Cosmeceuticals and rosacea: which ones are worth your time




ORLANDO – When treating rosacea, consider adding cosmeceuticals to more conventional prescriptions and over-the-counter treatments to improve the management of symptoms and patient satisfaction.

The recommendation comes from Dr. Julie Harper, a dermatologist at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, who spoke about the benefits of cosmeceuticals for rosacea at the Orlando Dermatology Aesthetic and Clinical Conference.

“I see about 40 people a day on my regular dermatology days [and] it’s easy to just write a prescription and hand it to that rosacea patient, but you do them a big disservice when you do that,” explained Dr. Harper. “We’ve got to talk about triggers, about skin care, about sun protection, [and] start that discussion from there.”

The most-important point for patients to understand is the main triggers of their rosacea, which can include ultraviolet light, spices, stress, exercise, heat, barrier disruption, and Demodex. Since sunlight is the No. 1 trigger for rosacea, treatment strategies often need to start there and revolve around how to avoid or manage the condition based on sun exposure.

As for cosmeceuticals, Dr. Harper focused on three types that have been shown to be effective against rosacea: niacinamide, licorice, and green tea.

The available data on niacinamide for rosacea are primarily from the 2006 Nicomide Improvement in Clinical Outcomes Study (NICOS), an open-label, multicenter, prospective cohort study that recruited people with acne vulgaris and acne rosacea from 100 centers and administered 750 mg of niacinamide with zinc and copper, while some got niacinamide plus oral antibiotics. The 49 people with rosacea who were enrolled received baseline assessments in the clinic, but 4-week and 8-week follow-ups were done via self-reported surveys (Cutis. 2006 Jan;77[1 Suppl]:17-28).

At 8 weeks, “75% of the rosacea group reported that appearance of their rosacea was moderately or much better [and] that there was also significant reduction in inflammatory lesions,” Dr. Harper said. “There was not a big difference in the group that had an oral antibiotic and niacinamide, versus niacinamide without the oral antibiotic,” although the design of the study leaves the findings somewhat questionable, she noted.

Topical niacinamide also has the potential to benefit certain rosacea patients, she said, referring to a 2005 study examining the effects of a niacinamide-containing moisturizer on the face and one forearm of 50 patients over 4 weeks. The primary outcome of the trial was barrier function, as measured by a dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) chemical probe (Cutis. 2005 Aug;76[2]:135-41).

While the results of this trial are “difficult” to interpret – due largely to the lack of any real measurement of facial improvement in barrier function and the confusion over whether any improvement on the forearm can be attributed to the niacinamide specifically or to the moisturizer itself – “long story short, niacinamide did seem to help the barrier function in this particular study,” Dr. Harper said. The takeaway, therefore, is that topical niacinamide treatments may offer some value to certain patients.

Moving on to licorice, Dr. Harper discussed an open label study recently published online in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, in which subjects were given a complete skin care system – which contained a cleanser, a day cream, a night cream, and a concealer product containing licochalcone A (licorice extract). They were evaluated over a period of 8 weeks for improvement in erythema, burning, stinging, tingling, and tightness, all of which were measured at baseline (J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2016 Feb;30 Suppl 1:21-7).

Results showed “improvement of statistical significance,” Dr. Harper said. “All groups had improvement over time, and did better at 8 weeks than at 4 weeks [although] the rosacea group did not reach statistical significance until week 8.”

Finally, with green tea, Dr. Harper pointed to a 2010 randomized double-blind split-face study of just four healthy individuals with erythema and telangiectasia of the face, treated for 6 weeks with a cream containing epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), the major catechin found in green tea, on one side of their face; a vehicle cream was applied to the other side and punch biopsies were performed to determine improvements (Int J Clin Exp Pathol. 2010;3[7]:705-9). EGCG cream was used because of its “antioxidant, immunomodulatory, photoprotective, antiangiogenic – that’s the standout here, that’s what we really need – and anti-inflammatory properties,” Dr. Harper said.

While biopsies did not reveal any changes to facial vasculature, there “was a significant reduction in hypoxia-inducible factor-1 and VEGF [vascular endothelial growth factor],” which are both markers of angiogenesis – indicating some degree of usefulness against rosacea, Dr. Harper said. However, a longer, more definitive study would be needed to substantiate these findings, she added.


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