Light Therapy for Rosacea: Everything You Need To Know

You thought you’d be rid of the embarrassment of skin conditions like acne after high school. But now as an adult, you find yourself coping with unpredictable and uncomfortable rosacea flare-ups that light up your face like Rudolph’s nose.

Rosacea is a common and frustrating skin condition that affects both men and women. It doesn’t respond well to creams or medications. But there’s a safe, natural and little-known treatment available that can deliver real results. Today, you can use light therapy for rosacea.

All About Rosacea

Aside from acne, rosacea is one of the most prevalent and challenging skin conditions to affect adults. More than 14 million Americans experience rosacea, but few people understand this condition or how it can be treated.

When rosacea appears, it creates redness, visible blood vessels, and even pus-filled bumps on the surface of the skin. Most people experience rosacea in flare-ups that last weeks or months before subsiding.

Types of Rosacea

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) defines rosacea in four main categories:

  • Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (ETR), which causes skin discoloration, flushing and visible blood vessels
  • Ocular rosacea, which mainly causes eye redness and swollen eyelids
  • Phymatous rosacea, known to create thickened, bumpy skin
  • Papulopustular rosacea, which causes flushing, swelling and breakouts similar to acne

You may experience one specific form of rosacea or multiple types simultaneously.

Causes of Rosacea

Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that occurs on the face. There isn’t one specific cause of rosacea; rather, many factors likely contribute to this condition.

Men and women of all ages can experience rosacea, but it’s most prevalent among women. Females over the age of 30 with light, photo-damaged skin and a history of smoking have the highest risk of rosacea.

Other underlying conditions like blood vessel abnormalities, fungus, and family history may also contribute to recurring rosacea. If a close relative has rosacea, you’re more likely to inherit a genetic component that causes rosacea as well.

If you have rosacea, you can take a number of steps to prevent the most common causes of outbreaks. Most importantly, avoid foods and beverages known to trigger or exacerbate symptoms, including:

  • Dairy products
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Citrus fruits and tomatoes
  • Hot spices and seasonings, especially red and cayenne pepper

Other external factors may aggravate rosacea by increasing blood flow to the surface of the skin. Try to avoid a rush of blood to your face by steering clear of the following:

  • Extremely hot or cold weather
  • Excessive sunlight or wind exposure
  • Vigorous exercise
  • Hot baths and saunas
  • Chronic stress and anxiety

Symptoms of Rosacea

Rosacea causes a variety of symptoms. Some are unique to this inflammatory condition, while others may be mistaken for acne or other common skin problems.

If you notice the following symptoms, you’re most likely experiencing rosacea:

  • Facial redness, especially in the middle of the face
  • Small blood vessels on the nose and cheeks
  • Swollen, red bumps that resemble pimples
  • Dry, irritated, swollen eyes
  • An enlarged nose due to thickened skin

Rosacea can also cause secondary symptoms like burning, stinging and a warm feeling on the skin.

The Science Behind Light Therapy for Rosacea

Rosacea is a condition of inflammation, so it’s best treated with a procedure that can address the underlying inflammation and soothe the skin, such as light therapy.

Light therapy for rosacea uses various wavelengths of visible light to nourish the skin and trigger its healing mechanisms. As the light reaches the surface of your skin, cells absorb it as a source of energy to support the repair and rejuvenation of damaged, inflamed, jeopardized skin cells.

Imagine your rosacea-stricken skin as a dry, parched desert. Light therapy provides the rain needed to initiate healing and regeneration. Within your skin, this healing takes place in the form of collagen and elastin production, improved circulation, and tissue repair.

Blue light and red light are both valuable forms of light therapy that offer unique benefits to damaged skin.

Blue light has powerful antibacterial properties and also reduces oil production in the skin. It’s been found to reduce sensitivity and help the skin become more resilient. Blue light therapy works best at 450 nm or above, since anything less may contain ultraviolet A (UVA) rays that harm and irritate the skin.

Red light, meanwhile, offers a wide range of benefits and is even a medically recognized treatment for rosacea. It penetrates the skin to a depth of ⅜ of an inch, where it is quickly absorbed by cells craving light energy as their fuel.

Research shows that red light can deliver the following benefits when used to battle rosacea:

  • Reduce skin redness
  • Improve wound healing
  • Rejuvenate tone and appearance of skin
  • Promote collagen production
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Reduce burning sensation on skin

The Best Light Therapy Products for Rosacea

If you don’t want to spend the time or money to be receive light therapy at a spa or medical facility, you can provide yourself with light therapy in the comfort of your own home. LED facemasks are the newest trend in skincare, allowing you to turn a luxury treatment into a regular part of your at-home routine.

LED facemasks range in price from around $75 to over $500, depending on the brand, quality and features. But they all work using the same underlying method: LED facemasks shine red and blue light onto your face to nourish damaged skin as you sleep, work or watch Netflix.

Rosacea Treatments That Can Supplement Light Therapy

Although there’s no permanent cure for this condition, you can maximize your rosacea management by supplementing light therapy with these other common treatments.

Skin Creams

Dozens of skincare products are designed specifically to alleviate symptoms of rosacea and soothe inflamed skin. Some products deliver better results than others, so be sure to read ingredients labels and do your own research before you buy.

Avoid products that include any of the following ingredients:

  • Alcohol
  • Camphor
  • Lactic acid
  • Glycolic acid
  • Fragrance
  • Menthol
  • Sodium laurel sulfate
  • Urea

These ingredients are known to irritate the skin, which is the exact opposite of what a rosacea skin cream should do! Test new products on a small area of your skin before using them more widely. Wait 72 hours to assess the true effects of a new skin product to make sure it doesn’t cause burning, stinging, dryness or new outbreaks.

Lifestyle Changes

In many cases, lifestyle changes can help you avoid rosacea triggers to keep your skin clear and healthy. Apply daily sunscreen, treat your skin gently, and identify your triggers in order to stop rosacea complications before they begin.

Prescription Drugs

In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe an oral or topical drug to control your rosacea.

Azelaic acid and metronidazole are two common topical options. Applied twice a day, azelaic acid reduces redness and acne-like outbreaks, while metronidazole minimizes flare-ups and other symptoms. Be sure to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a prescription regimen with your doctor, since these medications do carry side effects like itching, dryness and skin lightening.

Work with your dermatologist to find the best way to combine soothing light therapy and other treatments for the greatest relief from your rosacea.

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