There's no real cure for rosacea, but there are ways to tame flare ups (2024)

Facial redness, irritation and small bumps can all be telltale signs of rosacea, a common skin condition. Rosacea affectsmore than 14 million people in the U.S., most aged 30 to 50, according to theAmerican Academy of Dermatology.And becausethere’s no cure for rosacea, treating andtaming flare-upscan be difficult.

I have written about skin care for over three years and suffer from moderate rosacea. I spoke to dermatologists about common triggers of rosacea flare-ups and how to avoid them, plus the best skin care ingredients to help tame redness and inflammation. I also compiled our experts’ recommendations for the best cleansers, sunscreens, moisturizers and more to consider for rosacea, as well as NBC Select staff favorites.

SKIP AHEAD How we picked the best products for rosacea | Best cleansers for rosacea | Best moisturizers for rosacea | Best serums and treatments for rosacea | Best sunscreens for rosacea

Selected.Our top picks

How we picked the best products for rosacea and redness

When shopping for rosacea treatments, our experts recommend considering the following key factors:

  • Gentle ingredients: Look for products that are fragrance-free and have gentle, hydrating ingredients to soothe irritated skin, including niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, ceramides and aloe. Azelaic acid is also a gentle acne-fighting ingredient that can help prevent and reduce bumps caused by rosacea, experts say.
  • Sun protection: Experts emphasize the importance of wearing sunscreen with broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher to avoid further redness and irritation. Consider mineral-based sunscreens, which contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide rather than chemical filters, and are often less irritating for those with sensitive, rosacea-prone skin.
  • Product type: When dealing with rosacea, experts recommend a “less is more” approach in your routine — focus on using moisturizers, facial cleansers, serums and sunscreens that are specifically formulated for sensitive skin, and avoid any harsh exfoliants, scrubs, witch hazel and other alcohol-based toners. Be cautious when using acne treatments or retinol, which can often be too harsh on sensitive, rosacea-prone skin, according to our dermatologists.



selectIs squalene the hydrating hero your skin needs?

The best products for rosacea in 2024

Below, we compiled expert-recommended moisturizers, facial cleansers, serums, sunscreens and more to help tame redness and irritation from rosacea.

Best moisturizers for rosacea

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer

What we like

  • Helps restore skin barrier
  • Lightweight formula
  • Up to 48 hours of hydration

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

Our experts recommend La Roche-Posay for people dealing with rosacea or acne-prone skin (or both). I use this moisturizer from the brand nearly every day and night since it’s both gentle on my rosacea and hydrating enough to keep my flaky, dry skin at bay. The moisturizer contains ceramides and niacinamide, both of which can help soothe and calm rosacea flare-ups, says Dr. Erum Ilyas, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology. I pair this moisturizer with the brand’s Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser, which is a gel face wash that maintains my skin’s moisture and doesn’t irritate it (unlike most other cleansers).

Eucerin Redness Relief Night Creme

What we like

  • Specializes in redness relief
  • Repairs damaged skin
  • Lightweight formula

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

I started incorporating this lightweight cream to my nightly skin care routine and I find that it reduces any redness and irritation I have from the day. I also notice my skin is significantly softer and brighter in the morning after using this cream. It has natural licochalcone, which is licorice root extract that helps soothe the skin, according to the brand. It’s also fragrance-free and noncomedogenic, so it won’t clog pores.

CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion

One of our favorite moisturizers for acne-prone skin, this nighttime lotion from CeraVe has ceramides that “can help restore the skin barrier to soothe rosacea-prone skin,” says Ilyas. You can also purchase the brand’s AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion for the daytime, which has a gentle formula and offers SPF 30 protection (the minimum amount recommended by our experts).

Clinique Redness Solutions Daily Relief Cream

What we like

  • Specializes in redness relief
  • Oil-free
  • Thick cream formula

Something to note

  • Slight green tint

Clinique’s Redness Solutions product line offers cleansers, moisturizers, sunscreens and more that can be beneficial for those with redness and rosacea. Though the products typically look green when applied, experts told us the green hue goes away when it’s properly blended into the skin — they work to mask or camouflage the red color. The Clinique Daily Relief Cream is a great option for those with a lot of redness: The cream not only reduces the appearance of redness, but also works to gently calm irritated skin, according to the brand.

Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion

What we like

  • Lightweight & non-greasy
  • Good for all skin types

Something to note

  • Has avocado oil

Much like Cetaphil’s gentle skin cleanser, the brand’s moisturizing lotion can be a great option for those with very sensitive skin. The NBC Select staff-favorite moisturizer has a non-greasy formula with no added fragrance to avoid irritation, according to the brand. It can also provide up to 24 hours of hydration, according to the brand. If you’re looking for a daytime moisturizer option, Cetaphil’s Redness Relieving Daily Facial Moisturizer has SPF 20 and a tinted formula to reduce the appearance of redness.

Best cleansers for rosacea

Aveeno Calm + Restore Redness Foaming Cleanser

What we like

  • Specializes in redness relief
  • Helps remove makeup

Something to note

  • Foaming formula

Foaming cleansers can often be too harsh on rosacea-prone skin because they contain foaming agents that remove most of the oil on the face, which can lead to even more dryness and flaking. Though our experts recommend avoiding most foaming cleansers on the market if you have sensitive skin, there are a few that can be safe for the rosacea community, like this one from Aveeno. “It recognizes that, by adding calming and hydrating ingredients to balance the foam of the cleanser, those that need their soap to foam to feel clean can enjoy the overall experience while limiting the risk of excess dryness,” says Ilyas.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

What we like

  • Hydrating formula
  • Good for sensitive skin
  • Up to 48 hours of hydration

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

Cetaphil’s Gentle Skin Cleanser is recommended by dermatologists thanks to its gentle, non-foaming formula that hydrates and soothes rosacea-prone skin. NBC Select managing editor Leah Ginsberg says she’s used this cleanser since she was 16 years old and loves that it’s both affordable and gentle on her skin. “It’s also great for travel because you don’t have to rinse it off with water — you can massage it in and then (gently) wipe it off,” she says.

Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser

What we like

  • Helps with oil control
  • Great for very sensitive skin

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

For people with very sensitive skin that might feel burning or stinging when trying new products, our experts recommend Vanicream’s product line. This cleanser boasts the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Acceptance — the program evaluates products based on the NEA’s criteria of ingredients and contents to ensure they’re beneficial for people with sensitive skin. The dermatologists we spoke to also recommend the brand’s moisturizing cream for very dry, sensitive skin, which is also one of our favorite moisturizers for dry skin.

Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar

What we like

  • Cleanses both face and body
  • Great for very sensitive skin

Something to note

  • Bar formulation

Dove's Beauty Bar is an easy-to-use cleanser that’s also budget friendly, says Dr. Apple Bodemer, a board-certified dermatologist and associate professor of dermatology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. The hypoallergenic formula is safe to use as both a facial cleanser and body soap, and it contains mild and moisturizing ingredients like glycerin that can help maintain the skin’s natural moisture barrier, according to the brand.

Best serums and treatments for rosacea

The Inkey List Azelaic Acid Serum

What we like

  • Specializes in redness relief
  • Soothes irritated skin

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

The Inkey List’s Azelaic Acid Serum, recommended by Ilyas, is similar to The Ordinary’s serum — both formulas contain 10% azelaic acid and can be applied twice a day, according to both brands. If redness is a major concern, The Inkey List’s serum contains micro-fine green-colored particles that can help mask redness, as well as 0.3% allantoin, which is a chemical compound that can help soothe the skin, according to the brand.

Differin Gel

What we like

  • Great for acne-prone skin
  • FDA approved
  • Reduces risk of scarring

Something to note

  • Topical retinoid
  • Can be irritating

Though retinoids can be too harsh on sensitive skin, they can still work for rosacea-prone skin if they’re introduced slowly, starting with just once a week before building up tolerance. “I find the best approach is to first create a simplified routine that directly addresses the rosacea, followed by consideration of adding retinol and retinoids once inflammation in the skin is under control,” says Ilyas.

Adapalene gel — an OTC retinoid treatment that can be used to treat mild to moderate acne and blackheads — is considered a milder retinoid compared to other options like tretinoin and tazarotene, she says. Both Ilyas and Dr. Gabriela Soza, a board-certified dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology, recommend Differin Gel — which contains 0.1% adapalene— as a suitable acne-fighting option for people with rosacea.

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension Brightening Cream

What we like

  • Great for acne and dullness
  • Gently exfoliates skin
  • Oil-free

Something to note

  • Thick formula

Ilyas also recommends The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Serum to help improve redness and generally even out skin tone, including any dark spots caused by bumps and blemishes. The serum contains 10% azelaic acid and is cruelty-free, vegan and gentle enough to use up to twice a day, according to The Ordinary.

