Which Rosacea Topical Treatment is Right For You?

A good Rosacea topical treatment can make all the difference to managing the often embarrassing symptoms that come with this chronic skin condition. You just need to find the one that is right for you – and that may depend on the type of rosacea that you have. First, let’s define “topical”. This means something that is applied to the skin and only used externally – like a cream or a gel.

There are three primary types of rosacea that are suitable for topical applications, each with their own set of characteristic symptoms. The first is known from its hallmark features, being a red flushed appearance on the face and sometimes with blood capilliaries becoming visible (called “spider veins”). This facial redness is called erythematotelangiectatic rosacea and is not often effectively treated with medications. For this reason, a rosacea topical treatment is normally reserved for the second and third types of rosacea, these being:

  • papulopustular rosacea (often called “äcne rosacea”) and
  • phymatous rosacea (enlarged lumpy nose)

There is a fourth type, called Ocular Rosacea (rosacea of the eyes) but applying creams to the eyes is not recommended.

While often used in conjunction with other treatment options (oral medication for the papulopustular type, laser surgery for phymatous rosacea), a good topical application is a safe and often effective way of managing rosacea.

Before continuing our recommendations for rosacea topical treatment methods, it is important to emphasize the word “treatment”. At this point, there is no known cure for rosacea, a condition which can cause sufferers to go through depression brought on by severe embarrassment due to redness and acne-like pustules that cover various areas of the face. It’s also important to remember that when using a cream or gel as treatment for rosacea, results will typically not be seen for several weeks. There is no “magic cream” that will eradicate your symptoms in a day.

There are several rosacea topical treatment methods which will be discussed here in some detail. These can be divided into two categories: preventative and medical.

Preventative Rosacea Topical Treatment

What is preventative treatment? Quite simply, this refers to using products that go on the skin that help prevent rosacea outbreaks. These are not intended to treat rosacea, but rather to prevent it from manifesting on your skin in the first place.

Methods include: using sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, using water-based make-up and lotions and applying camouflage make-up.

Medical Treatments

A medical rosacea topical treatment involves the use of prescribed medication to combat rosacea and will be our primary focus. It is important to note here that treatment for rosacea is not the same as treatment for acne, despite the visible similarity of the two conditions. Treating rosacea as if it were acne can actually cause the condition to worsen. Rosacea differs from person to person, so the only effective way to have your condition diagnosed and treated is to see a dermatologist and follow a carefully planned and prescribed treatment method.

The following medications are currently used as topical medications for treating rosacea:

  • Metronidazole
  • Azelaic acids
  • Alpha-2 Brimonidine (Mirvaso)
  • Topical Ivermectin (Soolantra Cream, 1%)
  • Tretnoin
  • Erythromycin
  • Sodium sulfacetamide and sulfur

Each of the above medications has a different level of effectiveness and not all treat the same problems associated with rosacea. Perhaps it will help to delve a little more into each one to learn about the possible benefits.

By far the most commonly prescribed topical medications are Metronidazole and Azelaic acids. Whereas azelaic acids have been shown to be more effective in treating rosacea, they also have a higher reported incidence rate of side-effects, including a burning or stinging sensation, dry skin, and skin irritation. Both medications along with most of the medications on the above list are used to deal with the inflammation and pustules that result due to rosacea.

One notable exception is Mirvaso, a drug approved by the FDA back in August 2013 and created by Galderma Laboratories based in Fort Worth, Texas. Mirvaso was created to treat erythema (facial redness). Previously, laser treatment was the only way to get rid of (or at least reduce) erythema. Tretnoin, which is a retinoid, is used to treat mild cases of rosacea and has one of the longest wait times before results become noticeable, namely 8-12 weeks.

Implementing Your Rosacea Topical Treatment Plan

When following a rosacea treatment plan, it is important not to deviate from the schedule set forth by your dermatologist. Also, keep in mind that results will not happen overnight, with most medications taking up to a month or just under before any results are seen. In order use topical creams or gels effectively against rosacea, follow these simple steps:

1) Clean the affected area. The best way to do this is to use mild or soap-less cleaner and then pat the area dry.

2) Wait before applying medication. Your dermatologist will tell you exactly for how long you need to wait before applying your cream or gel, but usually it will be between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on the particular medication.

3). Apply medication carefully. Follow directions exactly. Failing to apply rosacea topical treatment medication as instructed by your physician can result in treatment having no effect or worse, the condition becoming exacerbated.

In some cases, a prescribed rosacea topical treatment plan may not be enough and a patient may have to use oral medication, laser treatment – or in rare cases – surgery. Make sure you discuss your options with your doctor first.

Listen to This Dermatologist Talk About Her Rosacea Topical Treatment Product

More information regarding rosacea and treatment options can be found at the following links:


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