Former president Bill Clinton; Diana, Princess of Wales; comedian W.C. Fields; and financier J.P. Morgan have something in common: They are just a few of the notable people to suffer from rosacea, a condition that is estimated to affect more than 16 million Americans. Common symptoms include redness on the cheeks, nose, chin, or forehead; small visible blood vessels on the face; and watery or irritated eyes. Often mistaken for acne, this potentially life-disrupting disorder has no known cause or cure. According to the National Rosacea Society, many people don’t even realize they have it. Citing a Gallup survey, the society notes that 78 percent of Americans have no knowledge of this chronic condition, including how to recognize it or how to treat it. “Probably the biggest misconception is that rosacea is caused by excessive alcohol consumption,” says John E. Wolf, Jr., M.D. “In reality, while alcohol is one of the more common triggers for rosacea, it is not the cause of the disorder.” Other triggers include sunlight, heat, stress, and even spicy foods. Fortunately, there is help. A growing number of spas now offer a range of products and treatments that can help control the symptoms of this increasingly widespread condition.
Services to Get the Red Out
Although only a licensed medical professional, such as a doctor or nurse practitioner, can officially diagnose rosacea, there are a number of things to keep in mind if you suspect the condition is behind a client’s rosy complexion. According to clinical dermatologist Carl Thornfeldt, M.D., founder of the skincare line Epionce, it’s important to first conduct a thorough skincare consultation before a facial to determine any potential triggers and if the condition runs in the family. Because steam and harsh exfoliating treatments can exacerbate the condition, they should be avoided. Instead, a gentle touch is required.
Spa-goers at Bellevue Massage & Spa (WA) get just that with the Rosacea Soothing Facial ($100, 60 minutes), a hydrating treatment that incorporates
products with chamomile and green tea leaves to help calm the skin. At Miracullum Spa (Walnut Creek, CA), sensitive types can opt for a service by the same name, the Rosacea Soothing Facial ($108, 60 minutes), a deep-pore cleansing treatment with extractions. It helps to desensitize, cool, and repair the skin. The spa’s Photo Light Facial ($125, 80 minutes) relies on pulsed red and infrared light wavelengths to repair damaged tissue.
Lasers and light therapy have been found to be especially effective in the treatment of rosacea. “In medical aesthetics, we have found the Intense Pulse Light unit very beneficial in reducing redness and treating the capillary damage caused by rosacea,” says Tina Marie Zillmann, esthetican and certified laser professional for Advanced Rejuvenating Concepts. Such treatments are generally recommended as part of a series. “New light therapy techniques to add to IPL for telangectasias, erythema, and flushing include diode lasers and near infrared lasers, which both destroy abnormally large and active sebaceous glands,” says Thornfeldt.
According to Osmosis Pür Medical Skincare founder and formulator Ben Johnson, M.D., a common misconception about rosacea is that you can’t stimulate the skin of those who have it. “This is true if your method of stimulation adds inflammation, but rejuvenation is possible through non-traumatic means,” he says. While it may seem counterintuitive to use a peel on sensitive skin, those that are gentle to the skin have proven to be effective. “Very light chemical peels using malic or salicylic acid are beneficial to help calm redness in the skin,” says Thornfeldt. Zillmann recommends light lactic peels or pumpkin enzyme peels to help soften and exfoliate. She cautions, however, that they should only be used on non-irritated skin. At Jillian Wright Clinical Skin Spa (New York City), spa-goers can reduce inflammation and promote cellular turnover with the Rosacea Peel ($175, 60 minutes; $225 with Jillian).
Ingredients to Look For
At the core of most effective rosacea treatments is a host of products containing skin-soothing ingredients. “It is very important that skincare products for rosacea-affected individuals include ingredients capable of addressing microcirculatory and inflammatory problems,” says Jayna DiMartino, a California educator and medical esthetician for HydroPeptide. “Green tea is very healing, an anti-irritant, and a powerful antioxidant. Licorice is known for its decongesting, anti-allergic, and healing functions. A few other ingredients to look for are chamomile, a well-known calming and soothing agent, as well as allantoin with desensitizing benefits.” Johnson is also a fan of a new sweet wormwood extract, which Osmosis Pür Medical Skincare uses topically to calm inflammation and promote wound healing.
“Most rosacea clients start noticing symptoms along with other signs of aging in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, which is why it’s important to know what kinds of treatments are okay to perform and which proper products to use without compromising the barrier function,” says DiMartino. Stripping the skin’s outer layer of protection can worsen symptoms. Thornfeldt recommends looking for barrier-repairing ingredients, such as avocado, beeswax, niacinamide, and safflower. Sun protection is also key. “Sunscreens should provide physical reflecting and absorbing protection, so one that contains zinc oxide with homosalate—the only two sunscreen ingredients never reported to produce contact reactions—is the best option for rosacea patients,” he says.
Avoid products with artificial fragrance, alcohol, or harsh detergents. “Because rosacea-prone skin tends to also be quite sensitive to new products, I suggest incorporating any new products one at a time, every few days, to rule out any that may cause an adverse reaction,” says Thornfeldt. “And, offer products that have been tested for sensitivity with a low to no-incidence of reported reactions.”
Lifestyle Changes to Make
Above all, one of the best ways to help your rosacea-prone clients is to educate them on the lifestyle choices that may be triggering the condition and exacerbating their symptoms. “Recommend lifestyle changes, such as avoiding spicy foods, hot beverages, and alcohol,” says DiMartino, who also suggests a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids to help fight irritation and boost the skin’s defenses. Rosacea can worsen over time, so encourage your clients to get a proper diagnosis from a board-certified dermatologist who can also educate them on new advances in the field. You don’t have to stop there though. “Get involved with the community and have a rosacea awareness event,” says DiMartino. “By educating your clients, you will establish that foundation of trust, and you will develop lifelong clients and the rewarding feeling of making a difference.”