Sunday Riley Saturn Sulfur + Niacinamide Spot Treatment Mask

What we like

  • Great for acne-prone skin
  • Removes dead skin cells
  • Reduces excess oil

Something to note

  • Has 10% sulfur

Sulfur is an ingredient that helps to gently even out skin tone and reduce bumps caused by rosacea, says Ilyas. She recommends this spot treatment mask from Sunday Riley, which you can apply to blemishes or textured areas of the skin. The treatment helps remove dead skin cells, draw out impurities and reduce redness, according to the brand. After letting the mask dry on the skin, the brand recommends washing it off with warm water.

Best sunscreens for rosacea

EltaMD UV Clear Sunscreen with SPF 46

What we like

  • Great for acne-prone skin
  • Hydrating formula
  • Soothes redness and irritation

Something to note

  • Has chemical filters
  • Pills easily

The EltaMD UV Clear Sunscreen is a favorite among our experts since it’s free of heavy moisturizers that could clog pores. It also contains niacinamide, which acts as a natural anti-inflammatory ingredient for rosacea. The mineral-based sunscreen offers SPF 46 protection and includes zinc oxide, which experts previously told us provides protection against the sun’s UVA and UVB rays while soothing the skin.

This EltaMD sunscreen is the only one I’ve tried that doesn’t flare up my rosacea. Similarly, Ginsberg uses it on her fair, sensitive skin every day following her dermatologist’s recommendation because it doesn’t cause flare-ups for her, either. “I [also] love the texture and it never burns my eyes if I sweat,” she says.

Isdin Eryfotona Ageless Tinted Sunscreen

What we like

  • Tinted formula
  • Water-resistant
  • 100% mineral sunscreen

Something to note

  • No shade variety

This Isdin tinted sunscreen can cover up redness and protect the skin against rosacea’s biggest trigger, according to Soza. It also contains peptides and antioxidants to also help minimize signs of fine lines and wrinkles, according to the brand.

Vanicream Sunscreen with SPF 50

What we like

  • Great for sensitive skin
  • Water-resistant
  • Mineral-based sunscreen

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

Ilyas typically recommends Vanicream sunscreen to her patients because it provides broad-spectrum SPF 50 sun protection. The mineral sunscreen is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and can be great for sensitive skin since it only contains one active ingredient (zinc oxide) and no dyes, fragrances or parabens, according to the brand.

Frequently asked questions

Rosacea is best known as an inflammatory skin condition — the skin reacts to a trigger, which results in broken blood vessels and an increased sensitivity of the skin overall, according to Ilyas. Unlike most people who have a baseline level of redness to their complexion, people with rosacea can experience recurrent flushing and bumps that look like acne breakouts, which can be accompanied by warmth, burning, itching and other skin sensitivities.

Though rosacea breakouts may look like adult acne, they don’t behave as such: “You go to pop the ‘pimple,’ but they don’t really come to a head [and] they just get angrier at you,” says Ilyas. “This is followed by the skin starting to swell or thicken, taking on an ‘orange-peel’ appearance with widened patulous pores.”

The location of the bumps on your face can also help you figure out whether they’re the result of rosacea. “Hormonal acne or other forms of adult acne tend to involve more of the lower face, whereas with rosacea we see the involvement of the nose, the central part of the cheeks and the center of the forehead,” says Bodemer.

Triggers for rosacea flare-ups vary from person to person, but the most common ones are sun exposure and heat, experts say. Other triggers include alcohol, spicy foods, hot beverages and chocolate.

“I like to joke with my patients that all the fun things in life can trigger rosacea,” says Soza. Emotional triggers can also be a cause of rosacea for many people, according to Bodemer.

To help manage your rosacea, keep a symptom diary to track when you flare up and jot down what you did before that flare-up, including what you ate. “I see people who are very sensitive to simple carbohydrates, so when they're eating more junk food and more processed sugars they will tend to flare more,” says Bodemer.

Since there isn’t a known cure for rosacea, Soza recommends figuring out your specific triggers and avoiding them when possible.

Because people with rosacea tend to have dry and flaky skin that’s both sensitive and reactive, they’re more likely to have certain reactions to cosmetics and personal care products, says Bodemer. While crafting a gentle skin care routine, it’s important to first see a board-certified dermatologist who can evaluate your rosacea and come up with a treatment plan, which may include one or more prescription medications like doxycycline (an oral antibiotic) and metronidazole (a topical treatment).

