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5 types of food you may want to avoid if you have rosacea

It’s less about sticking to a restrictive diet and more about identifying and avoiding the causes of your flare-ups.

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Curology Team
Dec 13, 2022 · 6 min read

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Rosacea foods to avoid
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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Many external factors can trigger rosacea flare-ups, one of them being certain foods. So, if you have rosacea, chances are you know exactly how frustrating it can be to sit down to a delicious meal only for your face to flush after the first few bites. And it’s even more frustrating not knowing exactly what on your plate caused the flare-up in the first place. 

Currently, there’s no cure for rosacea, and, to complicate things even further, everyone’s triggers can vary. But when it comes to what you eat and drink, the good news is that you can help manage rosacea by identifying and steering clear of what triggers your flare-ups. 

Here we’ll tell you everything you need to know about foods to avoid with rosacea. 

Rosacea and its symptoms

Rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition characterized by symptoms such as frequent flushing, persistent facial redness (erythema), and acne-like lesions across the central face—nose, cheeks, and forehead. Symptoms can be triggered by factors both external factors (the environment) and internal factors (stress), and they typically appear in cycles (aka flare-ups).¹ 

Early on, symptoms usually come and go, sometimes lasting just a few days. But as the condition progresses, symptoms may last longer, or they don’t go away at all. That’s why getting a proper diagnosis from a licensed dermatologist or dermatology provider early on is so important.

Acne Rosacea Face Mapping

Here’s a closer look at the typical symptoms: 

  • Blushing or flushing across the face can almost instantaneously appear following a trigger like a hot drink or spicy food.

  • Persistent redness occurs across the face (usually on the cheeks and nose but sometimes on the forehead and chin). 

  • Visible broken blood vessels (telangiectasias) may appear near the surface of the facial skin in the area of persistent redness or flushing.

  • Acne-like lesions can appear in areas of redness. Acne-like lesions from rosacea flare-ups are not acne, but some of the foods you might want to avoid with rosacea are the same for acne

  • Skin thickening (aka phymatous changes) occurs when rosacea has progressed, causing hardened or thickened skin, often on the nose. The skin may also appear more oily.

5 types of foods that may trigger flare-ups

We wish we could hand you a comprehensive list of foods that trigger rosacea and call it a day. Unfortunately, we can’t. We can tell you that you don’t have to necessarily adopt a restrictive “rosacea diet” right off the bat. Instead, keep a diary of the foods, drinks, and other things that trigger flare-ups for you and try to steer clear of them. 

Here are five types of food that trigger rosacea flare-ups for many and examples of foods for each:

  1. Hot beverages (coffee, tea, hot chocolate).² In this case, it’s the temperature of the beverage—any hot drink—not the actual beverage. If you love your morning coffee, try it on ice instead. 

  2. Alcohol (red wine, beer, bourbon, gin, vodka, and champagne). Alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning it increases blood flow, which may cause rosacea symptoms to flare.

  3. Spicy foods. Spicy food and rosacea often go hand-in-hand. That doesn’t mean your food can’t have flavor—it just means you should skip the peppers and opt for herbal spices. That also goes for anything that packs heat, like hot sauce and cayenne. 

  4. Foods with cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamaldehyde is a compound in food that can trigger rosacea flare-ups. Foods high in cinnamaldehyde include apples, citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, and—surprise!—cinnamon.³ 

  5. Foods with histamines. Histamines can increase inflammation, which can, in turn, lead to facial flushing. Foods that can release histamines include cheese, wine, and processed meat.  

Other common rosacea triggers

It’s not just about what goes down the hatch that you should keep an eye on. Other things besides certain foods and drinks can also trigger rosacea flare-ups, including:

  • Stress and anxiety are common culprits behind rosacea flare-ups. More research is needed to determine whether a surge in blood flow increases inflammation and facial blood flow or if stress signals a hormone response that creates an inflammatory response and flushing. Either way, studies show stress and anxiety are triggers for rosacea.⁴

  • Sun exposure is another common rosacea trigger.⁵ Wear sun-protective clothing, a broad-brimmed hat, and sunglasses whenever outside, and don’t forget a broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen (which you should be using every day anyway!).

  • Ingredients in skincare products that potentially cause irritation or dryness, like witch hazel and alcohol, may also cause flare-ups.⁶ Other potentially irritating ingredients include exfoliants like salicylic acid, lactic acid, glycolic acid, menthol, and camphor.

