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Soothing care: The best moisturizers for rosacea, according to experts

Rosacea can leave your skin feeling red and inflamed. Moisturizing daily with a non-irritating moisturizer may help.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Dec 4, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Meredith Hartle, DO
Jar of Moisturizer
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Dec 4, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Meredith Hartle, DO
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.

There’s no one-size-fits-all in skincare. What works for one person may not necessarily have the same results for someone else. But it’s only natural to want the best! Luckily our team of licensed dermatology providers are regularly reviewing and assessing products on the market and are happy to offer a few recommendations! So here, you’ll find the products that hold up to our standards.

Characterized by persistent facial redness and potential irritation, rosacea demands a specialized skincare routine. One of the cornerstone practices for managing rosacea is the regular application of moisturizer. However, not all products are created equal. 

An ideal moisturizer for rosacea not only soothes and hydrates but also ensures that it doesn’t contain ingredients that could further inflame sensitive skin. Here, Curology’s team of licensed dermatology providers will cover the basics of rosacea, highlighting skincare ingredients to embrace and those to sidestep. Plus, they’ll share a list of their favorite rosacea-friendly moisturizers to consider for your daily regimen—so you can make informed decisions for your skin.

What is rosacea?

Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that causes redness, recurrent flushing, and telangiectasia (visible blood vessels) on the face. In some cases, it can also manifest as acne-like bumps, adding to the discomfort and aesthetic concerns associated with the condition.¹

It’s estimated that over 5% of the worldwide population suffers from rosacea.² However, despite the condition’s prevalence, the exact cause of rosacea remains somewhat elusive. While researchers haven’t pinpointed a single root cause of rosacea, they believe its onset might be influenced by a blend of factors. This includes genetic predisposition, reactions within the immune system, the presence of certain microorganisms on the skin, and environmental conditions.³

A notable characteristic of rosacea is that it can make your facial skin extremely sensitive and easily irritated.⁴ This sensitivity is due, in part, to an impaired skin barrier function, which results in a higher-than-normal loss of water from the skin.⁵ If you have rosacea, this can mean that many common skincare or cosmetic products may cause irritation or exacerbate your symptoms.⁶ So, it’s very important for people with rosacea to be selective about the products they use.

One approach to relieving some of your skin’s sensitivity is to enhance its barrier function. Emollients, which are a type of moisturizer, can be particularly beneficial.⁷ By increasing hydration and preventing water loss, they may help reduce sensitivity and the potential for rosacea flares.

Additionally, sun exposure is a known trigger for rosacea flare-ups.⁸ So, daily use of sunscreen isn’t just a suggestion; it’s a necessity. By protecting the skin from harmful UV rays, individuals with rosacea can potentially reduce the frequency and severity of their symptoms.⁹

While rosacea can be a challenging condition to live with, understanding its nature and triggers, and adopting a tailored skincare routine, can go a long way in managing its effects.

What ingredients to look for or avoid when you have rosacea

When you have rosacea, maintaining a daily skincare routine is key. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends using a rosacea-friendly moisturizer or barrier repair cream daily.¹⁰ But with all the products on the market, how do you know which ingredients are your friends and which might make your condition feel worse? Let’s break it down.

Ingredients to look for to combat rosacea:

Glycerin: A powerful humectant, glycerin not only attracts and retains water but also aids in repairing the skin barrier.¹¹ 

Hyaluronic acid: Much like glycerin, hyaluronic acid is another humectant that draws moisture to the skin, helping keep it plump and hydrated.¹² 

Ceramides: These are naturally occurring lipids in our skin. They play a vital role in maintaining the skin barrier, making them a good option for those looking to combat dryness from rosacea.¹³

Aloe: This natural moisturizer is renowned for its skin protective properties. It not only enhances skin integrity but also minimizes the appearance of redness.¹⁴ 

Niacinamide: A multifunctional ingredient, niacinamide boasts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It reduces swelling and minimizes water loss, ensuring the skin remains hydrated.¹⁵

Ingredients to avoid with rosacea:

When you have rosacea, some ingredients can be particularly irksome. It’s best to steer clear of:¹⁶ 

  • Alcohol: Can be drying and irritating.

  • Camphor: Often causes a stinging sensation.

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate: A potential irritant.

  • Fragrance: A common irritant for sensitive skin.

  • Menthol: Can cause a burning sensation.