Medication isn’t always necessary, though. There are many over-the-counter ingredients that can be beneficial for patients with rosacea, many of which can serve as anti-inflammatories before a prescription is needed, says Ilyas.

Below are a few gentle, hydrating ingredients our experts recommend for people with rosacea and overall skin sensitivities:

  • Niacinamide and hyaluronic acid are great ingredients to look for when developing a rosacea-friendly skin care routine.
  • Aloe and ceramides can help soothe and calm red and irritated skin. These ingredients can work to restore the skin’s moisture barrier and prevent it from drying out, says Ilyas.
  • Azelaic acid and topical sulfur are gentle ingredients that work well on sensitive skin to unclog pores and prevent and reduce bumps caused by rosacea, and they work to even out your skin tone by reducing redness and inflammation of the skin. “Azelaic acid is even FDA-approved for rosacea to help treat the inflammatory papules and pustules (red bumps and whitehead-like breakouts),” says Soza.

You should also focus on wearing a mineral-based sunscreen with broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher to avoid further redness and irritation on sensitive skin. “I cannot emphasize the importance of sun protection and sunscreen enough,” says Soza. Mineral sunscreens (also called physical blockers) contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide rather than a chemical base, so they don’t absorb into the skin and can be less irritating for those prone to rosacea, she says.

Take a “less is more” approach when crafting a skin care routine for rosacea, says Ilyas. Taking a closer look at your skin care products, eliminating redundancy and choosing multitasking products can reduce the possibility of using items that can potentially aggravate the skin over time, she says. This means skipping out on common skin care additions like toners (including witch hazel and alcohol-based toners that can aggravate rosacea), acne treatments, anti-aging products like retinol and exfoliants.

Be mindful of certain acne treatments

People may consider acne treatments to help with rosacea bumps, but that can only make rosacea worse, according to Ilyas. “Although people can get breakouts with rosacea, they are not the same — anyone with rosacea that has tried to ‘pop’ their pimples will tell you it doesn’t work,” she says. Avoid acne-fighting products with harsh ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, which can be irritating on sensitive, rosacea-prone skin — both Ilyas and Soza recommend using azelaic acid to control acne instead. You should also avoid comedogenic products that clog pores, which is in line with our experts’ guidance for sensitive skin.

Limit your usage of anti-aging products

Retinol and other anti-aging products can dry out the skin and sometimes cause flare-ups of rosacea, so it’s best to avoid them if you have moderate to severe rosacea. However, people with mild rosacea don’t necessarily have to stay away from anti-aging products altogether: “You should ease into it and take it slow — start applying once a week, increasing frequency as you build tolerance,” says Soza.

If you choose to use a retinol or retinoid, apply a small pea-sized amount to the full face, and use the “moisturizer sandwich technique,” which means you moisturize, apply the treatment and then moisturize again, says Soza. “This will help your skin stay hydrated while still maintaining efficacy,” she says.

Avoid harsh exfoliants

Exfoliating can often be a key step in any weekly skin care routine, and people with rosacea may be tempted to exfoliate to help reduce the flaky dead skin caused by the condition. However, you should avoid exfoliating altogether if you have rosacea.

“The more you inflame the skin [with exfoliants], the more flaking you're going to have,” says Bodemer, adding that the flaking on the skin is a manifestation of the inflammation caused by rosacea. You should also avoid any products that contain beads or require scrubbing. If you’re really insistent on exfoliating, experts recommend simply using water and a soft washcloth.

Ilyas recommends limiting or avoiding the use of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), which are chemical exfoliants. “Although people with rosacea may use these for anti-aging benefits, care should be taken to avoid excess irritation — rosacea alone can make the skin sensitive and adding in chemical exfoliation can aggravate this irritation,” she says.

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Dr. Erum Ilyas is a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology. Dr. Ilyas specializes in adult and pediatric medical dermatology, cosmetic dermatology and skin cancer treatment.
  • Dr. Apple Bodemer is a board-certified dermatologist and associate professor of dermatology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
  • Dr. Gabriela Soza is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology in New York City.
Why trust NBC Select?

Mili Godio is an editor at NBC Select who has written a variety of skin care stories, including treatments for cystic acne, keratosis pilaris and dark under-eye circles. For this article, Godio spoke to three dermatologists about how to tame rosacea and highlighted their recommendations for the best products to consider.

Catch up on NBC Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to stay up to date.

Mili Godio

Mili Godio is an updates editor for Select on NBC News.

There's no real cure for rosacea, but there are ways to tame flare ups (2024)


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