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Rosacea: Steer Clear of these Foods for Calm Skin

Rosacea affects millions of people, but from a natural health perspective there is much you can do to manage your symptoms through diet and nutrition for calmer skin.
Mar 15, 2022 | Joy McCarthy

Being prone to redness has always been part of my life, but given my healthy lifestyle, I never thought I would develop rosacea. I just assumed that the fact I’ve always blushed easily and my cheeks get really red when I do an intense workout is just who I am. Just like eczema, there is no cure for rosacea, just management of symptoms by reducing the factors that contribute to the inflammation.

I'm not gonna sugarcoat things and say it's been a walk in the park - I didn't just eat some kale and *poof* I had calm skin.

I wish it were that easy. Many people commented on my skin that it doesn't look like I have rosacea, but that's because I did a skillful job covering it up with tinted moisturizer and pressed powder when I had a flare up.

There have been plenty of tears of frustration over the years. While it's true I'm in a good place now, one thing I can say for sure is that my skin would have been far worse if I was not careful with my diet and engaged in habits that promote inflammation in the body.

Rosacea is redness that affects your cheeks, nose and chin. It is one of the most common skin conditions for people over 30. In fact, millions of people all around the world suffer from it. It is a multifactorial skin condition, which means there is no one single cause for it, which makes it a little frustrating when you’re trying to address the root cause.

That being said, there is so much you can do to manage this condition in terms of your nutrition and lifestyle.

As a nutritionist, I’ve spent a lot of time researching this condition and I can say with confidence I have tried everything natural. I have chosen not to take antibiotics or use any antibiotic or steroid creams on my skin since I feel the side effects outweigh any benefits.

In this post I’m going to share what you need to avoid if you have rosacea from a dietary perspective. Don't worry, I will do a follow up post with all the wonderfully nourishing foods you'll want to be eating like everything in this Veggie Quinoa Soup!

Veggie quinoa soup

What To Avoid Eating If You Have Rosacea

This list of potentially triggering foods doesn't mean you can never eat these foods again because many of them are health-promoting. I still eat eggplant (as you know!). I also eat strawberries when they're in season, but I keep this list in mind to manage my symptoms and there is no food on this list I eat every day. Some of these items I never consume (like red wine) because they are big triggers for me. If you can learn about your unique triggers, it will help you manage your symptoms.

Rancid Oils (Most Vegetable Oils)

Rancid vegetable oils

Corn oil, cottonseed oil, soybean, canola, sunflower, and safflower oil that we often find in clear plastic bottles lining the grocery store shelves should be avoided if you struggle with rosacea. The consumption of these oils has increased dramatically in the last decade.

There are multiple problems with these oils, making them the very worst choice for your health.

Before they end up in the bottle, these oils have often been treated with multiple pesticides and chemicals (many of them GMO), extracted with solvents such as hexane, been treated with multiple chemicals, and subjected to an unbelievable amount of processing from bleaching to deodorizing and more. Additionally, they are very high in omega-6 fatty acids and our diets have far too much of this fat already. When we consume an imbalanced amount of omega-6 to omega-3 fats, it can contribute to inflammation and make rosacea worse.


It’s important to note that not all plant oils are bad. Olive oil, avocado oil, pumpkin seed oil, and coconut oil are all plant-oils that I use in cooking and baking. Choose organic cold-pressed oils (that means no heat in the extraction process) and look for oils packaged in dark glass bottles. Dark glass bottles protect the oil from oxidizing (going bad). The exception is coconut oil because it’s mostly saturated fat, which means it’s more stable than olive or pumpkin seed oil.

High-Histamine Foods


Since there are foods that are high in histamine and foods that trigger the release of histamine, I've combined both in the following list:

  • Alcohol and other fermented beverages i.e. kombucha and water kefir
  • Fermented foods such as yogurt, dairy kefir, sauerkraut
  • Veggies: eggplant, spinach
  • Fruits: avocados, tomatoes, bananas, papaya, citrus fruits
  • Walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pineapples
  • Seafood
  • Egg whites
  • Chocolate
  • Soy
  • Yeast extract
  • Any foods that are aged, pickled, dried, smoked, processed or fermented

Histamine causes vasodilation in the skin (widening of blood vessels) which exacerbates rosacea. This reaction means that when blood vessels in the face dilate, redness follows. I take quercitin everyday because it's a phytonutrient that inhibits the release of histamine - this has helped me. All that being said, high-histamine foods may not be an issue for you. It's a bit of trial and error.


Cow's Milk

Cow's Milk

One of the most common food allergens and food sensitivities is dairy. In addition, lactose intolerance affects around 65% of the population. This means 65% of people do not make an enzyme needed to break down the milk sugar and therefore have many symptoms like gas, diarrhea, and bloating when they consume dairy.

