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Redness

Why is my skin red?

There are many reasons that your skin may be red, but ultimately what it comes down to is that something is causing there to be more red blood cells near the surface of your skin than normal. This happens because the nervous system dilates blood vessels in the face, which diverts blood to the skin of the face. There are many reasons this might be happening, and one of the trickiest things with facial redness is figuring out what’s actually causing it. Of course, a certain amount of facial redness is normal (after exercise or when hot, or when sunburnt), but if your face is persistently red, there are likely to be other reasons for this.

One reason blood gets diverted to the surface of the face is to cool down the body and lose heat. This is something that happens during and immediately after exercise, and during the ‘hot flashes’ that come with menopause—the fluctuations in hormone levels send the body’s temperature regulation system a bit haywire. For this reason, some endocrine disorders also result in a red face because of the body overheating.

A second reason your skin might flush is due to inflammation. This is because the body increases blood flow to the damaged area to try and flood it with healing substances which can help to repair it. Such damage can be done by ultraviolet light; this is what happens in sunburn. The damage could also be irritation of the skin from over-exfoliation, overuse of retinoids or application of other harsh topicals. You also get this response in allergic reactions, such as contact dermatitis, and when the body is trying to heal acne. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can also leave your skin red—this is the type of pigmentation left behind by inflamed acne, even after the spots themselves have disappeared.

A third reason is that when you enter fight-or-flight mode because of acute stress or embarrassment, ‘vasodilation’—a widening of the blood vessels—occurs in the face thanks to the rush of adrenaline and noradrenaline released by the adrenal gland. This is what we all know as blushing. Some people can worry a lot about blushing, which makes them (a) more likely to start blushing in the first place, and (b) blush far more than people who don’t worry about it. This is because the anxiety about it is already pushing the body towards a fight-or-flight response, so that blushing happens much more readily.

To a certain extent, our faces do go red, and then recover, and this is normal. But if a flushed colour persists, or you get ruddy patches flaring up occasionally, or flare-ups accompanied by a rash of spots, you might have rosacea. Have a look at our page on rosacea for more information about the condition, and how to manage and treat it.

There are additional conditions which could cause facial redness. These range from seborrheic dermatitis through to thyroid problems or lupus. It’s worth discussing your facial redness with your GP, who can refer you to a specialist dermatologist or other doctor, if the redness is getting worse, causing significant distress or appearing alongside other symptoms.

Redness

Suggested Products for Treating Redness

Which skincare products might you try, to see real results? Here is a selection of the ones I really rate - because they do a great job, and are a pleasure to use.


Dermalux Flex MD

Alice says “I tried the Dermalux Flex at home during lockdown in spring 2020. I used it 4-5 times a week for 3 months and had detailed…

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Heliocare 360° Mineral Tolerance Fluid SPF 50

This is brilliant – a 100% mineral sunscreen which is really easy to tolerate even for sensitive skin but which also has an invisible…

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Heliocare 360° Oil-Free Gel SPF 50

If you hate wearing sunscreen as it feels sticky or heavy on your skin this could change your mind. It’s a lightweight gel that melts…

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Medik8 Calmwise Serum

An anti-redness serum that really works for skin that is irritable, inflamed or suffering a rosacea flare-up, and you don’t know whether…

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Medik8 Hydr8 B5 Skin Rehydration Serum

A long drink of water for your skin this serum sinks in, plumps out fine lines and keeps your skin feeling smoother and more comfortable.…

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FAQ ABOUT Redness


What causes redness on the face?

Redness on the face can be caused by the normal things mentioned above, i.e. sunburn, irritation from harsh treatment, hot flushes, etc. There are also some skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis, contact dermatitis (an allergic reaction in the face to something it’s been in contact with), and eczema. Thread veins can make the face look red—these are veins which have lost their elasticity and are permanently dilated and permanently visible as bright red thread-like lines on the face. Rosacea can make the face very red.

