Rosacea is a skin condition that affects around 1 in 10 people.
And the most well-known ‘symptom’ of rosacea is a flushing redness of the face.
There are many triggers for facial flushing.
Triggers can include: sunlight, stress, weather extremes, exercise, certain foods and drinks.
Each flush can drive an immune response that leads to flare up of rosacea symptoms.
And repeated flushing can contribute to the growth of new blood vessels in the skin… leading to worsening of rosacea over time.
(for more info on potential causes take a look at: Rosacea – Causes, Triggers & What You Can Do About It )
One of the ‘easier to control’ triggers for facial flushing is the foods we eat.
The National Rosacea Society surveyed over 400 people with rosacea.
Flare ups after eating certain foods led 78% of the people surveyed to alter their diet
…and the result was a 95% reduction in their rosacea flare ups.
From the 400 people surveyed, the National Rosacea Society was able to group the most common food triggers into 4 types.
(and we’ve added 2 bonus ones for you as well)
It’s important to keep these in mind when exploring strategies to help manage rosacea… and remember that everyone is different.
We don’t need to avoid these foods unless we find they consistently cause a flare-up for us.
Here are the 5 types of foods that are most aggravating for people with rosacea…
#1. Spicy foods (containing capsaicin)
We’re talking chillies, hot sauce, capsiucum, paprika…
These foods contain capsaicin. A phytochemical compound that gives the ‘hot taste’ in foods.
75% of people surveyed by the National Rosacea Society have rosacea flare ups after eating spices or spicy food
Why can spicy foods be aggravating for Rosacea?
- When we eat spicy foods, it creates a ‘warming’ of the body and a flushing on the face
(like how some people sweat when they consume really spicy foods)
- Capsaicin also has an effect on the pain receptors in our skin that feel warmth
- Experimenting with different ‘non-spicy’ herb combinations.
(Like turmeric, cumin, oregano, coriander, sage, thyme) – for more info on turmeric, take a look at our: 5 Most Helpful Foods For Calming Rosacea
- Swapping a spicy salsa for a fruity salsa
- Giving dukkah a go for flavouring your chicken in place of a cajun spice mix
We’re talking wine, beer, champagne and spirits….
52% of people in the National Rosacea Society survey have rosacea flare ups after drinking wine.
And 42% of people have rosacea flare ups after drinking spirits
…and we’re also talking the alcohol in topical skincare – like toners
Why can alcohol be aggravating for Rosacea?
- Alcohol can have the same effect as sugar on our blood sugar levels. Alcohol and sugar both stimulate insulin release
- Having high insulin levels over a long period of time can drive inflammation in the body
- Increased inflammation in people with rosacea activates immune cells and proteins in the skin. Leading to redness and inflamed skin
- Alcohol can also dilate blood vessels and high blood sugar can lead to damaged blood vessels. Both can contribute to increased redness and flushing
- Alcohol also causes dehydration. Well hydrated cells help the body (and skin) regulate temperature – so less flushing
- Alcohol in skincare can strip skin of its protective fats and oils leading to redness and irritation
- Avoiding all alcoholic drinks where you can
- Choosing that ‘special occasion drink’ where you’re willing to accept the flushing that will happen when you drink it
- Some of the delicious non- alcoholic drink alternatives on offer. Like Monday Distilleries yummy non alcoholic gin and tonic water
#3. Hot Beverages
We’re talking coffee, tea, hot chocolate, ‘brothies’ and soups..
Around 30% of people surveyed by the National Rosacea Society have rosacea flare ups after drinking hot drinks
Why can hot drinks be aggravating for Rosacea?
- The heat of the steam can warm the face while drinking, causing flushing
- Hot drinks also tend to ‘warm the body’, causing dilation in the blood vessels of the face as the body tries to cool itself down
- Dilation of blood vessels can drive underlying processes in people with rosacea. Redness and skin irritation in the short term and progression of the condition in the long term
- Waiting for hot drinks cool a little before drinking
- Switching to cold or iced drinks like an iced coffee or iced matcha latte!
#4. Cinnamaldehyde Foods
Cinnamaldehyde is a phytochemical compound that gives the pungent taste in cinnamon.
It’s also found in foods like tomatoes, citrus fruits and chocolate.
Around 20-30% of people surveyed by the National Rosacea Society have rosacea flare ups with these foods.
30% were affected by tomatoes, 23% by chocolate and 22% by citrus fruits.
Why are cinnamaldehyde food aggravating for Rosacea?
- Similar to capsaicin… cinnamaldehyde causes a warming sensation that can trigger a rosacea flare up for some people
- Using other spices like nutmeg or clove – these are still ‘warming’ spices, so use them sparingly
(unfortunately there isn’t a direct swap for cinnamon)
- Switching to carob instead of chocolate
- Making a beetroot and carrot based sauce to try in place of a tomato based sauce
We’re talking more about refined sugars and packaged products that have added sugar or fructose in them.
Sugar wasn’t specifically looked at in the National Rosacea Society survey, but it’s still very much a factor for rosacea flare ups.
Why can sugar be aggravating for Rosacea?
- Sugar stimulates insulin release.
Having high insulin levels over a long period of time can drive inflammation in the body (especially for those with a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity)
- Inflammation is a key factor underlying rosacea symptoms
- Inflammation in the body activates immune cells and proteins in the skin. Leading to redness and inflamed skin for people with rosacea
- Glucose is a blood vessel dilator and can damage blood vessels over a long period of time.
(this is generally the cause of many diabetes complications)
- Dilation of the blood vessels leads to redness and skin irritation in the short term… and progression of the condition in the long term
- Focusing on a wholefood diet
- Reducing packaged foods with added sugar
- Fueling the body with all the nutrients it needs to reduce any sweet cravings
- Swapping sweet foods for fruit. Yes fruit has fructose in it, but fruit is also packed with fiber and other additional nutrients
- Sticking to the recommended 2 servings of fruit per day
- Not skipping meals. Be sure to have at least 3 meals per day that include proteins sources like grass-fed meats, eggs, fish. As well as natural fats to help maintain blood sugar levels
Bonus Trigger… Food sensitivities
When we have a sensitivity to a particular food or group of foods, eating those foods causes an inflammatory response in the body.
This inflammatory response can stimulate the immune system… and have short and long term knock on effects in the body and skin.
Especially so in rosacea, where the immune system in the skin is already ‘overexcitable’.
More research is needed on the link between rosacea and certain food sensitivities…
But in the meantime, there are indicators that histamine sensitivities, gluten intolerance, even nickel sensitivity can be a factor for people with rosacea.
One study has looked at the prevalence of nickle sensitivity in people with rosacea compared with people that did not have rosacea…
52.5% of the rosacea group showed signs of nickel sensitivity compared with 22.5% in the control group.
Not every food group will be a trigger for every person with rosacea.
Keeping a diary or journal of your flushes can help you work out what you might have eaten just before a flush.
Discussing journal entries with your team of practitioners can help you pin down your triggers.
Wishing you silky smooth skin!