Rosacea is a common but poorly understood long-term skin condition that mainly affects the face. It most commonly affects fair-skinned people from northern Europe and is estimated to affect up to one in 10 people. An expert explains what rosacea is, the symptoms to look out for and the various treatments.

Media last reviewed: 13/06/2014

Next review due: 13/06/2016

Rosacea is a common but poorly understood long-term skin condition that mainly affects the face.

Symptoms often begin with episodes of flushing (where the skin turns red for a short period), but other symptoms can develop as the condition progresses, such as:

  • burning and stinging sensations
  • permanent redness
  • spots (papules and pustules)
  • small blood vessels in the skin becoming visible

Rosacea is a relapsing condition, which means there are periods when symptoms are particularly bad, followed by periods when the condition is less severe.

Many of the symptoms of rosacea can be controlled to a degree with treatment. But the changes to your physical appearance that may occur as a result of the condition can still have a significant psychological and social impact, affecting how you feel about yourself and how you interact with others.

Read more about the symptoms of rosacea and the complications of rosacea.

Seeking medical advice

You should see your GP if you have persistent symptoms that could be caused by rosacea, as early treatment can help stop the condition getting worse.

There is no specific test for rosacea, but your GP will often be able to diagnosis the condition by examining your skin, asking about your symptoms and asking about possible triggers you may have.

In some circumstances, your GP may arrange further tests, such as a blood test or skin biopsy (where a small scraping of skin is removed and examined), to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as lupus or the menopause.

What causes rosacea?

The exact cause of rosacea is unknown, although a number of possible factors have been suggested, including abnormalities in the blood vessels of the face and a reaction to microscopic mites commonly found on the face.

Although they are not thought to be direct causes of the condition, several triggers have been identified that may make rosacea worse. These include:

  • exposure to sunlight
  • stress
  • strenuous exercise
  • hot or cold weather
  • hot drinks
  • alcohol and caffeine
  • certain foods, such as spicy foods

Read more about the causes of rosacea.

Who is affected?

Rosacea appears to be quite common, with some estimates suggesting up to 1 in 10 people may have it. Around 1 in every 600 people in the UK are diagnosed with the condition each year.

It most commonly affects people with fair skin, but can also occur in people of Asian and African origin.

Rosacea occurs in both men and women, but tends to be more common in women. Most cases are first diagnosed in people aged 30 to 50.

How rosacea is treated

There is no currently no known cure for rosacea, but treatment can help control the symptoms. 

Long-term treatment will usually be necessary, although there may be periods where your symptoms improve and you can stop treatment temporarily.

For most people, treatment will involve a combination of self-help measures and medication, such as:

  • avoiding known triggers – for example, avoiding drinks containing alcohol or caffeine
  • creams and gels – medications applied directly to the skin to reduce spots and redness
  • oral medications – tablets or capsules that can help clear up more severe spots, such as oral antibiotics

In some cases, procedures such as laser and intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment may be helpful. These involve beams of light being aimed at the visible blood vessels in the skin to shrink them and make them less visible.

Read more about treating rosacea and self-help measures for rosacea.

Page last reviewed: 10/07/2014

Next review due: 10/07/2016


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The 13 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

dexclear said on 11 June 2014

My rosacea has been caused by demodex mites. They are very common parasites which live in skin pores and can cause skin problems. It took a skin biopsy to finally find out about these things as no doctor or dermatologist ever mentioned them to be before that.

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Cherie68 said on 11 April 2014

I seem to have developed rosacea now in my forties, my doctor said it was eczema and has given me hydrocortisone cream And it's made it worse but I think looking at it it is rosacea it's around my nose and chin red and spots,
I have no idea what to do or how to treat it, I'm thinking I will need to go back to doctors and get a different cream now though and stop using this steroid cream

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Cherie68 said on 11 April 2014

I think I have it been to see a doctor who have me hydrocortisone cream which seems to be making it worse, she explained it as eczema, now seeing this I know it's not will get back to doctors Monday, the cream seems to have made it worse I have little spots and redness coming up around nose and over chin area, red and spots!
I have no idea what to do about it or what to use! I have recently put on weight so my self esteem is quite low and this is making it worse,
Any help much appreciated
I would upload a pic but doesn't seem I can

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neildono said on 06 January 2014

I suddenly developed Rosacea in my early 40s, mainly on the right side of my face.
Through noticing when it flared up badly and when it eased off, I realised that the triggers were coffee and chocolate.
By cutting these out of my diet it has gone away, and I notice it come back on the occasions I let my discipline slip.
I know it won't work for everyone, but it's won't hurt to try

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BartGarcia said on 26 August 2013

After many years of failed topical treatments I found lemon tea tree oil (not ordinary tea tree) It does not reduce redness (suggestions please) but has been completely successful at preventing pustule break outs. I put 5-6 drops in my face wash water twice daily.

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karenrossi said on 27 July 2013

I have had rosacea for a considerable number of years now (ffifteen) and cover it up with make up so only my closest friends and family know I have it. I have used loads of creams, gels and antiobiotics and nothing ever helped. I have been referred to a couple of different dermatologists an d they could not help me. Only recently after speaking with another dermatologist who is Belgian have I been successgul.
My dermatologist told me to get a proskin cream for rosacea. I cannot believe the results. The redness and acne on my nose and chin has completely gone and my skin is really soft, not red,leathery and oily like before.

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eastlondonlady said on 27 November 2012

Ive been suffering with this for nearly 2 years but only just got diagnosed properly!
Been back and forth to the doctors but in my opinion/experience theyre just not equipped to deal with it properly or thoroughly enough, so i was referred to a dermatologist.
Ive been put on oral treatment called lymecyclin, which so far seems to be doing a great job.
In my experience creams just dont cut it!
If you havent already i would recommend getting referred to a dermatologist...

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hettyc said on 16 September 2012

I have suffered with rosacea on my nose and cheeks for years. I tried everything the doctor recommended and even tried laser treatment which was very expensive and didn't help. Then I tried an extremely inexpensive antiseptic cream usually used for treating nappy rash. The results have been fantastic! I just put a small amount on my nose and cheeks each night before bed. After only a couple of weeks my skin had stopped being red and lumpy and is now just slightly pink and really smooth. It has made me feel much more confident and I would recommend anyone to try this cheap and easy treatment. Hope it helps.

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leefaz said on 22 August 2012

hi,i have rosacea round my nose,ears and eyebrows,ive tried all the lotions and potions including chinese remedies,does anyone got any ideas of what i can try,im desperate now,thanks in advance

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Scott Parker 5 said on 30 April 2012


If its any concilation to you i have been using a rosacea cream with tea tree oil and calendula and it is the best cream i have ever used. In fact its the only cream that has ever worked and my doctor told me to be realistic and accept their is no cure for my rosacea because he prescribed me with everything else (nothing worked). Do not give up hope.

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angmac said on 13 February 2012

I have Rosacea on my face especially around my nose in just inside, very sore and painful.

However, I have recently started getting the same kind of spots on my earlobes and at the back of my ears on these are extremely painful.

I was aware Rosacea affected the ears, can anyone clarify this?

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Dlivingston said on 24 July 2010

Yes, Ocular Rosacea. I have a minor case.

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gravillep said on 03 February 2010

I have Rosacea on my face also i have Chronic Glucoma in both eyes can Rosacea effect the eyes in anyway

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