The Best & Worst Foods for Rosacea
What foods can help calm skin, plus what to skip to avoid a flare-up.
Our skin is the largest organ of our body, and certain foods can help it glow while others might cause irritation. Especially for those of us with sensitive skin, the foods we eat can play a role in redness and beyond. For people that struggle with rosacea, we know that not all triggers are the same. In fact, not all rosacea looks the same. That said, certain foods can help quell symptoms while others can exacerbate them. Here we dive into the research on what foods will help keep rosacea symptoms at bay, and what foods to avoid if you struggle with irritated skin.
What Is Rosacea?
As defined by the National Rosacea Society, rosacea is "a common but poorly understood disorder of the facial skin that affects over 16 million Americans and as many as 415 million worldwide." Common symptoms of rosacea are as follows:
- Redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead
- Small visible blood vessels on face
- Bumps or pimples on face
- Watery or irritated eyes
Signs and symptoms of rosacea can vary from one person to another, so you should consult a physician or dermatologist to help tailor treatment to your unique needs. There is a variety of oral and topical medications that can help alleviate symptoms. Gentle, consistent skin care can play a vital role in helping manage rosacea. Additionally, identifying and managing lifestyle and environmental factors that may trigger a flare-up is important.
The Best Foods for Rosacea
Foods are unfortunately not a cure for rosacea, but we do know that several foods play a crucial role in managing inflammation in the body. These foods can help cut down on inflammation and may aid in keeping flare-ups at bay.
Inflammation is a key contributor to how rosacea presents itself. Whether it's feeling flushed, redness or bumps and pimples, you might have inflammation to thank. For that reason, having a healthy diet packed with anti-inflammatory foods is important to keeping rosacea symptoms in check. There are ample foods that have anti-inflammatory benefits, like cherries, avocados, nuts and beets, but a few stand out when it comes to rosacea.
Along with adding a vibrant orange color to your foods or tea, turmeric has a slew of impressive health benefits. It may help relieve arthritis pain, reduce symptoms of depression and there's promising research around turmeric and cancer. Part of the reason for turmeric's health-boosting power is due to the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in the spice. Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, is anti-inflammatory.
Cruciferous vegetables refers to plants in the Brassica genus. This includes lots of EatingWell favorites like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and more. Think pretty much any deep green, leafy veg. They boast a slew of health benefits and provide vitamin E, an antioxidant that is crucial for healthy skin and protects against free radical damage. Their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds may help you keep flare-ups in check.
Foods like salmon, tuna, walnuts and seeds might come to mind when you think of omega-3 fats. They are crucial for heart health, brain health, anti-inflammation and overall body health. Unfortunately, it is an important nutrient that most Americans don't get enough of. These healthy fats can help your skin retain moisture, leaving it feeling more even and more resistant to flaking, hyperpigmentation and redness.
Prebiotics are nutrients in fiber-rich food that feed the probiotics and microorganisms in your gut. You need a mix of both probiotic and prebiotic nutrients to keep your gut functioning at its best. Research has shown that a healthy gut and diet packed with prebiotic-rich foods can help keep rosacea flare-ups at bay. To keep your skin calmer and stay feeling your best, choose prebiotic foods like legumes, onions, garlic, walnuts and bananas. Probiotics-rich fermented foods like kimchi, kefir and miso are important to include for a healthy gut as well.
The Worst Foods for Rosacea
Triggers for a flare-up can often include food. Not all (or any) of these foods are triggers for everyone, but different foods can cause inflammation of the skin in different ways. Here are some foods to avoid to cut down on your risk of a flare-up.
Research has shown that alcohol can lead to inflammation and irritation of the outermost layer of skin, called keratinocytes. This is because the stress on your skin leads to a histamine response, where inflammation is an unfortunate side effect.
That said, not all alcohol can affect your skin in the same way. Some people have found that beer does not cause flare-ups like how other types of alcohol might. This could be due to the anti-inflammatory compounds found in hops that are used to brew beer.
Similar to alcohol, spicy foods can trigger a histamine response that leads to inflammation of the skin and face. This leaves the skin looking flushed, and can even cause inflammatory bumps and pimples. Spicy foods are one of the more common triggers for people with rosacea, so limiting your intake can help control flare-ups.
Chocolate contains a compound called cinnamaldehyde (also found in cinnamon) which adds to its flavor. Unfortunately, cinnamaldehyde can be a trigger for people with rosacea. Additionally, added sugars can lead to inflammation throughout the body, including in the skin. However, this doesn't mean you can never enjoy chocolate if you have rosacea. In fact, chocolate boasts some impressive health benefits like improving heart health and boosting mental sharpness. But it is worth paying attention to see if it is a trigger for you.
Your immune system has cells all over your body, and in your skin those cells are called Langerhans cells. Foods that are high in niacin, like poultry, tuna, peanuts and crustaceans, can trigger those cells to release compounds that increase redness, inflammation and pain in your skin. Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is a nutrient that helps our nervous system, metabolism and numerous body functions, so it should not be completely cut out. But if high-niacin foods are a trigger for you, it could be worth avoiding them as many Americans get plenty of niacin through their diet.
No specific food will cure or cause rosacea, and triggers can vary from individual to individual. However, there are some inflammation fighting foods that can help you keep flare-ups and symptoms in check. Additionally, it is important to get to know your own triggers so you can stay ahead of uncomfortable side effects. If you have questions about the right management approach for you, talk to your doctor or dermatologist.