Red Alert

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.”


Help your clients get the red out with one or more of these skin-soothing products.


Amber Products Rosa Reduction Facial Serum: Marine complexes, oat beta glucan, and willow herb help neutralize and reduce the appearance of facial inflammation while arnica and glycosaminoglycans calm reactive skin.


Cellex-C Serum for Sensitive Skin: Recommended for those with eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis, this formula is buffered to a 3.3 pH level to accommodate highly sensitive-skin types.

Cosmedix C.P.R. Skin Recovery Serum: Designed to calm, protect, and restore, this nourishing serum soothes redness, irritation, and damage from aggressive treatments and inflammatory conditions, such as rosacea.


Dermalogica UltraCalming Relief Masque: This powerful treatment mask for sensitized and reactive skin reinforces the barrier function to protect against future environmental assaults and promotes healthy tissue function. It contains colloidal oatmeal and botanicals to soothe irritated skin.


GloProfessional Glo Therapeutics Redness Relief Powder: For even the most sensitive skin, this unique formulation neutralizes surface redness and calms skin with caffeine, honeysuckle, licorice, and zinc oxide.


HydroPeptide Soothing Repair Redness Relief Serum: Formulated with calming anti-redness peptides and a botanical stem cell that helps visibly reduce the appearance of redness, this serum helps comfort sensitive or irritated skin.


Ilike Organic Skin Care Rosehip Exfoliator: Rosehip oil, a natural treatment option for rosacea-prone skin, is the key ingredient in this clarifying mask. Lactic acid also helps loosen dead skin cells and encourages new cell growth, while the all-natural rosehip balances and protects with light herbal oils.


Image Skincare Hydrating Anti-Aging Serum: This pharmaceutical-grade vitamin C serum, part of the Vital C product line, immediately minimizes and soothes the visible effects of skin damaged by the environment. Ideal for rosacea-prone skin, it relies on vitamins and antioxidants to nourish the skin.


Innovative Skincare iS CLINICAL Pro-Heal Serum Advance +:  Clinically proven to reduce  erythema and inflammation, this healing formula possesses potent anti-inflammatory, antibacterial,  antibiotic, and antioxidant abilities. The ingredients control inflammation and fight bacteria.

Laboratories Luzern Serum Absolut RC: Providing comfort to sensitive, red, and irritated skin, this serum contains Bio-Swiss-certified Alpine complexes to create a protective shield between the skin and the environment, slowly releasing anti-irritants and protectors to enhance the skin’s barrier function.


Le Mieux Iso-Cell Recovery  Solution: This isotonic solution  speeds up tissue regeneration and  facilitates healing from redness,  irritation, inflammation, abrasions, and sunburn.

Osmosis Pür Medical Skincare Calm Rosacea/Sensitive Skin Serum: An all-natural, chirally correct serum for sensitive and rosacea skin types, this formula stimulates collagen and elastin production, remodels scarring, and restores the epidermal barrier while providing potent calming agents that reduce inflammation in the skin.


Pevonia Botanica RS2 Care Cream: This textured cream provides skin with vaso-constricting and repairing benefits, as well as UV protection. Ideal for clients with hypersensitive skin, it diffuses blotchiness and hydrates.


Shea Terra Organics Rose Hips Black Soap Deep Pore Facial Cleanser: Based on an ancient African formula, this soap works like microdermabrasion to eliminate dead skin cells, even skintone, and help both acne- and rosacea-prone skin.


Sothys Paris Clearness and Comfort Concentrated Serum: Reinforcing fragile capillaries, this formula reduces redness and protects skin from environmental aggressions. Select polyphenols of hazel leaf and mint alleviate symptoms associated with rosacea.


Wilma Schumann Soothing Serum: This ultra-concentrated serum works to manage rosacea. It contains butcher’s broom, calendula, and gotu kola, which help to calm irritated skin while improving the look of fine lines.