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What's Causing Facial Redness and How to Treat It

July 19, 2021

What's Causing Facial Redness and How to Treat It

Facial redness, blotchiness and sensitivity can be hard to ignore. It’s uncomfortable and difficult to cover with makeup. And the cause of facial redness isn’t always clear, making it difficult to treat.

Getting to the bottom of what’s causing your red face is the key to eliminating it. If your face seems more flushed than usual, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got the best tips to calm and soothe red skin. Read on for everything you need to know to get rid of facial redness.  

What is facial redness?

At its best, a red face can be annoying, but at its worst, it can be a source of irritation, discomfort or underlying health issues. Facial redness is inflammation, the body's natural response to protect itself against harm. Your face becomes red when blood vessels dilate. This means that more blood rushes to your skin, giving it a red appearance.

In most cases, facial redness it’s accompanied by itching and burning. There are several causes of redness, and how you treat each one differs. So understanding what’s at the root of the inflammation is the key to eliminating. If left untreated, you could be stuck in a never-ending cycle of flare-ups.

What are the causes of skin redness?

Lots of things can contribute to facial redness, from the wrong skincare routine, to your lifestyle habits and medical conditions. Here are some of the most common causes of a red face.

Rosacea-Related Redness

Rosacea is a skin condition that affects over 400 million people. It causes red skin that’s sensitive and overly reactive to environmental triggers. These triggers include hot or cold temperatures, stress, spicy foods, and alcohol.

Symptoms including facial redness and red tender pus filled bumps can flare up for weeks to months and then go away for a while. Rosacea cannot be cured, but mild forms can be managed with soothing botanicals. In more severe cases low-dose antibiotics or laser treatments may be needed.

Eczema-Related Redness

Nearly one-tenth of the populationsuffer from some form of eczema. Eczema is a skin condition that shows up  as dry, itchy patches. It can be difficult to diagnose because it’s symptoms are extremely similar to what an allergic reaction looks like.  Both have inflamed pink dry patches that cause significant itching or a burning sensation.

Eczema symptoms flare with cold weather, change of climate, or change of skin-care products. If you suspect eczema is the cause of your redness, see our previous post How to Treat Facial Eczema Naturally.

Psoriasis-Related Redness

Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes the body to make new skin cells in days rather than weeks. These cells pile up on the surface of the skin, resulting in raised, red scaly patches. The causes of psoriasis are numerous and complex, and not entirely  understood. A health professional can help determine how to best manage psoriasis symptoms. 

Acne-Related Redness

Acne is a skin condition made up of pustules or papules. Severe cases can cause painful inflamed red bumps and skin thickening. To quickly bring down acne related redness, treat your breakouts when they are new and avoid poking and picking at them as they heal.

Salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and retinol can be layered and used together to treat acne. Be sure to balance your harsh ingredients like salicylic acid with soothing agents like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide. For more severe cases, special types of lasers can be used in the office by a dermatologist. 

Exfoliation-Related Redness

Over-exfoliating can severely weaken your skin barrier and subsequently trigger inflammation.  If the barrier function is damaged, your skin becomes vulnerable to infection from microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungus, and leads to sensitivity and redness.

Both physical exfoliants (scrubs, mitts) and chemical exfoliants (alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids) can irritate skin. Physical exfoliators with rough or jagged particles can cause micro tears on the skin, as can applying too much pressure. Chemical exfoliators used at a strength too high for your skin, too often or without sun protection can also trigger redness.

It's normal to see redness immediately after exfoliation, but if it persists for days your exfoliation method is likely too harsh for your skin type. Put down the exfoliants for a while and give your barrier function a boost with a hydrating hyaluronic acid serum and niacinamides.

Genetic Alcohol-Related Redness

Genetic flushing due to alcohol consumption is a condition where you lack the enzyme to properly break down alcohol. This causes an alcohol byproduct to accumulate under the skin and cause the face to get red. This type of redness typically dissipates when alcohol is avoided.

Sun Exposure-Related Redness

Too much time in the sun can cause your skin to stay in a state of persistent redness. In addition to temporary sunburn, UV exposure can cause lasting discoloration and redness. Sunscreen provides both UVA and UVB protection  to prevent skin damage and the premature aging this damage causes. 

