Approximately 415 million people worldwide live with rosacea—but even though it’s a common condition, it isn’t well understood. Rosacea can be confused for or misdiagnosed as acne. People with facial redness are often wrongly assumed to be heavy drinkers. We know that living with a visible skin condition isn’t easy, and that rosacea can invite unwanted comments, questions, and assumptions from others. Most people still have a lot to learn—and that’s why we’re myth-busting these common misconceptions around rosacea and facial redness.
Myth #1: People with Rosacea Have Poor Hygiene
Rosacea is an inflammatory condition where the immune system overreacts to numerous triggers, including sun exposure, stress, and vigorous exercise. It can be exacerbated by bacterial imbalances in the skin microbiome. But it is not the result of poor hygiene.
Over-cleansing rosacea-prone skin can make symptoms worse, especially if you use products that contain harsh ingredients. Rosacea-prone skin is highly sensitive and is best supported by a gentle skincare routine designed to balance the skin microbiome.
Myth #2: Excessive Drinking Causes Rosacea
People have equated facial redness with heavy drinking since the Middle Ages. In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer describes a pilgrim with rosacea-like symptoms who loved to drink wine “red as blood.” One of the early names used to describe rosacea in 14th century French medical literature was pustules de vin—wine pustules. And there are more recent cultural touch points conflating rosacea with alcohol. 20th century American comedian W.C. Fields had rhinophyma, a red, swollen nose that’s a complication of phymatous rosacea. Fields was a heavy drinker, and his popularity further cemented the myth that excessive drinking causes rosacea.
While alcohol can trigger a rosacea flare, it doesn’t cause it. A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology did show that drinking can increase women’s risk of developing rosacea, but it also noted there’s not enough research to say that alcohol causes the skin condition.
Myth #3: Rosacea Only Occurs in White People
While rosacea is most common among people with light skin, it can also occur in skin of color. But it’s often underreported and misdiagnosed. Two common rosacea symptoms, erythema (also known as facial redness) and telangiectasia (that’s visible blood vessels), can be harder to see in darker skin.
That’s why it’s important to be on the lookout for other rosacea symptoms, including skin that’s sensitive and feels hot and flushed, patches of dry, discolored, or swollen skin, and pimples that don’t go away. Seeing a board certified dermatologist that specializes in treating skin of color can help ensure a correct diagnosis.
Myth #4: Rosacea Can't Be Treated
Rosacea is a chronic, relapsing condition, and there is no cure. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed and treated. Common rosacea treatments include topical vasoconstrictors, azelaic acid, laser therapy, and oral antibiotics. Rosacea-prone skin is extremely sensitive and may struggle to tolerate harsh ingredients. Antibiotics are highly effective short-term treatments, but long-term use can increase risk of antibiotic resistance.
Researchers are realizing that bacterial imbalances in the skin microbiome play a role in rosacea. When the skin is in dysbiosis, its immune system can overreact and exacerbate rosacea flares.
Balancing the skin microbiome can soothe rosacea-prone skin and reduce the appearance of facial redness.