According to the American Academy of Dermatology, an estimated 14 million people deal with rosacea. Despite its prevalence, though, rosacea is still a tough skin condition to pin down—and it’s even trickier to treat.
“Rosacea is specifically defined by persistent redness of the central portion of the face,” explains Rachel Westbay MD, board-certified dermatologist at Marmur Medical. According to Dr. Westbay, rosacea symptoms can range from intense blushing across the cheeks and nose, acne-like bumps, and small, dilated blood vessels, to stinging, swollen skin, and excessive dryness. If you think this all sounds familiar, you’d be right. Having rosacea is a lot like having sensitive, redness-prone skin—but not everyone who deals with redness has rosacea. It’s confusing, I know. To help clear things up, we asked dermatologists to weigh in on the differences between rosacea and redness, the ingredients that help keep them in check, and the best moisturizers for rosacea that you’ll want to add to your line-up ASAP.
Best moisturizers for rosacea at a glance:
Best overall: Paula’s Choice Rescue & Repair Intensive Moisturizer ($33)
Best lightweight: Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin ($19)
Best rich cream: Aveeno Calm + Restore Redness Relief Moisturizer ($20)
Best gel: Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Balancing Gel Moisturizer ($54)
Best azelaic acid: The Ordinary Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension Brightening Cream ($11)
Best with SPF: Dr. Jart Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment SPF 30 ($52)
Best night cream: Eucerin Redness Relief Night Creme ($12)
Best value: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer ($21)
Best splurge: SkinCeuticals Redness Neutralizer ($70)
Best multipurpose: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream ($18)
Best for skin’s microbiome: Bliss Mighty Biome Ultra-Hydrating Moisturizer Concentrate ($25)
The difference between rosacea and redness
Because facial redness is a telltale sign of rosacea, and a regular occurrence for folks with sensitive skin, telling the two apart can be a challenge. According to Suzanne Friedler MD FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, how long your redness lasts can be a key indicator. For example, if your skin gets flushed after running outside, but goes away after a few minutes—it’s probably just redness. “If you find that over time the redness starts to last longer and longer, and it doesn’t fully clear up, then that’s the beginning of rosacea,” explains Dr. Friedler.
Another key difference between redness and rosacea is that rosacea is usually caused by a trigger. Kristina Collins MD FAAD, a double board-certified dermatologist and founder of Foy, says rosacea triggers can run the gamut from heat, light (yes, including sun exposure), and stress, to friction, alcohol, caffeine, and hot beverages. “Hormonal fluctuations can exacerbate flushing and redness,” adds Audrey Kunin MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of DERMAdoctor. The key to getting a handle on your rosacea, according to Dr. Collins, is learning your triggers and proceeding with caution when it comes to skin care, sticking with products geared towards sensitive skin.
Ingredients to look for
Dermatologists across the board recommend opting for ingredients with known anti-inflammatory benefits, and those that strengthen your skin’s protective moisture barrier. “Any ingredients that are calming and moisturizing are ideal for managing rosacea,” echoes Reid Maclellan MD, the founder and CEO of Cortina, adjunct Faculty at Harvard Medical School, and director of Proactive Dermatology Group.
Everyone’s favorite natural skin-soother, aloe vera is a no-brainer for reducing the redness that comes with rosacea. “Aloe Vera can help temporarily alleviate redness and provide comfort during a flare up,” says celebrity esthetician and owner of Sarah Akram Skincare, Sarah Akram. Aloe vera is also a natural humectant that helps bring moisture back to the skin, so it’s no wonder why dermatologists love it to help keep rosacea redness in check, and give sensitive skin a dose of calming hydration.
“Azelaic acid in low concentrations is one of my go-tos for long term, non-irritating rosacea control,” Dr. Collins shares. The holy grail ingredient touts antibacterial benefits that help ward off acne, and anti-inflammatory properties that calm rosacea-prone skin and reduce the look of redness, irritation, and hyperpigmentation. What’s more, azelaic acid gently exfoliates skin to prevent clogged pores and support a smooth, even-toned complexion.
“Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 commonly used in skin-care products,” Joshua Zeichner, board-certified dermatologist in New York City, previously told Well+Good. “It helps brighten the complexion and lighten dark spots. It also helps calm inflammation and supports healthy collagen production.” In other words, niacinamide does everything rosacea-prone skin needs—it soothes, it brightens, and it improves your skin barrier.
“Hyaluronic acid acts as a humectant to lock moisture into the skin, leaving it hydrated,” explains Dr. Maclellan. The ingredient delivers much needed comfort to dry, rosacea-prone skin in the form of skin-plumping hydration, and when used correctly, hyaluronic acid also helps support a healthy skin barrier—which is a must for sensitive, rosacea-prone skin, according to derms.
The best moisturizers for rosacea
This new and improved version of Paula’s Choice soothing moisturizer contains the perfect cocktail of skin-soothing ingredients that help reduce the look of rosacea, according to Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in NYC. “This product takes the right approach by using topical anti-inflammatory antioxidant ingredients—like mushroom extract—to combat redness and irritation, and by using calming emollients—allantoin—which can be used safely to condition skin.”
