Rhinophyma - what it is and how to treat it

nbd_admin|Skin care and sun protection
14 May 2019

Ageing can mean a lot of changes to our skin. We often just assume these are simply things we have to live with.

One such condition is rhinophyma – a skin condition affecting the nose, particularly in males – which can have a significant affect on the appearance.

What is rhinophyma?

Rhinophyma is a skin condition that causes the skin of the nose to become thickened and bulbous.

Skin can become red, distorted, swollen and pores can appear more prominent.

Rhinophyma is more common in men, especially those aged 50-70 years.

Is it linked to rosacea?

While rhinophyma can occur in patients with rosacea, it’s not a strong correlation. However, rosacea can cause blood vessels or papules on the face, which can have a similar red appearance.

The causes of rhinophyma

The exact cause of rhinophyma is not known.

Originally, it was thought to be the result of alcohol use, but there has been no proven link. However, because many people believe the that alcohol leads to rhinophyma, the condition is sometimes referred to as “drinker’s nose” or “alcoholic’s nose”.

Is there a cure?

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for rhinophyma, but there are a range of treatments that can be very successful.

Treatment for rhinophyma

Rhinophyma can often be managed well with topical treatments, and occasionally with oral isotretinoin, which can be prescribed by a dermatologist.

Oral antibiotics are also helpful for some patients, where rosacea is an underlying contributor.

Rhinophyma can also be treated using an ablative laser called the C02 (carbon dioxide) laser. This laser works by ablating or vaporising the outer layers of the thickened skin on the nose.

After this treatment, the skin is raw and can be a bit oozy for approximately one week. Many patients feel better staying at home during this time, so some forward planning to ensure a week off work or away from social functions is needed. However, with a dressing over the nose, it’s safe to continue with your regular activities.

Patients may require a second treatment after approximately three months, when the full affect of the first treatment can be clearly assessed.

As the laser treatment is addressing the symptoms of rhinophyma, it is possible that, over time, the affect on the nose returns, and further maintenance treatments may be required.

Lifestyle changes can also assist in improving the appearance of the affected skin on the nose and face. These include avoiding spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, overly heated rooms, extreme sun exposure and smoking. These activities can avoid the dilation of blood vessels and therefore, make the skin appear less red.

Does it need to be treated?

Rhinophyma does not represent any serious health risk. Treatment is purely for cosmetic purposes but can make certain social situations easier and be helpful in maintaining self confidence.

Do you have rhinophyma?

If you’re concerned about the appearance of your nose, your best course of action is to see your dermatologist.

Appointments with our dermatologist can be made by calling our receptionists on (02) 9953 9522, or by visiting your GP and asking for a referral.


Written by Marianne Nolan.
Marianne is a cosmetic physician and specialises in helping our clients look great for their age.