Alcohol dilates blood vessels, which is a central finding in people who have rosacea," Dr. Rabach says. "Red wine contains chemicals called tyramines, a histamine-like compound that dilates vessels even more, so I can understand why it could be more problematic than pure alcohol." Dr. Rabach says it may be helpful to drink chilled or tannin-free red wine. She also suggests drinking water afterward, as it dilutes alcohol. "It also may be especially useful to have cool water, or to suck on ice chips after having wine, because it can mitigate the flares and flushing," she explains.
One of the only things that gets us out of our warm beds in the morning is knowing that there's a hot shower waiting for us. The problem is, that scalding hot shower can cause fire up your cheeks. If you can bear it, Dr. Rabach recommends taking warm—not hot—showers, and making sure to quickly moisturize as soon as you get out of the shower to replenish the moisture in your skin that was lost.
Sunlight isn't the only outdoor element that can trigger a rosacea flare—the drying, bitter wind can also be detrimental for those with the condition. Protect your skin with balms and moisturizers before going outside, and cover as much of your skin as possible with hats, gloves, hoods, and scarves around your mouth, cheeks, and nose.