Make sure you’re using lathing on the anti-aging sunscreen every day, no matter what the weather. You don’t need to see the sun for it’s UV rays to do damage (and cause redness) to your skin.

If you’re not already incorporating it in your morning skincare routine, it's time to start. It's best to apply sunscreen as the last step of your skincare routine, and to regularly reapply if you are spending time outside.

Contact Dermatitis-Related Redness

Contact dermatitis is another way of saying skin allergy or irritation. It can occur as a result of direct irritation or because your immune system has an allergy.  The face is a common place to get contact dermatitis.

Some common irritating ingredients are things like salicylic, benzoyl peroxide, fragrances, and preservatives. Facial redness from contact dermatitis will usually clear on its own when you stop exposing your skin to whatever is causing the reaction. Pare back your routine to the basics until the irritation subsides.

Seborrheic Dermatitis-Related Redness

Not to be confused with contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis shows up as redness concentrated around your nose and eyebrows. It’s thought to be related the overgrowth of a fungus, and is also exacerbated by stress, illness, weakened immune system and seasonal changes.

Symptoms tend to be prominent in areas of the face with more oil, where yeast levels can rise. It causes inflammation, redness, and scaling in some cases. This type of dermatitis is most likely to cause redness around the scalp, forehead, sides of nose and oily zones.

Seborrheic dermatitis usually improves with anti-fungal ointments, anti-fungal dandruff shampoos, anti-inflammatory creams, or other topical prescribed treatments.

Shingles-Related Redness

Shingles causes a painful, blistering red rash. Shingles can appear anywhere on your skin, including your face. Without treatment, a shingles rash on your face can permanently damage your eyesight. Taking an antiviral medication can save your eyesight and prevent long-lasting nerve pain. Without treatment, the nerve pain can last for months or years. 

Lupus-Related Redness

Lupus is an autoimmune disease. This means that your body’s own immune system mistakes part of your own body as something foreign and attacks that part of the body. When someone has lupus, the immune system can attack different organs. Sometimes, this causes redness and swelling on the skin.

Some people who have lupus develop a rash on their face that’s shaped like a butterfly. If you have lupus, a dermatologist should work with your other health care providers to treat and get rid of the redness on your face.

Four tips to treat facial redness

Use a cool compress: Sometimes treating red skin can be as simple as applying a cool compress to the affected area. To calm flushed skin, place a clean washcloth in a plastic bag filled with ice cubes and put it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Remove the cloth and leave it on the skin for about 20 minutes.

Use soothing ingredients; The best way to prevent the inflammation responsible for red skin is to use soothing ingredients. A calming rosewater toner can reduce redness and calm irritated skin. Tea, chamomile, aloe vera and lavender are also well known for soothing abilities (provided you do not have an allergy to the botanicals). 

Adjust your diet: Ridding your face of redness can be as easy as making some simple changes in your diet. Below are the best foods to eat and the best foods not to eat for easing facial redness.

    • Foods to eat to get rid of redness in your face
      • Green vegetables like cucumbers, leafy greens and broccoli
      • Spices like coriander and turmeric
      • Salmon
      • Goat cheese
      • Poultry
      • Non-citrus fruits 
    • Foods to avoid to get rid of redness in your face
      • Sour vegetables like tomatoes, hot peppers and onions
      • Alcohol
      • Coffee
      • Citrus fruits
      • Sugars and starches
      • Beef
    • Practice good skincare habits
    • Use gentle skincare products with non-irritating ingredients.
    • Avoid picking at or over-exfoliating skin.
    • Minimize direct sun exposure to the affected area and use sunscreen.
    • If disruptive symptoms do not get better, see a dermatologist or doctor to help you identify the underlying cause.

      No matter the reason your face gets red, the key to preventing and treating it comes down to figuring out what triggers it. Because of the many conditions that can cause your face to turn red, it’s essential to understand the cause.

      In most cases, facial redness will go away with a few lifestyle changes and tweaks to your skincare routine. If your facial redness goes away quickly, there’s likely nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if it persists, is painful or suddenly worsens, it’s time to see a dermatologist.

      If you're experiencing a red face, the one thing you can do across the board is to use extremely gentle products. Look for products designed to soothe your skin and strengthen your skin barrier for long-term skin happiness.

      Explore Calming Skincare from Herbal Dynamics Beauty