A few minutes in the icy January air will turn anyone’s cheeks a rosy red. But for people with rosacea, the effects of the bitter winter wind can last far longer.
A dermatological condition typically characterized by flushing, redness and bumps called pustules and papules on the skin, rosacea affects about 14 million people in the U.S. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, it is most common in adults between age 30 and 60, and affects more women than men.
Most people already experience more dryness in the colder months, but for rosacea sufferers, Old Man Winter can be especially cruel. A survey by the National Rosacea Society found that nearly nine in 10 rosacea sufferers listed wind exposure as the biggest seasonal aggravation—and cold wind can make matters worse.
“When the skin gets dry, it can be more sensitive than usual anyway,” says Dr. Rachel Herschenfeld of Dermatology Partners in Wellesley, Mass.
Here are some tips to avoid rosacea flare-ups this season:
Reconsider that hot toddy. “Anything that makes you hotter can make you flush,” notes Dr. Lisa Garner, a dermatologist in Garland, Texas. That goes for the fireplace, too.
Wear sunscreen. “Even in the winter, there is ultraviolet light out there, which only makes the redness worse,” Herschenfeld says. She recommendeds the daily use of a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 or 30.
Consider the weather before going outside. If the cold and wind really aggravate your skin, try to minimize the amount of time you spend in the elements. And when you do go outside, bundle up and wear a scarf around part of your face.
Avoid high altitudes if possible. If you have rosacea, a lengthy ski trip might not be your ideal winter vacation. The UV light exposure, which can trigger a flare, is higher at high altitudes “so you have to be even more careful about sun exposure,” Garner says.
Use very gentle products on your face. “Get a really good gentle moisturizer. I like Cerave,” Herschenfeld says. She also recommends sticking with soap-free cleansers like Cetaphil.
Try a redness-relief product. Products with vasoconstrictors, which narrow blood vessels, can offer some much-needed temporary relief from flushing and burning, notes Garner. Eucerin makes a line of redness relief products that includes a cleanser and a moisturizer.
Consult your doctor. If you’re still experiencing trouble with rosacea flares, even after taking steps to minimize them, talk to your doc. There’s no cure for rosacea, but a good dermatologist can help you figure out additional treatments and strategies for coping.