Even though dairy is a great source of bone-building nutrients like vitamin D and calcium it has a downside. Dairy can be inflammatory (inflammation is at the root of rosacea), causing redness and swelling, making rosacea worse. Fermented dairy such as yogurt and kefir, as you just learned, is also a source of histamine.

What about goat and sheep dairy?

These forms of dairy are better options if you are sensitive to cow dairy. Sheep and goat dairy have less A1 casein protein and an abundance of A2 casein. Why does that matter? This matters because A1 is far more irritating and allergy provoking than A2. I've written more about this here: Cow vs Goat and Sheep Milk, Which is Better?


Gluten Bread

Gluten can cause increased permeability in the gut leading to leaky gut, food sensitivities, and inflammation. Increased levels of inflammation, food sensitivities, and poor gut health also exacerbates rosacea. It has been established that a high incidence of people with gastrointestinal disorders also have rosacea. It is well known that gluten can make these GI disorders worse.

Gluten intolerance, celiac disease and autoimmune disease are at the root of many skin issues beyond rosacea such as acne , eczema, and psoriasis.


If you want to fuel the fire of rosacea then eat lots of sugar. Wait! Don't do that! Sugar worsens inflammation, increases oxidative stress, irritates the gut lining, and aggravates rosacea. It also promotes AGEs (advanced glycation end products) which has a sort-of caramelizing effect on your skin, we talk about it in season 1 of the Joyous Health Podcast, listen here .

Sugar also causes rapid swings in blood glucose and insulin levels, may increase hunger, and may elevate free fatty acid levels. The latter oxidizes and turns rancid quickly which translates to inflammation in the body. The same goes for refined starches in foods such as white rice, white bread and white pasta and other foods made with white flour.

I do my best to avoid added sugars even if it's organic cane sugar which means you must be an avid label reader. Refined sugar of course is the worst offender because it's truly nutrient dead. I use honey, stevia, maple syrup and others to sweeten but truly in moderation.

All of the dessert recipes here on Joyous Health use natural sweeteners.



Despite the French paradox, alcohol causes increased production of inflammatory cytokines, which are cell-signaling molecules. This causes the dilation of the small blood vessels in your face, making your skin flushed. It's as simple as that. Want to reduce rosacea, skip the wine. Sorry!

Hot Drinks

Maca Hot Chocolate

Anything really warm can set off a rosacea flare. That being said, I'm a huge tea drinker but I know that caffeinated beverages like coffee or black tea, as delicious as they are, make my cheeks very hot. However, I can slurp back any of our organic herbal teas (caff-free) with no issues. The key here is to notice your triggers and do your best to avoid them.

Spicy Foods

Hot peppers

The culprit in spicy foods is the compound capsaicin. Capsaicin affects the pain receptors in your skin that feel warmth. Foods high in capsaicin include chili peppers, jalapenos, hot sauce, and Tabasco sauce. Black pepper, paprika, curry spices can also make your skin red. That being said, I love a little hot sauce on my eggs or drizzled on my cauli tacos. But I don't use it every day.

Cinnamaldehyde Foods

Cinnamaldehyde gives cinnamon its familiar pungent flavor. This compound causes a warming sensation that can trigger rosacea symptoms. It’s found in a range of foods including cinnamon, tomatoes, citrus fruits, and chocolate (very sad face). I haven't found this to be a big trigger for myself personally, but everyone is different so please just be aware of this one.

Remember, it's not about perfection— it's about being aware of your triggers.

If you have the knowledge about what can cause a flare up for you, then you've already won half the battle! This will build your confidence in managing your symptoms. 

If you've read all the way to the bottom and you're wondering what you CAN eat, remember it's about your diet as a whole. If you eat some birthday cake or have your mom's famous apple pie and ice cream this weekend don't beat yourself up about it. If the large majority of the time you're eating nourishing foods than the occasional indulgence is okay and recommended!

I will be back to share foods to addsupplements to consider, and of course lifestyle factors that play a huge role in rosacea flare up from emotional stress to poor sleep habits.

Wishing you calm skin,

Joy xo


Sonya   •   October 19, 2020

Thank you! very helpful. do you have advice for foods that can help calm keratosis pilaris? or foods to avoid (likely a similar list to rosacea)

Joy McCarthy   •   October 20, 2020

Sarah Green   •   October 20, 2020

Thank you for this wonderfully thorough and most thoughtful post. I've been struggling with rosacea for a little over three years now and so much of what you've written here resonates deeply. The emotional impact of this condition can be tricky to navigate at times. Patience is key, as are deep breaths and a positive outlook. The permission to occasionally indulge in triggers is helpful, too. I've not heard about quercitin so I'll definitely be looking into that - thank you for the suggestion! I've been a long-time admirer of yours and prepare food from your cookbooks weekly. Thank you for all of your beautiful, wise contributions to help us live healthier, whole lives.