What you get is a cushioned, soft cream that instantly calms skin, deeply moisturizes, all while targeting the look of redness.
“Vanicream’s hyaluronic acid moisturizer is an inexpensive and non-irritating choice to help moisturize the skin,” says Dr. Collins. The budget-friendly moisturizer also contains ceramides to support your skin’s moisture barrier—a must for reactive, rosacea-prone skin—all while being dye, paraben, and fragrance-free.
Best rich cream
For rosacea-prone skin in need of rich moisture, you can’t go wrong with Aveeno’s Redness Relief Moisturizer, according to Dr. Friedler. The nourishing cream is formulated with oat kernel flour—a favorite for sensitive skin—skin-soothing feverfew (aka wild chamomile), along with ceramide and vitamin B5 to instantly reduce the look of redness, calm sensitivity, and support a healthy, moisturized skin barrier. “This product worked better than my expensive creams,” reported one Amazon shopper in a 5-star review. “I saw immediate improvement to my winter-dry skin.”
If a gel moisturizer is more your speed, you’re going to want to try the Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer. “[It’s a] helpful moisturizer for those with rosacea because it’s ultra-hydrating and infused with squalene and probiotics that are extra soothing for the skin,” says Dr. Maclellan. It also contains bisabolol—an ingredient derived from chamomile that’s a derm-favorite for rosacea. “Bisabolol provides soothing benefits and helps with redness and irritation,” explains Alain Michon MD, Medical Director at the Ottawa Skin Clinic.
Best azelaic acid
The Ordinary’s Azelaic Acid Brightening Cream is another affordable, dermatologist favorite. Azelaic acid is beloved for its smoothing and skin brightening benefits that help support even skin tone and texture, and most importantly, its anti-inflammatory properties that help soothe sensitivity and reduce the look of redness. And it’s the hero ingredient in this brightening cream, packing a 10 percent concentration. Use it to target rosacea-prone areas, or apply all over the face to support a brighter, more even-toned complexion.
Best with SPF
“I love this treatment for those with rosacea as it contains green pigments to cancel out redness, along with SPF which is so important for those with rosacea, as sun exposure can trigger flare ups,” explains Courtney Rubin MD MBE FAAD, board-certified dermatologist, and chief medical officer and co-founder of Fig.1. The secret? Centella Asiatica (also known as tiger grass or cica), a K-beauty staple that soothes and moisturizes skin. Combine the calming centella with the cream’s buildable pigments and natural matte finish, and you’ve got a skin-care and makeup hybrid in one.
Best night cream
To help combat the effects of rosacea while you snooze, Dr. Friedler recommends the Eucerin Redness Relief Night Creme. The fragrance-free moisturizer has a gel-cream texture that gently cools, calms and moisturizes dry, sensitive skin on contact, thanks to a key ingredient called licochalcone, a natural skin-soother derived from licorice root—a favorite for its anti-inflammatory benefits. And did I mention that it has over 5,000 5-star ratings on Amazon?
La Roche-Posay’s Toleriane Double Repair Moisturizer is specially formulated with sensitive skin in mind—and it’s one of Dr. Friedler’s favorite moisturizers for rosacea prone skin. For just over $20 bucks, you’re getting some of the best rosacea-friendly ingredients: ceramide-3 to nourish and strengthen your skin’s moisture barrier and niacinamide to soothe inflammation, boost your barrier, and help brighten the look of redness. Plus, it has over 19,000 5-star ratings on Amazon—so you know it’s worth the hype.
“A great option to help with rosacea is the SkinCeuticals Redness Neutralizer,” says Dr. Michon. “[It’s] ideal for helping combat environmental triggers in order to alleviate any skin blotchiness and discomfort associated with rosacea. It cools while promoting smoothness, skin radiance, and neutralizes redness effectively.”
To build on the treatment’s redness reducing benefits, Dr. Michon recommends layering the SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore Cream ($136) on top, saying it’s “an effective anti-aging cream that helps rebuild the skin’s moisture barrier.” The combo will run you a pretty penny, but is sure to kick your rosacea redness to the curb.
Originally $19, now $18
“I love the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream for those with rosacea as it features ceramides and hyaluronic acid to hydrate, all while being affordable and free from added fragrance,” shares Dr. Rubin. The hydrating cream is a favorite among those with sensitive skin, and the hyaluronic acid and essential ceramides inside are major keys to keeping sensitized, rosacea-prone skin hydrated and comfortable. What’s more, the pillow-soft cream can be used all over, on virtually any skin type—and who doesn’t love a multipurpose moisturizer?
Best for skin’s microbiome
“Rosacea is a condition that makes skin ultra sensitive to many ingredients, and can flare up if the products disrupt the natural barrier, or even if they disrupt the natural good bacteria found on skin,” explains Dr. Nazarian. Which is why she loves Bliss Mighty Biome Ultra-Hydrating Moisturizer Concentrate. “[It] supports the healthy bacteria on our skin, avoiding disruption of the natural pH, and has many hydrating-boosting ingredients, like ceramides and squalane, to strengthen the skin barrier. All great for rosacea-prone skin.”
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