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Need to know: rosacea

Rosacea is more than just a tendency to blush or go red in the face: it’s also not the same as adult acne. People with rosacea may flush more readily, but they can also develop a longer-lasting red face, along with other symptoms – and it can be debilitating and uncomfortable.

There are four main types (though people can have more than one at once):

  • Erythematotelangiectatic, where the skin flushes and may stay red, and the blood vessels in the skin can be seen;

  • Papulopustular, where skin can break out into acne-like spots;

  • Phymatous, where the skin thickens and changes texture – particularly the nose;

  • Ocular, which affects the eyes, making them red, swollen and sometimes inflamed. About 20 per cent of people develop this before any other signs of rosacea. It can also lead to more serious eye conditions including blindness if left untreated.

Who gets rosacea?

It’s more likely to affect people aged between 30 and 60. It is more common in people with blue eyes and fair skin.

Rosacea appears to involve an interaction between the body’s immune system, skin inflammation and exposure to sunlight. It’s not yet known why rosacea affects some people, though it’s fairly common for members of the same family to develop it. Most people find their rosacea is made worse or triggered by particular factors, including the environment, food and alcohol.

Managing rosacea at home


  • Keep out of the sun. Wear a high-factor sunscreen and/or a hat. Sunlight can make rosacea worse.

  • Keep a diary to check for flare-ups and try to identify triggers.

  • See a doctor or go to an eye hospital if you have ocular rosacea and your eyes start to give you problems.


  • Get too cold – extremes of temperature aren’t good for rosacea.

  • Let your skin dry out: use fragrance-free products which should irritate your skin less. Ensure you use gentle cleansing substitutes on your face and avoid soap.

  • Scrub your face, as it can make your rosacea worse.

  • Use topical corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone unless a doctor has recommended them.

  • Drink alcohol, and certainly not to excess.

  • Let rosacea start interfering with the rest of your life: make an appointment with a doctor and ask to get a referral to a counsellor. Alternatively, if you’re a Benenden Health member, you can speak to the Psychological Wellbeing Service.

What doctors can do to treat rosacea

“Unfortunately, rosacea isn’t always easy to manage,” says Dr Kurt Ayerst, consultant dermatologist at Benenden Hospital. “We often have to try different treatments before we find one that’s effective. However, there are a number of new products available and they’re showing great promise, especially for milder rosacea.

“Papulopustular rosacea is usually best treated with antibiotics, and people may need several courses to deal with relapses. The erythematotelangiectatic/flushing rosacea is the least responsive form of the condition, but some patients achieve a benefit with topical or oral treatments, and larger visible blood vessels may respond to laser therapy.”

To find out more, visit the British Skin Foundation


If referred to see a dermatologist, Benenden Health members may be able to access consultations and any tests required to diagnose your condition. This may be at Benenden Hospital in Kent if you live within the catchment. Or, you could be offered diagnostic tests, with a financial limit of £1800 at a convenient hospital. Each case is assessed individually. 


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