It’s easy to love summer: warm temperatures, sun, outdoor races, and eating fun meals with a cocktail by the lake. We don’t mean to burst your bubble, but all those fun things can also be a trigger for the skin condition rosacea (also known as rosacea acne). This common skin condition causes facial redness, small, red, pus-filled bumps, and visible blood vessels—none of which are very comfortable to experience, summer or not.
So why does sun exposure and a glass of wine trigger a rosacea flare up? Let’s dive a bit deeper into the integrative medicine perspective on skin issues.
Inflammation + Rosacea: An Unhappy Relationship
The common thread among rosacea triggers is something we’ve written about before: inflammation. While inflammation can be a great bodily response (like then you have a splinter and your body sends white blood cells and immune cells to push the intruder out), it can also be the root of some of our trickiest symptoms.
Those with rosacea typically have an innate immune system disruption. This leads to an abnormal inflammatory response and basically an overreaction to common foods and activities. The reaction might result in vasodilation (blood vessel dilation), flushing, redness, or acne-like pustules.
We hate to break it to you, but so many summer-related activities can be rosacea triggers. While we won’t tell you to strictly avoid them, we will say that it’s important to understand what’s going on in your body when you’re making choices about your daily life. So what summer fun can lead to a rosacea flare up?
- Sun. It’s the most common trigger for rosacea. Basking in the sun initiates an inflammatory cascade, which can cause a flare—as can hot temperatures in general. UV exposure is also a contributing factor.
- Alcohol. Ever feel a flush after a drink or two? That’s your body’s inflammation response, and in someone with rosacea, it can be a building block to a flare.
- Citrus. Whether it’s in season or it’s in your margarita, citrus is linked to an increase in rosacea symptoms. It contains cinnamaldehyde, a warming compound that can increase heat in your body and is linked to flares.
- Spicy foods. Not necessarily summer-centric, added spice in foods (including hot peppers, which contain capsaicin, a compound that is heat-producing) can contribute to rosacea.
- Chocolate. Yep, those s’mores around the campfire can be a rosacea trigger. Chocolate also contains cinnamaldehyde, that warming compound that creates more heat in your body.
- Exercise: This might be less of a bummer and more of an excuse to slow down this season, but exercise can also contribute to rosacea symptoms. Essentially, anything that’s heat-producing and blood vessel dilating can be linked to an increase in rosacea.
Rosacea + Your Gut Health
In functional medicine, gut health is incredibly key to holistic health. And it has also been shown that a healthy gut microbiome can improve your rosacea symptoms. We dive more deeply into how gut health impacts general skin health here, but the simple explanation is that skin-related conditions are influenced through interactions between intestinal microbes and various cellular pathways. So, gut imbalance can equal skin imbalance.
At MIMC, we often look at skin conditions as a symptom of a deeper issue, instead of just a skin disease that needs treatment. If you’re struggling with rosacea, acne, eczema, or psoriasis, we can help. I specialize in dermatological issues, and getting to the root cause—set up an initial appointment to see how we could help you in your skin journey (and escape summer with less inflammation, redness, and discomfort)!
Jenikka Tomashek is a Certified Nurse Practitioner with a doctorate degree in Nursing and 10 years of experience. She has a broad perspective on patient care: She started her career in small-town nursing in northern Minnesota and transitioned to inner-city emergency medicine. After four years in the ED, she made the switch to Internal Medicine where she has now been practicing for five years. During that switch was when she completed her doctorate at University of Minnesota.
Nursing, which Jenikka’s experience is grounded in, is founded on compassionate, dedicated patient care that also cares deeply about the individual and their story. She believes in the philosophy of finding and treating the root cause of symptoms, educating patients, and focusing on the prevention of future disease. Find out more about Jenikka and her expertise (she’s a diagnostic magician!) to see if she’s a fit for you.