  • Glycolic acid and lactic acid: These can be too harsh and make redness worse.

If you have rosacea, you need to be picky about your skincare ingredients. Embrace those that offer hydration and barrier repair, and be cautious of potential irritants. Always consider patch-testing new products or consulting with a licensed dermatology provider for personalized advice.

Our picks for best moisturizer for rosacea

Curology Cream Moisturizer

What we like about it:

  • Rich moisturizer helps to foster a healthy skin barrier without clogging pores

  • Full of rosacea-friendly ingredients like hyaluronic acid, aloe, squalane, and glycerin

  • An excellent choice for dry, sensitive skin

Curology Gel Moisturizer

What we like about it:

  • Lightweight formula provides hydration for oily skin without clogging pores

  • Contains powerful humectants such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin to promote a healthy skin barrier

  • Works well with any skincare routine

Paula’s Choice CALM Rescue & Repair Moisturizer

What we like about it:

  • A multitasker that helps calm redness, moisturizes, and promotes youthful-looking skin

  • Formulated for combination or oily skin types

  • Contains squalane for moisture

Cetaphil Redness Relieving Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 20

What we like about it:

  • A neutral-tinted moisturizer that hydrates redness-prone, sensitive skin

  • Also provides SPF (a must for rosacea!)

  • Moisturizes with glycerin and vitamin E

Replenix Caffeine Fortified Calming Serum

What we like about it:

  • Specially formulated for sensitive skin

  • Contains moisturizing hyaluronic acid and calming green tea extract 

  • Uses caffeine to minimize redness

Skinfix Barrier+ Skin Barrier Niacinamide Restoring Gel Cream

What we like about it:

  • Lightweight gel cream that’s less likely to clog pores

  • Great for oily or acne-prone skin types

  • Formulated with niacinamide and antimicrobial peptides

CeraVe Ultra-Light Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30

What we like about it:

  • A non-greasy moisturizer with a matte finish

  • Hydrates with hyaluronic acid and ceramides

  • Protects against UV rays, a known rosacea trigger

EltaMD AM Therapy Face Moisturizer

What we like about it:

  • Contains niacinamide and hyaluronic acid

  • Brightens and tones the skin

  • Oil-free, fragrance-free, and noncomedogenic for sensitive skin

Aveeno Calm + Restore Redness Relief Moisturizing Cream

What we like about it:

  • Features a rich, creamy texture

  • A fragrance-free formula featuring ceramides

  • Good for sensitive, dry skin

Curology can help treat rosacea

Depending on the severity of your rosacea symptoms, the best treatment for you may vary. Curology offers skincare products made with proven effective ingredients customized to your unique needs. You can try prescription-strength ingredients like tretinoin, clindamycin, and metronidazole by signing up* and discussing your needs with one of our experts. 

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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Our in-house licensed dermatology providers help take the guesswork out of your skincare routine by creating a custom formula to help meet your skincare goals. To get started, just snap a few selfies and take a quick skin quiz. If Curology is right for you, we’ll send you a personalized prescription formula with a mix of ingredients chosen for your unique skin concerns.

FAQs

Does moisturizing help rosacea?

Absolutely! Rosacea-affected skin often has a compromised barrier function, leading to a higher loss of skin moisture than usual.¹⁷ By using emollients, which are moisturizing treatments, you can enhance the skin’s barrier function. This not only helps retain moisture but also reduces the skin’s sensitivity, a common concern for those with rosacea. However, a word of caution: always look at the ingredients of your moisturizers. Some may contain elements that irritate rosacea-prone skin.¹⁸

Which skincare products are recommended for rosacea?

Alongside moisturizer, it’s important to use sunscreen daily, as sun exposure often triggers rosacea flare-ups.¹⁹ Some cases of rosacea may require more potent solutions. For these situations, dermatology providers may prescribe rosacea treatments like metronidazole, ivermectin, or azelaic acid to manage rosacea symptoms effectively.²⁰

How do you moisturize dry rosacea?

If you’re grappling with dry, rosacea-prone skin, moisturizing is essential. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggests using a rosacea-friendly moisturizer or barrier repair cream every day.²¹ Why? Rosacea-affected skin often loses more water due to its impaired barrier function.²² By incorporating emollients, which are special moisturizing agents, into your skincare routine, you can help repair this barrier. This not only combats dryness but also reduces the skin’s sensitivity.²³

Should you put moisturizer on rosacea?

