About a year ago, I started developing a redness on my face. After consulting a dermatologist, I found that I have rosacea.
My dermatologist advised foods and substances to avoid (alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, spicy food), but had little advice on things that could HELP with this condition. He suggested that my case was so mild, the best course of action was to cover it with cosmetics. Ugh, thanks for nothing. How can I heal my skin naturally, especially because it tends to get worse in the winter? - Veronica H.
Winter is so rude.
It seriously messes with our hair, nails, and skin, thanks to the lack of moisture in the air and the extreme temperature changes we endure as we trek in and out of heated buildings and icy outdoors.
If you have a pre-existing skin condition like eczema, dermatitis, acne, or rosacea, you might find your skin freaking out even more than it normally does. Soooo not cool.
Rosacea is a common inflammatory skin problem that usually shows up on your face. Redness, bumps, flushing, broken blood vessels, and even breakouts characterize this complexion concern. Thankfully you can do more than just 'avoid spicy foods' to get your skin in check—whether you're battling redness, a dry and cracked complexion, or itchiness.
While experts aren't exactly sure what causes rosacea—it could be genetic, an environmental sensitivity, or a bacterial overgrowth—there are a few tried and true ways to combat its symptoms.
Think about your skin as one big billboard for your body: It announces loud and clear when something is up with your health. Imagine the skin of someone who's chronically ill versus the skin of a healthy, vibrant person. Often our 'skin issues' are just symptoms of other underlying conditions, like allergy, poor diet, or a messed up gut biome. For this reason, many believe that rosacea is inflammation in the body, and the first step to healing skin is to eliminate inflammatory foods, or at least the foods that are inflammatory to you.
Some studies have shown that cheese, alcohol, and marinated meats are the most triggering foods; considering that dairy, gluten (sorry, your beer is full of the stuff!), and the sulfites in marinated meat are the top three most common allergens, it's not too surprising that they would cause your face to flush. It could be that rosacea is an immunological response to foods we're allergic to.
Start with an elimination diet and slowly begin adding foods back into your diet that you think may trigger a response—keep a food journal so you can keep track of what makes your complexion flare up, upsets your stomach, or causes fatigue. Those are all major signals that you've got a food allergy.
But Michelle, elimination diets are time consuming...
Yeah, I hear you. If you're more into instant gratification—let's be real, we all are—then there are a few things you can try.
Niacinamide, or vitamin B3, is the best studied supplement for treating rosacea symptoms. Don't confuse this for niacin, though, which is often used to treat high cholesterol and can actually make your skin flush even more. The severity of rosacea treated with 750 milligrams of niacinamide improved dramatically after four to eight weeks. Good news? Vitamin B3 is usually in daily multivitamins, so sticking to your supplement regimen can help skin clear up fast.
Another thing you can add into your diet immediately are more healthy fats—specifically omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Yep, I'm giving you permission to hoard the peanut butter in order to get clearer skin, and you can thank science. Studies show that these healthy fats fight inflammation in the body, especially when combined. Even if you're eating a balanced diet full of fatty fish, flaxseed, avocado, tree nuts, pepitas, and greens, you probably need to increase your omegas in order to see a change in your complexion. Up your fish oil or flax oil (omega-3) intake to 750 milligrams and your linoleic acid (omega-6) intake up to about 150 milligrams.
Because rosacea can sometimes be attributed to deleterious microorganisms in the gut, adding a probiotic into your daily practice can't hurt. Plus, probiotics can help ease overall inflammation in the body, so they're going to help skin regardless. As if you needed another reason to start taking that probiotic, right?
Finally, even though rosacea is mostly treated internally, there are some lotions and potions you can slather on your skin to make it feel better and calm down. Green tea everything will make a huge difference in the way your skin looks, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. Its high antioxidant count can prevent the breakdown and disruption of skin cells, which is good for rosacea sufferers. I love it in this gentle wash and this sunscreen—another must for those with rosacea because too much sun can trigger a reaction.
Rosehip seed oil is also renowned for its skin-protecting skills; from curing acne to eradicating fine-lines and wrinkles, it's the MVP of facial oils. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to rosehip oil for an emollient and complexion-calming moisturizer.
Have more health questions? Leave them in the comments below!
Michelle Pellizzon received her bachelor's degree from New York University and is certified through Institute of Integrative Nutrition and the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Check out her story here.
Illustration by Foley Wu