Joy McCarthy   •   October 20, 2020

Cassie   •   October 20, 2020

Thanks for sharing this. I developed rosacea a few years ago - at the same time as celiac disease. I am wondering about location and if there may be ties there to triggers? Yours sounds like it's mostly cheeks? Mine is my nose (and so hard to cover up!). Interested in your thoughts and the rest of this series.

Joy McCarthy   •   October 21, 2020

Jessica W   •   October 20, 2020

Thank you Joy for this post! I have spent the past 6 years better understanding how to take care of myself, so my skin is taken care of too. Sleep and no alcohol have made the biggest difference in improving my rosacea. I would love to learn more about lifestyle factors (are saunas terrible for us?) and skin products you recommend. I’m currently using living libations, but have heard vitamin c serums can be beneficial. I look forward to hearing more about your journey! Thank you again!

Joy McCarthy   •   October 21, 2020

Jen   •   October 20, 2020

I have Ezcema my whole life and I am on a no wheat, gluten and dairy lifestyle. I’m ok if I don’t eat those things but my scalp is still Itchy and flaky. Not sure what to do.

Joy McCarthy   •   October 21, 2020

Jules For Health   •   October 21, 2020

Love this. Some good real talk here. Your closing statement at the end of the alcohol bit should have been 'not sorry'. People need to here it and it IS that simple. When there are issues that people want to fix, they need to get real!!

Joy McCarthy   •   October 21, 2020
Jules For Health   •   October 21, 2020

Anne Pearce   •   October 21, 2020

Thanks Joy, very helpful.

Joy McCarthy   •   October 21, 2020

Lynn Spencer   •   October 21, 2020

Dear Joy, my dermatologist told me, in my 40s, that I had rosacea and would be on penicillin for life. The side effects of lifetime antibiotics scared me. My naturopath put me on (Thorne) Betaine HCL

Joy McCarthy   •   October 21, 2020

anelsy   •   January 17, 2021

hey! where can i do a food sensitivity test?

Joy McCarthy   •   January 28, 2021

Nicole   •   January 29, 2021

Hi Joy, I recently discovered that a lot of my scalp irritation was from a chemical in my hair products called propylene glycol. I have suffered for the last 5 years now and have made some big changes as I learn my triggers. Banana being a big one. I have since switched to a clean shampoo with rosemary and lavender. Would you know if there’s any issue with rosemary as it dilates blood vessels. Would this cause irritation as well? Thank you!

Joy McCarthy   •   January 30, 2021

Paul   •   April 18, 2021

Hi there.I have just read your section on rosacea on what you can and cannot eat and found it helpful but still don’t know what I am going to eat😀😀😀.Mine tends to come more when I get hot and stressed and I can feel my face burning.It then appears in blotches on my cheeks and forehead and starts to go very dry and sometimes a little flaky.I try to eat right ,well at least I think so.After a few months it just suddenly,more or less,stops.Gone .Nothing there.Then a few months on ,it’s back.Very strange.Thanks for reading.Bye.

Joy McCarthy   •   April 18, 2021

Stacey   •   May 3, 2021

Hello! Thank you for your post! This is the first post that I have seen that has been helpful AND encouraging and not depressing making one feel hopeless. So many have made me feel like there is no hope, but yours was full of hope. So thank you 🤗

Joy McCarthy   •   May 3, 2021

Kathleen   •   May 15, 2021

Wow, this was really informative. My 14 yr old daughter suffers from rosacea and has for 6 yrs! Diagnosed by specialist. I have been desperate to help her. We have gradually found out some of the triggers but to find such a great website and nutritionalist is gold. Thank you.

Joy McCarthy   •   May 17, 2021

Olga   •   May 16, 2021

Thank you for this article, Ibreally appreciate it, I have been suffering from rosacea and it’s so depressing. I am still trying to figure out foods. Warmest Regards, Olga

Joy McCarthy   •   May 17, 2021

Lisa   •   September 4, 2021

I think you should include corn in this including corn flour, corn sugar and corn starch. It’s in everything and causes inflammation

Joy McCarthy   •   September 4, 2021

Pat Murray Thurman   •   February 20, 2022

Hi Joy, I’m noticing that my triggers change. Just when I think I’ve got things “ figured out” and under control, I end up adding a new list of triggers that have never bothered me in the past! Very frustrating!! Is this common??