Absolutely, moisturizing is key for those with rosacea. Experts recommend using a rosacea-friendly moisturizer every day.²⁴ Here’s why: skin affected by rosacea has a weakened barrier that causes it to lose moisture more rapidly than healthy skin.²⁵ By applying moisturizers to seal in hydration, you can strengthen this barrier. This not only prevents dryness but also reduces the skin’s sensitivity.²⁶

What not to use on rosacea skin?

Rosacea makes the skin especially sensitive and prone to irritation. So, it's important to steer clear of products that can make sensitivity worse.²⁷ Here’s a list of ingredients you should avoid if you have rosacea:²⁸

  • Alcohol

  • Camphor

  • Fragrance

  • Glycolic acid

  • Lactic acid

  • Menthol

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate

• • •

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

  1. Farshchian, M. and Daveluy, S. Rosacea. StatPearls. (2023, August 8).

  2. Farshchian, M. and Daveluy, S. Rosacea. StatPearls. Ibid.

  3. Farshchian, M. and Daveluy, S. Rosacea. StatPearls. Ibid.

  4. Farshchian, M. and Daveluy, S. Rosacea. StatPearls. Ibid.

  5. Zip, C. The Role of Skin Care in Optimizing Treatment of Acne and Rosacea. Skin Therapy Letter. (2017, May 1).

  6. Farshchian, M. and Daveluy, S. Rosacea. StatPearls. Ibid.

  7. Zip, C. The Role of Skin Care in Optimizing Treatment of Acne and Rosacea. Skin Therapy Letter. Ibid.

  8. Zip, C. The Role of Skin Care in Optimizing Treatment of Acne and Rosacea. Skin Therapy Letter. Ibid.

  9. Farshchian, M. and Daveluy, S. Rosacea. StatPearls. Ibid.

  10. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 6 Rosacea Skin Care Tips Dermatologists Give Their Patients. (n.d.).

  11. Harwood, A., et al. Moisturizers. StatPearls. (2022, August 21).

  12. Harwood, A., et al. Moisturizers. StatPearls. Ibid.

  13. Harwood, A., et al. Moisturizers. StatPearls. Ibid.

  14. Rahmani, A.H., et al. Aloe vera: Potential candidate in health management via modulation of biological activities. Pharmacognosy Review. (July-December 2015).

  15. Berardesca, E., et al. A Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trial of a Dermocosmetic Containing Vichy Volcanic Mineralizing Water and Probiotic Fractions in Subjects with Rosacea Associated with Erythema and Sensitive Skin and Wearing Protective Masks. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. (January 2023).

  16. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 6 Rosacea Skin Care Tips Dermatologists Give Their Patients. Ibid.

  17. Zip, C. The Role of Skin Care in Optimizing Treatment of Acne and Rosacea. Skin Therapy Letter. Ibid.

  18. Zip, C. The Role of Skin Care in Optimizing Treatment of Acne and Rosacea. Skin Therapy Letter. Ibid.

  19. Zip, C. The Role of Skin Care in Optimizing Treatment of Acne and Rosacea. Skin Therapy Letter. Ibid.

  20. Farshchian, M. and Daveluy, S. Rosacea. StatPearls. Ibid.

  21. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 6 Rosacea Skin Care Tips Dermatologists Give Their Patients. Ibid.

  22. Zip, C. The Role of Skin Care in Optimizing Treatment of Acne and Rosacea. Skin Therapy Letter. Ibid.

  23. Zip, C. The Role of Skin Care in Optimizing Treatment of Acne and Rosacea. Skin Therapy Letter. Ibid.

  24. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 6 Rosacea Skin Care Tips Dermatologists Give Their Patients. Ibid.

  25. Zip, C. The Role of Skin Care in Optimizing Treatment of Acne and Rosacea. Skin Therapy Letter. Ibid.

  26. Zip, C. The Role of Skin Care in Optimizing Treatment of Acne and Rosacea. Skin Therapy Letter. Ibid.

  27. Farshchian, M. and Daveluy, S. Rosacea. StatPearls. Ibid.

  28. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 6 Rosacea Skin Care Tips Dermatologists Give Their Patients. Ibid.

Meredith Hartle is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Curology. She earned her medical degree at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, MO.

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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

Meredith Hartle, DO

Meredith Hartle, DO

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