People with pink cheeks are considered the picture of health. But it’s one thing to have a rosy glow and quite another to have five-alarm fiery spots that just won’t fade or that spread to your nose, chin, or forehead. If this sounds familiar, you could have a common skin condition called rosacea.

What’s the Blush?
Experts aren’t sure exactly what causes rosacea, but most believe it’s an inflammatory response triggered by an overactive immune system, says Diane Berson, a dermatologist in New York City. It’s most common in women over 30, in those with fair skin, and in people of northern European or British descent, says New York City dermatologist Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas. The first step in figuring out whether you have it is to identify the triggers that make your skin flare up. Common examples include the sun, alcohol, hot temperatures, and foods that cause vasodilation (blood-vessel expansion under the skin), such as shellfish, peanuts, eggplant, soy sauce, avocado, and spices like cayenne pepper. If you notice redness in response to any of these, see a dermatologist for a definitive diagnosis, and avoid the foods if you’re feeling flush.

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Simple Treatment Strategies
To keep skin calm and to minimize redness, use daily a gentle cleanser and moisturizer that contain soothing ingredients, says Berson. Look for aloe, chamomile, niacinamide (a B vitamin derivative), or pumpkin seed.

Follow with a zinc oxide– or titanium dioxide–based sunscreen; these mild physical blocks won’t irritate sensitive skin. Some doctors recommend also taking a fish-oil supplement for its anti-inflammatory properties. Camouflage flushing with a little makeup magic: Primers with a green tint counteract redness, and gentle mineral foundations can help even out skin tone. 

More Intensive Options
Rosacea can progress from flushed cheeks to broken capillaries to acne-like bumps. If the measures above don’t work, a dermatologist can help. Prescription topicals, such as Finacea (available by prescription only) and Metrogel, contain anti-inflammatory ingredients. Intense pulse-light lasers can painlessly shrink visible capillaries (you’ll need several treatments, at around $550 a session). And in some cases, “oral and topical antibiotics, or even Accutane, may offer relief,” says Richard Glogau, a San Francisco dermatologist.