There’s also the possibility that your face is red because of medication that you’re using. Some medications (such as hydrocortisone cream) can do this by making the skin super-sensitive to sunlight, meaning that you can get sunburnt much more easily. Another avenue is that some medications have a vasodilatory (blood vessel-relaxing) effect, which makes your skin flush.

If you’re concerned about what might be making your face red, talk to your GP who can refer you to a dermatologist or other doctor.

Is my skin red because of an allergy?

Possibly! Contact dermatitis, as mentioned above, can make your skin red and painful. Common causes of contact dermatitis include latex, nickel and fragrances. If this is what’s making your face (or skin elsewhere) red, the red rash will tend to go away when exposure to whatever caused the allergy ceases. But because we encounter so many things which could potentially cause this reaction every day, it can be quite challenging to figure out what it is that’s causing the redness in the first place. Go to see your GP and ask for a referral to a dermatologist, who can help you to figure out which ingredients or substances to avoid.

Can skincare get rid of redness?

If your skin is red, you have to be really gentle with your skincare so as not to irritate it further, while at the same time using products that will calm the skin and strengthen the skin barrier, to make it less susceptible to redness and irritation. For example, rather than removing your cleanser with a wet flannel, use a product that can be washed off or wiped off gently with cotton wool. Choose a cream or lotion-based cleanser, that won’t upset the skin’s barrier by removing too much of the natural oils from it, and make sure that any products you are using are fragrance-free. Fragrance may be listed as ‘parfum’ in a product’s ingredients list.

There are many cosmetic skincare products which are designed to reduce redness in the skin. The most effective of these are prescription ones, but these can only be obtained from a dermatologist. Look for ranges that are described as ‘calming’ or ‘soothing’.

Products with azelaic acid may reduce redness and rosacea, with the added bonuses of unclogging your pores and reducing the appearance of dark spots. Products with niacinamide can reduce redness and blotchiness too.

Skincare that lessens the appearance of acne can automatically help to reduce redness caused by this acne. If you have post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation after having acne, the good news is that time and sun protection will help this to fade—but the rate at which this happens depends on the individual.

If you have one of the specific skin conditions mentioned earlier, there are different treatments which can help. For example, there are certain creams and ointments for eczema and topicals for seborrheic dermatitis. There are also some creams for rosacea, but be aware that these don’t suit everybody—head over to the rosacea factsheet for more detail.

If the redness is due to permanently dilated or broken blood vessels (i.e. thread veins), skincare just isn’t going to shift those. Only a treatment such as laser, or intense pulsed light (IPL), or thermocoagulation can help with these once the blood vessels have lost their elasticity and ability to shrink back.

How can I prevent my skin from flushing?

Severe facial flushing or rosacea can feel completely debilitating. If this is something that applies to you – there are certain things that can be done to help you with this.

The first of these is intense pulsed light (IPL) or pulse-dye laser, which works on persistently red skin. This reduces redness by breaking up and dispersing the pigment in the dilated vein, and can be hugely effective with the right practitioner. If you decide to go down this route, it would be a good idea to consult an expert cosmetic practitioner.

If your face is flushing because of blushing, there are a few things that can be done to prevent it. Keeping cool is important to this, as you’ll be much more likely to blush when overheating. You can keep cool by wearing light, breathable clothing. There is also green-tinted redness-reducing makeup, which you could wear in potentially stressful situations like an interview. This will conceal a flush rather than prevent it, but it can be really helpful if you’re worried about other people seeing your redness.

If you’re very anxious about blushing, you can practise breathing exercises, which can help you to calm down, rather than tipping into fight-or-flight mode. Various distraction techniques can also help to distract you from your nerves, such as thinking of something funny or making yourself list things in your mind. Another helpful tip is to simply acknowledge that you’re blushing, or that you might blush, and that that’s okay. This can stop the anxiety (and blushing) spiral, as well as soothing the mind.

