Even if you’re treating rosacea with prescribed meds from a dermatologist, your daily skin care routine matters. Most folks have learned to avoid common irritants, but one skin care ingredient remains up for debate: retinol.
When it comes to rosacea, is this vitamin A-based product a trigger or a treatment? Should you use retinol for rosacea? Let’s dive in.
In some cases, yes.
Retinol boosts collagen production and cell turnover, which can help with breakouts and uneven texture from rosacea. But retinol can also irritate skin, so it’s best to incorporate this ingredient with advice and product recommendations from a dermatologist.
Short answer: Maybe!
Rosacea is a chronic, noncontagious inflammatory skin disorder. It usually begins with facial flushing that includes skin warmth and discoloration (redness on lighter skin and dusky brown on darker skin).
Additional symptoms include:
- dry, swollen skin
- visible blood vessels or spider veins
- acne-like breakouts
- bumpy texture
Retinol is in the family of retinoids, which are all vitamin A derivatives.
- Pro. Retinoids’ well-documented pro-aging benefits include boosting collagen and reducing fine lines. They’re also applauded for thickening skin by increasing cell turnover. Yay!
- Con. Retinoids can also cause irritation and dryness — particularly troublesome side effects for sensitive skin. That’s why retinoids get some bad press in rosacea circles.
But not all retinoids pack the same irritating punch. Different types have different degrees of side effects. For instance, one older study (90s throwback!) revealed that retinol causes much less irritation than retinoic acid.
Using retinol for rosacea
It’s possible for folks with rosacea to ward off irritation while still reaping retinol’s rewards.
Instead of immediately adding retinol to your nightly routine, start with 2 or 3 nights a week. This gives your skin time to adjust without flaring up.
Once your skin learns to tolerate retinol, the ingredient will work it’s magic, including:
- increasing collagen production
- speeding up skin regeneration
- regulating oil production
All these things can help reduce inflammation and potentially soothe your rosacea.
PSA: If you have rosacea, talk with your dermatologist before trying any new skin treatment, including one with retinol. They might suggest a low dose formula to gauge how your skin reacts before you go all in.
Yes. Rosacea is often treated with topical or oral medication. In some cases, dermatologists also recommend laser therapy or other procedures.
Common rosacea treatments include:
- azelaic acid
- sodium sulfacetamide and sulfur
- antibiotics such as tetracycline, minocycline, doxycycline, or erythromycin
Of course, you can also help prevent flare-ups with a little TLC.
- Use skin care products for sensitive skin. Pick a gentle facial cleanser, moisturize daily, and opt for cosmetics that don’t contain harsh ingredients like alcohol, fragrance, or glycolic acid.
- Apply sun protection. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30+ every day.
- Avoid triggers. Try to limit environmental and lifestyle triggers such as extreme temperatures, spicy foods, hot drinks, booze, and stress.
Retinol is hailed as a skin care wonder for good reason. A small 2016 study showed that retinol is safe and effective in reducing the signs of aging and treating acne.
You can use it to help treat…
If you’re living with rosacea, your biggest retinol risk = irritation. Retinol also makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight, so stock up on SPF and watch your sun exposure.
Retinol, along with all retinoids, can cause side effects like:
- redness or discoloration
- dry skin
- peeling or flaking
Finally, retinol is not recommended for people who are pregnant or chestfeeding.
Retinol has long been considered a no-no for peeps with rosacea. But if you start with a low dose formulation and take it slow, your skin could learn to tolerate it. Then retinol might actually help treat your rosacea.
If you go the retinol route, also do everything you can to keep flare-ups at bay (hello sunscreen, goodbye stress).
Anyone with rosacea should also talk with a dermatologist before adding retinol to their skin care routine.