Exercise can be one of the main triggers of rosacea but Heather Stephen finds out how you can still keep fit and hold the condition at bay.
There’s nothing like a good workout to feel great and boost our health but if you have rosacea you may well give the gym a miss for fear of breaking out in an unwelcome flush.
According to the National Rosacea Society in America exercise is the fifth most common rosacea trigger so it is hardly surprising you might want to avoid it if you have the condition.
‘Exercise makes rosacea worse because it raises the temperature and increases blood supply to the surface of the skin,’ explains consultant dermatologist Anton Alexandroff. ‘It is a known trigger but you shouldn’t stop working out as it is so vitally important for your health.
‘There are two types of rosacea,’ he says. ‘The inflammatory kind with spots is not affected by exercise but the type which causes flushing and redness is made worse by activity.
He says exercise ‘is one of many triggers, including drinking coffee, sunlight and too much alcohol.’ But he adds, ‘people shouldn’t stop doing things they enjoy just because they have rosacea.’
Dr Justine Hextall, consultant dermatologist with the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust agrees exercise can impact on rosacea but says it is beneficial for overall skin health.
‘I would always encourage people with rosacea to exercise because it is so good for you and may have an anti-inflammatory effect on your condition,’ she says.
‘People tend to get rosacea as they get older and there are changes to the skin so the first thing I do is to try and restore the skin barrier.
‘I ask patients what they are using to wash their face. People think they should be using frequent exfoliators but this is usually far too abrasive for sensitive skin so I always advise people to use a gentle face wash followed by a moisturiser.
‘There is a lot of evidence that sunlight affects rosacea so it is important to protect your skin against the sun when exercising outside. But some people with rosacea may find their skin irritated by the chemicals in sun screen so I recommend zinc oxide cream which protects against UVA and UVB but is much better tolerated.’
Dr Hextall suggests going for a brisk walk rather than a run which could flush the cheeks. She also recommends swimming as a good exercise option for people with rosacea as it’s less likely to lead to overheating but recommends washing and moisturising the face afterwards.
‘As chlorinated water is alkaline this unbalances the naturally mildly acidic skin pH and disrupts the skin barrier making it feel tight, dry and sensitive,’ she says.
‘In the context of inflammatory skin conditions, keeping the skin calm and hydrated is of paramount importance.
‘Using a slightly acidic face wash like Cetaphil will restore the skin’s natural pH and adding moisturiser will hydrate and calm the skin. If you follow these steps going for a swim is unlikely to flare your rosacea.’
Top exercise tips
- Stay cool Rosacea flares up when the body temperature rises during exercise. If you are exercising inside switch on a fan or air conditioning. If you feel things hotting up drape a cool, damp towel around your neck or pop some ice cubes in your mouth and a spray bottle with cool water is the perfect way to cool down during your workout.
- Go slow Aerobic exercise can increase the demand for oxygen and cause you to overheat. Low impact activities like yoga, pilates and aqua aerobics are a better option and are still great for your health.
- Keep it indoors On a lovely day it may be tempting to take your fitness routine outside but it might be better to stay inside. A survey by the National Rosacea Society found sun exposure was the top trigger for rosacea, causing a flare up in 81 per cent of the people surveyed. And things are no better on a wintry day as the cold weather and wind often aggravates rosacea.
- Rosacea is a common skin disease and affects 10 per cent of the population – making it more common than psoriasis.
- It first appears as redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead and in many people the eyes feel gritty and are bloodshot or watery.
- It is most common in fair skinned women between the ages of 30 and 50.
- To begin with the condition comes and goes but as time goes on the redness becomes more severe and persistent, enlarged blood vessels may appear and bumps and pimples often develop.
- By this stage you should see a dermatologist as the condition rarely improves and may become worse without treatment.
- rosacea.org The National Rosacea Society has booklets on rosacea and offers a diary to help you identify your personal triggers
- Dr Alexandroff has clinics at Leicester Spire, Leicester Nuffield, Cambridge Nuffield and Bedford BMI www.alexandroff.org.uk
- Dr Hextall can be contacted via her website http://www.sussexdermatologist.co.uk