It would also be a good idea to make your skincare regime gentler. You can do this by exfoliating less (and avoiding using a flannel, as mentioned earlier), reducing the use of products such as retinoids or benzoyl peroxide which easily provoke the skin, being gentle when taking make-up off and avoiding products with ingredients known to cause skin irritation.

At the same time, you want to ladle on (fragrance-free) products that will improve skin hydration and build the skin barrier, such as hyaluronic-acid serums and skin-restoring lipids (including ceramides, essential fatty acids and cholesterol) which will help lock in the moisture so that the skin can function better. And don’t forget to top this off with sunscreen during the day.

Does redness calm down with time?

The answer to this question really depends on what the cause of the redness is. If your skin is red due to rosacea, then the answer is no. In fact, if untreated, the rosacea will only become worse with time. If the redness is acne-related post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, however, the answer is usually yes—the skin will heal itself, to a certain extent, over time. There is, unfortunately, no way of predicting how long it will take for this to happen, but as a general rule, younger skin tends to repair itself faster than older skin. Retinoids can also help with this, but they themselves can cause skin redness and irritation, so it’s really important to use these carefully and build up your tolerance to them slowly. Lastly, if the flushing is due to the menopause, this is hormonally driven and so should just stop at some point as the fluctuations in hormone levels reduce over time.

How can I treat redness?

Laser treatments, particularly pulse-dye lasers, can be brilliant for treating persistent redness. Pulse-dye lasers use a gentler wavelength of light than most skin lasers do. This wavelength specifically targets redness in the skin, breaking up and dispersing the red blood cells (which are causing the redness in your face) without damaging the rest of the skin. For people who try this, the treatment can seem miraculous as the laser light simply gets rid of the redness instantly and comfortably. There are some people who experience bruising with this treatment, but I certainly didn’t when I tried it. More persistent conditions may need several treatments to reduce redness, rather than just one or two.

Treating rosacea is less clear-cut and is not an exact science, but appropriate IPL or laser treatment can be enormously helpful in reducing visible redness. Have a look at our page on it for your treatment options.

Lastly, as mentioned previously, it’s really important to be gentle with your skin! In mild cases of redness, just being gentler with your skin can do a lot to dissipate that redness over time.

How to get rid of blotchy red skin?

First, have a think about what might be causing this for you. Is the blotchiness sudden, or persistent? Have a look at our list of potential causes at the top of this page for some ideas.

If the blotchiness comes along with the skin feeling hot, cool it with a cold wet flannel, ice packs, or a chilled stone roller (these stone rollers won’t do much for your skin colour—their role is really to assist lymphatic drainage—but they do feel nice when they’ve been in the fridge).

If the blotchiness is persistent, you need to consider the possible causes or conditions, and then take appropriate action. Your GP can refer you to a suitable specialist.

How to get rid of redness on the face naturally?

Unfortunately, natural remedies won’t help. Fresh aloe vera gel may feel cooling on the skin, but your skin will get more help from a well-formulated hydrating serum. Try to stay cool and spend less time in the sun—and always wear lots of sunscreen. It’s also worth trying to stress less if this causes you to blush. It would be great if I could tell you that three drops of this and a squeeze of that in your morning tea could get rid of your redness, but unfortunately it won’t, so I just can’t.


ASK ALICE

Alice answers your question. Want to ask Alice a question? Pop it in here and check back in a few days for the answer.


I’m getting married next year and want to get my skin in the best shape possible but don’t really know where to start. Could you recommend anyone in particular who could help with a number of things (scarring, red around nose, congestion, etc.)…

Wow, congratulations! Start with your skincare – I'd suggest a gentle cleanser, a vitamin C serum, a moisturiser, and a sunscreen for the day, and for the evening, something with retinol or retinal (a bit stronger) in it, plus the moisturiser. Take a look at this collection to see the sort of products I prefer, and how I'd suggest using them. Then find a great practitioner – you can put your postcode into our practitioner finder – and book a consultation to see what they suggest to treat your other concerns.…

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