People with rosacea, myself included, have a good understanding of what kind of products to use or what type of ingredients to go for. But we don’t know enough about what skincare ingredients to avoid when you have rosacea. It’s not because these are rare ingredients that we somehow haven’t heard of. It’s because these ingredients are everywhere!
So in case you experience rosacea flare-ups and are not sure about the culprit, your skincare might be the cause. To that end, I’ve put together a list of common skincare ingredients that tend to trigger rosacea flares, redness, and sensitivity.
Remember that there’s always an exception to any rule. Some of these ingredients may not cause rosacea flares on your skin at all. Plus, your skin may react to it at times but can be okay with it at other times. So take everything with a grain of salt because everyone’s skin is unique.
Ingredients To Avoid with Rosacea
Below are the skincare ingredients you should avoid if you have rosacea.
Alcohol is present in a lot of skincare products such as cleansers and toners. It can serve several purposes such as enhancing penetration or reducing excess oil on the skin.
It’s usually divided into two categories: good alcohol and bad alcohol. Bad alcohol is listed as alcohol, ethanol, or denatured alcohol. And good alcohols are usually listed as cetyl alcohol or cetearyl alcohol.
The reason why alcohol is bad for people with rosacea is that it’s drying for the skin. Alcohol disrupts the skin barrier, making your skin more prone to inflammation and transepidermal water loss.
As a result, it can trigger rosacea symptoms like flushing, and itching. That’s why alcohol is among the worst skincare ingredients for people with rosacea.
Because alcohol can be difficult to avoid in products, the safest way is to go for alcohol-free products. If that’s not an option, you can at least make sure that the bad alcohols are not high up on the ingredient list.
2. Witch Hazel
Witch hazel is another ingredient commonly found in toners, cleansers, and peeling pads. It’s a plant extract that’s incredibly rich in several good-for-skin compounds and also has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits.
The reason why witch hazel is bad for people with rosacea is threefold. First of all, the compounds found in witch hazel named tannins are astringent. Anything astringent is sensitizing when you have rosacea.
Secondly, the process of extracting witch hazel requires the plant to be distilled in alcohol; the bad alcohol. So it’s drying for the skin, which may be good for oily skin but not so for dry skin.
And lastly, certain types of witch hazel are fragrant, which is a common irritant for the skin. That’s why you should try to avoid witch hazel if you have rosacea.
There’s no shortage of anti-inflammatory ingredients. Licorice extract, chamomile extract, and green tea extract make incredible ingredients for people with rosacea to manage redness and irritation.
It’s no secret that fragrance is a common trigger for rosacea and can cause redness and sensitivity. Fragrance can be found in almost all skincare products.
And sometimes it’s labeled as fragrance or perfume. Other times, it can be derived from plants. To avoid rosacea flares, go for fragrance-free products.
If I may chime in, I use several products that contain fragrances. This is your reminder that these are not ‘rules’ and your skin is unique.
4. Essential Oils
Essential oils are plant extracts that have fragrant components. And because of that fragrant component, it is usually bad for people with rosacea.
Common fragrant essential oils include lavender, eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil (menthol), and rose oil. Keep in mind that these plant extracts can be high on the list of ingredients for their skincare benefits.
So they may be the key ingredients of the product. But sometimes, these essential oils are added to skincare products simply for their smell.
Those are the ones harder to identify. They’re usually listed at the end of the ingredient list. And some of them are linalool, limonene, citronellol, cinnamyl alcohol, citral, and eugenol. Again, go for fragrance-free products.
5. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Also known as SLS, sodium lauryl sulfate is a surfactant most commonly found in facial cleansers and face washes, especially in foaming ones.
It’s an excellent cleansing agent that removes excess oil from the surface of the skin, leaving the skin surface squeaky clean.
That’s why foaming cleansers are usually recommended for people with oily skin. But when you have rosacea, SLS can be incredibly stripping on the skin, removing unnecessary as well as necessary oils from the skin.
These oils/lipids are important to maintain an intact skin barrier. When you remove them, you damage the skin barrier, which is always bad for people with rosacea.
So avoid SLS in your facial cleansers. Instead, go for gentle cleansers for rosacea. Try face washes that are alcohol-free, and SLS-free.
6. Glycolic Acid
Glycolic acid is an exfoliant that is used in skincare products to remove the top dead skin layer. It’s an alpha-hydroxy acid.
It’s an amazing anti-ager and effective in improving skin texture, reducing the look of pores and wrinkles, and reducing hyperpigmentation and acne.
However, it is unique in the way it penetrates the skin fast. This is an ingredient that needs to be used sparingly until the skin builds tolerance. So it already requires caution for normal skin.
Even though exfoliation is helpful even when you have rosacea, a regular glycolic acid product is usually not the best way to do it. Low-concentration lactic acid is a nice alternative. But the best way to exfoliate sensitive skin is by using poly-hydroxy acids.
Retinoids, derivatives of vitamin A, reign supreme over every ingredient when it comes to reducing acne, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and several other skin concerns.
Retinoids are sometimes prescribed for certain types of rosacea, especially for managing acne rosacea. But because it carries potential side effects like redness, irritation, dryness, and purging, you should either stay away or approach with caution.
Retinoids stand on that grey area. It can help a lot when you know what you’re doing. But it can damage your skin barrier if you don’t.
So the best way to do it is by seeing a dermatologist and looking into prescription options. If you insist on over-the-counter retinol, go for products made with retinol esters or encapsulated retinol, both of which minimize the potential for irritation.
8. Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl peroxide is used in skincare products to target acne. It works by killing acne-causing bacteria and also by peeling the skin. It’s very effective in managing excess oil, and inflammatory acne.
People with rosacea also suffer from acne. However, benzoyl peroxide is not the ideal treatment option when you have sensitive skin or rosacea. It’s another drying ingredient, which is never pleasant for rosacea sufferers.
A safer option to get rid of acne when you have rosacea is sulfur in creams or spot treatments. Another way to tackle acne is by using topical azelaic acid products, which are super gentle and helpful in managing redness, discolorations, and acne.
So these are the skincare ingredients to avoid if you have rosacea. Some things are black and white like this. Others, not so much. So here are some things to keep in mind when you try to sift through ingredients.
- When in doubt, go for minimal products. Minimal refers to products that don’t contain dozens of ingredients.
- As a general rule of thumb, anything that whitens, lightens, peels, or deeply penetrates requires caution when you have rosacea.
- Skincare ingredients are only one aspect of a skincare product. You shouldn’t rely solely on them to decide if you’re going to use the product or skip it.
- A glycolic acid product with a high pH level will be a lot easier to tolerate for the skin even if you have rosacea.
- A skincare product that contains encapsulated active ingredients can work great for people with rosacea even if it contains retinol.
- Toners and astringents are not what they used to be. They used to be incredibly drying but these days, we have soothing and hydrating toners.
- If the ingredient isn’t high up on the list such as among the top 5 or 10, it’s less likely to irritate.
- Concentration matters. You can still use common active ingredients as long as it’s in a gently formulated product with a low concentration of the active ingredient.
- Even gentle, alcohol-free, and fragrance-free products can irritate your skin if your rosacea is acting up. The opposite is true if your rosacea is currently in remission.
Read Next: Best Vitamin K Eye Creams