Let’s cut right to the chase. When it comes to how long rosacea flare-ups last, there’s no exact time—they vary from person to person! Rosacea flare-ups are cyclical, meaning that when something triggers a flare-up, symptoms like facial redness and flushing appear, disappear or diminish, and reappear. Triggers may vary, so what causes rosacea to flare up for one person may be different for another. For some, symptoms may last a few days. For others, they can linger for weeks or months. There’s no golden rule (yet!) for knowing how long rosacea flare-ups will last or how intense they’ll be. But there are ways to help prevent them from happening in the first place.
Here we’ll explain what rosacea is and its symptoms and provide tips on preventing flare-ups. Spoiler alert: A key factor is identifying and avoiding your specific triggers.
Rosacea is a chronic skin condition most commonly seen in fair-skinned individuals. It currently has no cure, but research suggests there are several potential causes, including an overactive immune system, genetics, skin mites (Demodex), intestinal bacteria (Helicobacter pylori),¹ or a combination of these factors. Experts have yet to discover what causes rosacea, but we do know rosacea symptoms occur in cycles called flare-ups.² Flare-ups are usually triggered by things like sun exposure, extreme temperatures, hot drinks, or spicy foods. They can come on suddenly or appear gradually. People with rosacea may experience periods of remission followed by periods of flare-ups. But it’s not easy to say how long flare-ups last because it varies from person to person and likely depend on several factors.
Rosacea often goes undiagnosed or is mistaken for other conditions such as acne because it shares some of the same symptoms. Most people with rosacea experience redness (erythema) or frequent flushing on the central face (the nose, cheeks, forehead, and chin). Facial redness is one of the more common symptoms of rosacea flare-ups. Burning sensations on the skin may also occur.
Along with facial redness, other common symptoms of rosacea also include:³
Acne-like lesions (papules and pustules). We say acne-like because rosacea pustules aren’t the same as pimples from acne—they just look like it. It’s also important to know that blackheads and whiteheads are not symptoms of rosacea—that’s acne.
Telangiectasias is a medical term to describe visible blood vessels. Dilated or broken blood vessels can occur near the skin’s surface across the central face.
Eye symptoms, including dryness, irritation, and sensitivity to light, are possible. Telangiectasias at the lid margin may occur. It’s also possible to have eye symptoms without other rosacea symptoms.
Phymatous changes (aka thickening skin) can also occur once rosacea has progressed. This is most commonly seen on the nose and is more common in men than in women.
Rosacea develops gradually, and while there’s currently no cure, it is treatable. The not-so-good news is that symptoms can become more intense if left untreated. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, this can include permanent redness, spider veins across the cheeks, and acne-like breakouts.⁴ Does rosacea get worse with age? It can, but again, it all depends. That’s why proper skincare—and knowing your rosacea triggers and avoiding them—is essential.
Experts have identified several common triggers, but again, triggers may vary from person to person. The same goes for how your body responds to potential triggers. That’s why using a diary to log your flare-ups can be helpful.
Here are some tips that may help prevent rosacea flare-ups:⁵
Wear sunscreen. Sun exposure is a common rosacea trigger, so apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 every day—even on cloudy days. Choose one for sensitive skin, or try a mineral sunscreen (physical sunscreen) that uses zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or both as active ingredients. Wear a broad-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sun-protective clothing, and try to avoid the midday sun.
Drink cold beverages. Order coffee over ice or frappuccinos instead of hot lattes—or ask for an iced latte. Hot beverages are a common trigger for some people, so stick with cold drinks instead.
Avoid certain types of alcohol. Unwinding at the end of the day with a glass of wine or a cocktail may be okay—as long as it’s in moderation and you’re of age (we’re looking at you, under-21-somethings!). Just know that certain types of alcohol like red wine, beer, bourbon, gin, vodka, and champagne may trigger a rosacea flare-up.⁶ So, if you know alcohol is one of your triggers, consider a mocktail next time you’re out with friends.
Manage stress. There are plenty of ways to manage stress and apps to help you. Common practices for managing stress include exercise and meditation. Find your zen—your skin will thank you for it!
Dress for the weather. Strong winds and cold temperatures may lead to flare-ups. You can use a silk scarf to help protect your skin from this potential trigger. Be sure to also sit far enough away from fireplaces and heaters, as this may cause you to overheat, which in turn may flare rosacea symptoms as well.
Swap your spices. Spicy food can be a trigger, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sacrifice flavorful foods. Add rosemary, sage, or thyme, or “spice” it up with some fresh garlic.
Use skincare products for sensitive skin. Develop a skincare routine that includes a treatment cream for rosacea. Avoid products that contain alcohol, witch hazel, or added fragrance, all of which can dry out your skin and trigger flare-ups.
Take it slow. The National Rosacea Society has found that vigorous exercise can lead to flare-ups in some people.⁷ That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to working out—just take it easy on the burpees and keep a cold water bottle with you to help you cool down.
Since no one really knows how long flare-ups last or how to stop a rosacea flare-up, the best thing to do is get a proper diagnosis, be conscious of your triggers, and follow your rosacea treatment plan. Research shows that people who are consistent about treatment are less likely to experience symptoms.⁸
Lifestyle changes and topical treatments can help minimize rosacea flare-ups, but until there’s a cure for rosacea, self-care is crucial for your well-being and your skin.
Founded by dermatologists in 2014, Curology is a full-service skincare brand, meaning we’re here for you when you have questions about the products you’re using or how to use them.
Becoming a member is easy. Just answer a few questions and snap a few selfies to help us get to know your skin. If Curology is right for you, one of our licensed dermatology providers will create a personalized prescription formula using ingredients specifically proven to treat rosacea (including ivermectin, metronidazole, and azelaic acid). During your first month, you’ll also get other recommended skincare products to try.
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Rosacea is a chronic skin condition most commonly seen in fair-skinned individuals. It currently has no cure, but research suggests there are several potential causes, including an overactive immune system, genetics, skin mites (Demodex), intestinal bacteria (Helicobacter pylori), or a combination of these factors.
Rosacea often goes undiagnosed or is mistaken for other conditions such as acne because it shares some of the same symptoms. Most people with rosacea experience redness (erythema) or frequent flushing on the central face (the nose, cheeks, forehead, and chin). Facial redness is one of the more common symptoms of rosacea flare-ups.
American Academy of Dermatology. Rosacea: Who gets and causes. (n.d.).
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. (June 2020).
Richard Gallo, et al. Standard classification and pathophysiology of rosacea: The 2017 update by the National Rosacea Society Expert Committee.American Academy of Dermatology. (2017, October 28).
American Academy of Dermatology. Do you have to treat rosacea? (n.d.).
American Academy of Dermatology. 8 Tips to help prevent rosacea flare-ups. (2019, March 12).
National Rosacea Society. Factors that may trigger rosacea flare-ups. (n.d.).
National Rosacea Society. Factors that may trigger rosacea flare-ups. Ibid.
National Rosacea Society. Frequently asked questions. (n.d.).
Elise Griffin is a certified physician assistant at Curology. She received her Master of Medical Science in physician assistant studies from Nova Southeastern University in Jacksonville, FL.
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Elise Griffin, PA-C