Joy McCarthy   •   February 22, 2022

Kat   •   March 12, 2022

So basically I can drink water and eat cucumbers:/

Joy McCarthy   •   March 16, 2022

Sandra   •   April 7, 2022

Thanks 🙏!!!!


Ansie Snyman   •   May 23, 2022

Thanks it will help me understand this rosacea better....I'm from Namibia...

Joy McCarthy   •   May 24, 2022

SYDNEY   •   June 14, 2022

I have rosacea and I need help, whats some good meals/foods to eat?

Joy McCarthy   •   June 15, 2022

Christy   •   August 18, 2022

Helpful article, all these are triggers. However, you’re wrong about fermented foods. While it’s true they do contain trace amounts of histamines, their power as a beneficial treatment for rosacea should be considered. My skin went back to the softness and creaminess of a child’s skin when I started making my own dairy kefir. I don’t touch cheese or milk, but dairy kefir packs some powerful probiotic punches and should be considered a remedy and friend of the rosacea sufferer. I do hope you will amend your post. You’re doing a great disservice to sufferers by not espousing the great healing benefits of home made kefir.

Joy McCarthy   •   August 23, 2022

Carolyn   •   September 8, 2022

Hi there. Thank you for your experience and advice. May I ask what brand of tinted moisturizer and pressed powder do you use. I’ve completely stopped wearing makeup. Best Carolyn

Joy McCarthy   •   September 9, 2022

Carolyn   •   September 9, 2022

Oh. Never heard of these. Thank you. Interested in your cook book when you have some more in stock. Thank you again for your advice. Very helpful. Carolyn Toronto

Joy McCarthy   •   September 10, 2022

Gail   •   November 10, 2022

Best article so far on rosacea! Others don’t mention gluten and sugar which are among the triggers for me!

Joy McCarthy   •   November 10, 2022

Amelie   •   November 23, 2022

Thank you very much for sharing your nolage. I try and see what works and what doesn’t. In moderation. 😉


Amyann Darden   •   December 6, 2022

I struggle with popular rosacea. I eat the same thing every day to limit triggers: 1 cup coffee, 2 cups decaf green tea, 6 cups water, oatmeal, blueberries, almond milk, almond butter, lentil soup, broccoli, sweet potatoe, gala apple, hard boiled egg. Any advice. Still have some breakouts.

Joy McCarthy   •   December 7, 2022

Maree   •   December 27, 2022

I developed Rosacea type 2 when I became perimenopausal. 6 years ago. I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of allergy testing, gut testing, elimination diets, you name it. What I have heard time and time and again is that demodex mites are a trigger. I also believe there’s an emotional component. Thoughts?

Joy McCarthy   •   December 28, 2022

Daniela   •   February 12, 2023

This was amazin!! Thank you!!!


Marta   •   February 23, 2023

Hi! How long between eating a food and seeing a trigger? Thanks!

Joy McCarthy   •   February 23, 2023

Sheri   •   March 30, 2023

Great info! Question on the high histamine foods. If you do have an issue with one of those foods, would the reaction be fairly immediate after you consume it?

Joy McCarthy   •   March 31, 2023

Irene   •   April 3, 2023

After reading this, I’m not sure what I can eat!

Joy McCarthy   •   April 3, 2023

Jane Taylor   •   May 4, 2023

My roseacia seemed to start the same time I was diagnosed with under active thyroid. Many years ago. Could that have a connection x

Joy McCarthy   •   May 5, 2023

Emily   •   June 6, 2023

I feel like this post basically just told me.... avoid everything. (esp the histamine section?) I almost feel like it would be more helpful to see what I CAN eat, since most things are eliminated.

Joy McCarthy   •   June 6, 2023

Amyann   •   June 28, 2023

Just want to share. I have had good results managing symptoms with Riversol Redness Control line. Also, Rosadyn Supplement.

Joy McCarthy   •   July 4, 2023

Marion   •   July 11, 2023

Hi Joy, Everything you wrote was very informative

Joy McCarthy   •   July 11, 2023

Marion   •   July 11, 2023

Hi Joy, I've been following an anti-inflammatory diet for 6 months now, there is some improvement, but the redness on one side of cheek won't go away. I've stopped drinking alcohol ( I only ever had a few drinks on weekends) and use moisturisers for sensitive skin. We love cruising

Joy McCarthy   •   July 13, 2023

Denise   •   October 18, 2023

Hi Joy You have given the most practical and helpful information. I am newly diagnosed and am still in a state of depression and have been overwhelmed by the internet. I would very much like to get more guidance, recipes and help from you if possible. Do you have any books? Or how do I become a member of that's how it works. Many thanks Denise

Joy McCarthy   •   October 22, 2023

Tara   •   November 23, 2023

So just don't eat anything. Got it.

Joy McCarthy   •   November 24, 2023

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