Is Using Retinol For Rosacea An Effective Treatment?

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. If you have any medical concerns, make sure to contact your doctor for a consultation.

Rosacea is a common skin condition and can be triggered by several factors. With so many over-the-counter products available to treat skincare concerns, it might be difficult to tell which is effective or not, especially for rosacea. With retinol being a popular ingredient in skincare products, you might be wondering if retinol for rosacea is effective.

The truth is, retinol can be good for some people with rosacea but not for others. Retinol can help with acne rosacea but it can also worsen the redness of your skin or even irritate it further.

In this article, we will talk about rosacea, retinol, and if retinol is effective in treating rosacea symptoms. We will also be talking about alternative ingredients for retinol that you should look for in skincare products to help prevent flare-ups from happening.

What Is Rosacea?

What Is Rosacea

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that commonly affects both men and women who are middle-aged or older. This skin condition causes the cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead to blush or flush. This is because of the blood vessels becoming visible in the affected area.

Rosacea is commonly diagnosed in people who have fair skin. Those who have darker skin tend to be underdiagnosed with rosacea as redness is masked by a darker-colored skin.

The causes of rosacea are still unknown but several factors can trigger it. Genetics and environmental factors such as sun exposure are common reasons why rosacea appears. Aside from being hereditary and being exposed to external factors, drinking alcohol, eating spicy foods, stress, skin care products, and make-up can also trigger rosacea.

Other factors can trigger rosacea; unless these triggers cause you to flare up, you don’t have to avoid them. However, it is still best to talk to your doctor regarding avoiding certain foods, drinks, things, or activities if you have rosacea.

What Are The Symptoms Of Rosacea?

There are four types of rosacea and you can develop symptoms of one or multiple types of rosacea.

Erythematotelangiectatic Rosacea (ETR)

This type of rosacea commonly appears on the nose and cheeks. This causes small blood vessels to become enlarged and appear on your face which causes blushing or flushing. If not treated, ETR can spread and the redness of the skin can become permanent.

Papulopustular Rosacea

Aside from having red skin due to visible broken blood vessels, rosacea symptoms can also include pustules. These are whiteheads that are swollen, red, and pus-filled. Acne-like symptoms and blemishes typically appear on your chin, cheeks, and forehead but, they can also develop on your neck, chest, or scalp.

Phymatous Rosacea

This type of rosacea is a rare but treatable condition and it can cause thick, bumpy, and swollen skin. Phymatous Rosacea typically affects the nose and it most commonly appears in men than in women.

Ocular Rosacea

This type of rosacea primarily affects the eyes and symptoms include watery or bloodshot eyes. You can also develop cysts or experience a burning, irritating, dryness, or sensitivity in your eyes.

What Is Retinol?

What Is Retinol

Retinol is a form of vitamin A that is derived from animal and plant sources such as chicken liver, eggs, fish, carrots, pumpkin, and squash. Retinol is also a popular ingredient when it comes to skincare products.

You can find over-the-counter (OT) retinol creams, gels, and serums. These products are used to treat skin concerns such as acne and signs of skin aging such as fine lines and wrinkles.

But, how does retinol work?

Retinol helps exfoliate your skin by unclogging the pores and it also increases the body’s collagen production. The body loses its elasticity as you age which is a result of a decrease of collagen in the body. What retinol also does is it also increase skin cell turnover, prevent breakouts, and improves your skin texture and appearance.

While retinol is effective in treating acne and reducing fine lines and wrinkles, using retinol does have some side effects.

If you are using retinol for the first time, you might experience skin purging or retinol purging. This will cause your pores to clog and make your breakouts worse. The good thing is, this purging is not permanent and will only last for about 2 to 6 weeks.

Is Retinol Good For Rosacea?

While retinol has anti-aging benefits, there is no straightforward answer as to whether retinol is good for people with rosacea. If you have sensitive skin, you might have bad allergic reactions to retinol. While using retinol might help with rosacea pustules, improve your skin, and reduce breakouts, it can also worsen the redness of your skin.

If you have a bad case of rosacea, it might be best to avoid using retinol for the time being as it can irritate your skin further. However, if your skin is not flaring up from rosacea, you can use a lower concentration of retinol once a week and see how your skin reacts. If it irritates your skin, stop using retinol immediately.

While retinol may work for some people with rosacea, it may also not work for others. Make sure to consult your doctor regarding the use of retinol. Your doctor may also provide you with other prescription medication such as the use of topical tretinoin.

What Is Tretinoin?

What Is Tretinoin

Like retinol, tretinoin is also a retinoid. This means that tretinoin is also a form of vitamin A. However, tretinoin is stronger than retinol.

Doctors usually prescribe tretinoin for rosacea to help reduce symptoms of acne rosacea (Papulopustular Rosacea) such as bumps and pus-filled whiteheads. Do note that tretinoin can also cause redness and broken blood vessels (spider veins) in your face to look worse.

Since topical tretinoin is a prescription-only medication, your doctor will most definitely prescribe tretinoin to you only if needed.

Alternative To Retinol

Alternative To Retinol

If you have a bad case of rosacea flare-up, it might be best to avoid retinol unless your doctor gave you the go signal to use it. Other ingredients such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid are also not recommended if you have rosacea.

For rosacea treatment, you can use products with hyaluronic acid, green tea extract, vitamins C and E, azelaic acid, and niacinamide. These products have anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce rosacea symptoms.

To prevent rosacea from flaring up, there are several things you can do.

If you are using new skincare products, make sure to test them on a small part of your skin first. Wait for at least 72 hours to see if the product will irritate your skin. If it does, do not use the product anymore as it can make rosacea worse.

For rosacea-prone individuals, make sure to also clean your face with a mild cleaner that is rosacea-friendly. Do not rub your face but use a gentle, circular motion to wash and rinse your face. Pat your face dry using a clean cotton towel.

Aside from using rosacea-friendly skincare products, moisturizing your face daily can also keep your symptoms at bay. Using sunscreen can prevent sun damage and prevent your symptoms from worsening. Make sure to protect your face from the sun to prevent sun damage and rosacea flare-ups.


Retinol is definitely a good ingredient in skincare products. It can help prevent acne and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. But, if you want to treat rosacea, it may not be the best thing to use.

While retinol can help with acne-like symptoms and improve your skin health, it can also irritate your skin. If you want to use retinol, make sure to consult your doctor about it so they can assess your skin and give you the go signal (or not) in using retinol. 

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