A Functional Medicine Guide for Treating Rosacea

Are you struggling with a permanent blush or frequent blushing across your nose and cheeks?

Do you get bumps that look like acne on your forehead, cheeks, and chin?

Or do you have enlarged blood vessels around your face?

If you struggle with any of these symptoms, you might have a skin condition called rosacea. 

A rosacea diagnosis can be frustrating, but there are many things a functional dermatologist can do to help you improve your rosacea from the inside out.

What is Rosacea?

Rosacea is a chronic, non-contagious inflammatory skin condition that usually causes permanent facial flushing or blushing, sensitive skin, and other symptoms. 

Rosacea impacts about 10 percent of the population, with women and people with fair skin more prominently impacted. Also, having rosacea can increase your chances of developing other diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, and migraines.

Rosacea vs. Acne

Breakouts and redness on your face could mean that you have acne, but not always. 

Both acne and rosacea cause redness, bumps, and pimples on the face. However, the redness associated with rosacea typically covers a large area of the face, while the redness from acne tends to be located just around the pimple. Another distinguishing feature is that blackheads and clogged pores are characteristic of acne and are not typical of rosacea. 

Symptoms of Rosacea

Rosacea commonly develops in your 20s and continues to progress into your 30s and 40s, beginning with frequent flushing of the nose or cheeks and increased skin sensitivity. As rosacea progresses, the blood vessels in the face can enlarge, and some skin areas can become permanently red. 

Typical symptoms of rosacea include

  • A permanent flush across the nose and cheeks
  • Yellow-headed pimples on the nose, chin, and cheeks
  • Frequent blushing
  • Sensitive skin that reacts to the sun, skin care products, or heat
  • Feelings of itching, burning, or tingling skin
  • Swollen and painful skin
  • Enlarged capillaries around the nose
  • Irritated, itchy, or swollen eyes or eyelids
  • Enlarged nose

Causes of Rosacea

Rosacea is a disease caused by multiple factors; however, the exact cause is largely unknown. 

Potential causes of rosacea include

Inflammatory or Immune Responses. Rosacea is thought to be caused by increased levels of the peptide cathelicidin in the facial skin. An increase in this peptide can cause an elevated immune response, triggering rosacea symptoms.

Skin Microbiome Sensitivity. Research has indicated that the skin of rosacea patients can be hypersensitive to some of the naturally occurring mites in the skin microbiome that live near hair follicles called Demodex mites. 

Food Sensitivities. Many rosacea patients report having increased symptoms after eating foods like alcohol, tomatoes, citrus fruits, chocolate, hot drinks, or histamine-rich foods like aged cheese, wine, or processed meats.

Digestive Health Imbalance. In addition to the skin microbiome, the gut microbiome balance can considerably impact the skin, as the skin is often a sign of an imbalance within the body.

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). Numerous studies have identified the potential connection between patients with SIBO and rosacea. One study indicates that patients with rosacea are 13 times more likely to have SIBO than control patients.  

Functional Medicine Testing for Rosacea

Unfortunately, there is no single test to diagnose rosacea. Instead, dermatologists make a diagnosis based on the inspection of the skin and a patient’s medical history. On the other hand, functional medicine practitioners help identify the root cause(s) of the rosacea to enable healing from the inside out. 

Functional medicine tests for rosacea symptoms may include:

SIBO Breath Testing

A SIBO breath test analyzes the gasses released by bacteria in the small intestine to determine if an overgrowth is occurring. 

Stool Testing

Comprehensive stool testing evaluates the gut microbiome’s health to identify imbalances and inflammation markers and detect leaky gut.

Micronutrient Testing

Micronutrient testing measures the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in your blood to determine if any nutritional deficiencies need to be addressed.

Food Sensitivity Testing

Food sensitivity testing measures your immune response to some of the most common foods that cause allergic reactions to identify foods causing an inflammatory response in the body.

Functional Medicine Treatments for Rosacea 

There is no treatment to cure rosacea. Standard therapies focus on symptom control using topical creams, gels, and oral medications. Yet, many of these medications only provide temporary relief and can have side effects.

A functional medicine approach to treating rosacea looks at the root causes and develops an individualized treatment plan to address gut imbalances, food sensitivities, and/or nutritional deficiencies.

Functional medicine treatments for rosacea can include:


A low-inflammatory diet and avoiding foods that cause inflammation can prevent intestinal inflammatory processes, allowing the skin barrier to heal.

Read more about the rosacea diet.

Stress Management

The mind and your skin are intimately intertwined, so it is no surprise that, similar to many skin conditions, stress triggers rosacea flare-ups. 

Try these tips to begin managing your stress to heal your skin.

Sun Protection

Many rosacea patients experience flare-ups when exposed to the sun. Utilizing regular sun protection can help minimize skin irritations.

Learn how to pick the right sunscreen for you and your family.

Laser or Light Therapy

Laser therapy is an emerging treatment option that can help increase the skin’s appearance and improve the appearance of acne, scars, redness, and wrinkles. 

Over-the-counter Treatments

Probiotics (topical and oral)

Probiotics can help support a healthy gut microbiome and can help improve and support a healthy skin barrier.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids (oral)

Omega 3 fatty acids can help restore the epidermal skin barrier and protect against ocular rosacea.

Zinc (topical and oral)

Zinc sulfate can help significantly improve rosacea symptoms with relatively few side effects.

Vitamin B3 (topical and oral)

Niacinamide is a B vitamin that can improve the function of your skin barrier and improve inflammation.

Vitamin C (topical and oral)

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can help limit the impact of free radicals, which can damage cells and cause skin aging. 

Prescription Treatments

For Redness: 

Brimonidine Gel

Brimonidine gel is used in adults to treat facial redness from rosacea, with results typically after 30 days of continuous use. 

Oxymetazoline Hydrochloride Cream

Oxymetazoline creams treat facial redness from rosacea in adults. Patients can see results in as little as three hours, but the redness will return without continued use.

For pimple bumps:

Anti-Inflammatory (topical and oral)

Your provider may prescribe topical anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, and/or antibiotic creams or some combination. Short-term, low-dose oral antibiotics such as doxycycline may also be provided to help ease the swelling, inflammation, and pimple-like spots associated with rosacea.

Heal Your Skin Inside and Out

Your skin’s appearance reflects your unique state of overall health, age, and environmental factors. Digging deeper to reveal what may be holding you back from achieving the healthy, glowing skin you desire can help you heal your skin from the inside out. 

Join me on a skin healing journey different from anything you’ve done before. Learn what the health of your skin may be saying about what’s happening inside your body.

Discover how you can get clear skin using my SkinClock Method.

Limited spots are available for upcoming sessions. 

Join my waitlist today and discover how to STOP your unpredictable breakouts…so you can finally have the youthful, radiant skin you desire! 

Schedule Your Functional Medicine Rosacea Treatment in Scottsdale, Arizona

Come experience my full-body approach to rosacea at the Arizona Wellness Center in Scottsdale, AZ. Call to schedule your functional medicine dermatology consultation today!