Anyone who survived high school with a face full of acne knows the feeling: You want to leave the house with a paper bag over your head. For the 14 million Americans suffering from rosacea, that feeling can last a lifetime. Pronounced “roh-ZAY-sha,” this chronic skin condition, which mostly affects women between the ages of 30 and 50, is characterized by redness or flushing in the cheeks, nose, chin, or forehead; visible blood vessels; red bumps; and pimples. Recent research has shown that rosacea is actually a result of excessive immune response to microbes that injure skin. Common triggers include sun exposure, stress, cold weather, and alcohol.

Now for the good news: Simple, natural therapies can help relieve rosacea's redness and burning, says Michelle Clark, a naturopathic doctor who often treats rosacea patients in her practice in Bradenton, Florida. “Almost always, mild cases of rosacea will go away with continued treatment,” she says. Try these expert-recommended techniques.

Eat more good stuff

Nutrient deficiencies can exacerbate skin conditions like psoriasis and rosacea, says Clark. First, eliminate foods that contain trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, and common allergens, such as corn, dairy, gluten, and peanuts — all known to cause sensitive-skin flare-ups. Then add in the foods you know you should be getting more of but aren't. Eat wild-caught salmon, halibut, and sardines, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, three times a week (or take 1,000 mg fish oil daily) to reduce redness and balance skin's pH. Stock up on whole grains, almonds, and dark leafy greens, which contain inflammation-reducing B vitamins — often lacking in people with rosacea. Finally, munch fruits and veggies full of antioxidant bioflavonoids to strengthen arteries and veins and prevent them from bloating and appearing close to the skin's surface. Antioxidant-plush choices include blueberries, blackberries, zucchini, cherries, beets, apples, and onions.

Take care of your tummy

“When the digestive system is not functioning properly, important nutrients may not get fully absorbed,” says Jane Guiltinan, ND, a clinical professor at Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle. Plus, the gut and skin play important roles in eliminating toxins, so when one system (your digestive tract) isn't doing its job, the other system (your skin) tries to pick up the slack, becoming overworked in the process. The result: skin disorders such as eczema, acne, psoriasis, and rosacea. Before symptoms get out of control, support your digestion with a simple supplement routine of digestive enzymes. Guiltinan recommends taking 250-750 mg of pancreatic or vegetarian enzymes before every meal. A probiotic (friendly bacteria) supplement with 30 billion microorganisms of lactobacillus can boost healthy gut flora, aid digestion, and relieve inflammation.

Rub on oatmeal

When finely ground and applied to skin in cleansers and moisturizers, oatmeal may do it all — cleanse, moisturize, soothe irritation, relieve itchiness, and act as an anti-inflammatory. According to research published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology in 2007, oatmeal is often used to treat rosacea and protect the skin. “With rosacea patients, the barrier layer of facial skin has been impaired,” says John E. Wolf Jr., MD, chairman of the department of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “This leads to excessive water loss and allows substances to easily enter the body.” Oatmeal's proteins and polysaccharides bind to the skin's surface and create a barrier, which prevents the skin from dehydrating and letting in toxins.

When it comes to daily care, the National Rosacea Society suggests using fingertips or a soft chamois to spread on a mild cleanser. Then rinse your face with lukewarm water, blot it dry with a soft towel, and moisturize with a gentle, lightweight product. Apply a mineral-based makeup as desired. Try to avoid body care products that contain potentially irritating ingredients, such as alcohol, witch hazel, fragrance, menthol, peppermint, and eucalyptus oil.

Common rosacea triggers

  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate
  • Cold weather
  • Exercise
  • Face scrubs
  • Fragrances
  • Hot baths, showers, saunas
  • Hot beverages
  • Some conventional makeup
  • Spicy foods
  • Stress
  • Sun exposure
  • Topical corticosteroids

Continue reading for natural ways to treat sensitive skin