  • Products with added fragrance, be it natural or synthetic, may cause rosacea to flare up. Both types of fragrance can be irritating, so stick to the fragrance-free stuff.⁷ 

Foods that may help calm rosacea 

Avoiding inflammatory foods and eating a healthy and balanced diet, including fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, and lean proteins, may help calm rosacea. These simple dietary changes aren’t proven, but studies suggest foods that promote a healthy gut microbiome and fiber-rich foods may be beneficial.⁸

While no foods will heal rosacea, here are some foods that may improve symptoms in some people:  

  • High-fiber foods and prebiotic fibers promote a healthy gut. Incorporating fiber-rich foods with whole grains into your diet may help.

  • Probiotics can improve gut health, but one study showed they may also improve skin barrier function and reduce sensitivity.⁹ Foods rich in probiotics include fermented foods such as miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, and yogurt.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids may lower inflammatory proteins and improve ocular (eye) rosacea symptoms. Foods in this group include salmon, sardines, walnuts, avocados, and flaxseeds. 

  • Zinc is an integral part of the innate immune system with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Zinc may benefit those with rosacea, but more studies are needed. 

  • Turmeric is a spice common to many Southeast Asian foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, which may theoretically help treat some rosacea symptoms, like facial redness.¹⁰

Read about how to calm a rosacea flare-up for more tips on how to relieve the redness and banish the burning.

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Curology can help manage rosacea

When addressing skin concerns like acne, rosacea, and the signs of aging, we’re here to help. Founded in 2014 by Dr. David Lorschter, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, Curology is dedicated to providing customized skincare accessible to as many people as possible. We take the time to get to know your skin, discuss your skin goals, and help determine treatment options that work for you. When it comes to rosacea, specifically, we use ingredients such as ivermectin, metronidazole, and azelaic acid.

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FAQs

What are the symptoms of rosacea?

Rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition characterized by symptoms such as frequent flushing, persistent facial redness (erythema), and acne-like lesions across the central face—nose, cheeks, and forehead. Symptoms can be triggered by factors both external factors (the environment) and internal factors (stress), and they typically appear in cycles (aka flare-ups). 

Which foods may trigger flare-ups?

Here are five types of food that trigger rosacea flare-ups for many and examples of foods for each:

  1. Hot beverages (coffee, tea, hot chocolate). In this case, it’s the temperature of the beverage—any hot drink—not the actual beverage.

  2. Alcohol Alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning it increases blood flow, which may cause rosacea symptoms to flare.

  3. Spicy foods. Spicy food and rosacea often go hand-in-hand. That doesn’t mean your food can’t have flavor—it just means you should skip the peppers and opt for herbal spices.

  4. Foods with cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamaldehyde is a compound in food that can trigger rosacea flare-ups.

  5. Foods with histamines. Histamines can increase inflammation, which can, in turn, lead to facial flushing.

Which foods may help calm rosacea?

While no foods will heal rosacea, here are some foods that may improve symptoms in some people:  

  • High-fiber foods and prebiotic fibers promote a healthy gut. Incorporating fiber-rich foods with whole grains into your diet may help.

  • Probiotics can improve gut health, but one study showed they may also improve skin barrier function and reduce sensitivity.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids may lower inflammatory proteins and improve ocular (eye) rosacea symptoms.

  • Zinc is an integral part of the innate immune system with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Turmeric is a spice common to many Southeast Asian foods that has anti-inflammatory properties, which may theoretically help treat some rosacea symptoms, like facial redness.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Gallo, R. L., et al. Standard classification and pathophysiology of rosacea: The 2017 update by the National Rosacea Society Expert Committee. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2017, October 28).

  2. National Rosacea Society. Factors that may trigger rosacea flare-ups. (n.d.).

  3. Searle, T., et al. Rosacea and diet: What is new in 2021? Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. Ibid.

  4. Drummond, P.D. and Su, D. Increases in psychological stress precede flares of rosacea: A prospective study. Murdoch University Research Repository. (2017).

  5. Thiboutot, D., et al. Standard management options for rosacea: The 2019 update by the National Rosacea Society Expert Committee.Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2020).

  6. National Rosacea Society. Factors that may trigger rosacea flare-ups. (n.d.).

  7. American Academy of Dermatology. 6 rosacea skin care tips dermatologists give their pateints. (n.d.)

  8. Weiss, E. and Katta, R. Diet and rosacea: The role of dietary change in the management of rosacea. Dermatology Practical and Conceptual. Ibid.

  9. Weiss, E. and Katta, R. Diet and rosacea: The role of dietary change in the management of rosacea. Dermatology Practical and Conceptual. Ibid.

  10. National Rosacea Society. Turmeric. (n.d.).

Kristen Jokela is a certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL.

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• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Kristen Jokela, NP-C

Kristen Jokela, NP-C

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