As much as you might love the look of a pretty blush or the rosy cheeks you get after a good workout, facial redness isn’t always a pleasant reaction. And it can have a number of potential culprits, ranging from skin conditions like rosacea to overuse of skincare products. This means it can sometimes be challenging to know what’s causing this issue or what steps you should take to improve the redness.
That’s where we can help! Here, we’ll dig into the common causes of facial redness and their respective treatments, shedding light on this multifaceted skin concern. We’ll also offer practical preventative tips and guidance on recognizing signs that it's time to seek professional help.
There are many different reasons that you could be experiencing facial redness. Here are some of its top causes and how they’re generally treated.
Rosacea is a common chronic inflammatory skin condition that can cause skin redness on the nose, chin, cheeks, and forehead. While there is no cure for rosacea, it can be managed by avoiding triggers and regularly using moisturizer and sunscreen. For rosacea flare-ups, topical or oral medications can be prescribed by your health provider.¹
Seborrheic dermatitis is a common inflammatory skin disorder. It affects areas of your skin rich in sebaceous glands, particularly the scalp, face, and body folds, causing redness, inflammation, and plaques. There is currently no cure for adult seborrheic dermatitis, but it can be managed with good skincare practices and topical treatments.²
Acne is a common skin condition that may start in adolescence and continue into adulthood. It is characterized by open and closed comedones, papules, pustules, and cysts (nodules). Redness and inflammation are common. Acne can be treated with topical treatments and/or oral medications.³
Contact dermatitis is skin inflammation caused by contact with chemicals or certain metals. It can cause people to experience redness, burning, itchiness, or pain. The best way to treat contact dermatitis is to have an evaluation by a healthcare provider to identify and avoid the offending allergens. Topical corticosteroids or oral antihistamines can be used to help with the symptoms of contact dermatitis.⁴
Eczema, otherwise known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition that triggers dry, itchy skin, which is susceptible to infections. This often results in discomfort that can impact a person's daily life. A cornerstone of managing eczema is following a diligent daily skin moisturizing regimen. This keeps the skin hydrated, which reduces symptoms. In addition, healthcare providers may prescribe topical anti-inflammatory medications to manage severe flare-ups,⁵ bringing rapid relief and helping the skin heal.
Spider veins, or telangiectasias, are the result of small superficial blood vessels in the skin becoming damaged. They appear as thin purple, red, or blue lines. You’ll most often find them on the legs, but they may also occur elsewhere, particularly on the face. The good news is that spider veins usually don’t cause any health issues and don’t need to be medically treated. For cosmetic treatment, there are in-office options, such as lasers, that a licensed dermatology provider may suggest.⁶
When you overuse skincare products or exfoliate your face too much, it's like constantly scrubbing your skin with a rough sponge. Your skin doesn't get a chance to recover, causing it to become irritated. This irritation generally manifests as facial redness. So, it's important to use these products as directed to maintain a healthy balance and help prevent irritation.
Some people are deficient in the enzyme that allows the body to metabolize alcohol effectively, so when they drink alcohol, it can cause facial flushing and other symptoms. This is most common in people of East Asian descent but can also happen in people of different ethnicities.⁷ ⁸ It can also be triggered by certain medications that alter alcohol metabolism; as you may assume, it is best treated by avoiding alcohol.⁹ ¹⁰
Sunburns result from too much exposure to UV light or artificial tanning lights. This leads to skin redness and pain. It’s important to know that certain medications or skincare products can make you more susceptible to sunburn. Fortunately, sunburns typically go away with time and OTC anti-inflammatories. However, multiple sunburns can increase your risk for skin cancer and skin damage,¹¹ so it's always a good idea to cover up with sunscreen, like Curology’s The Sunscreen, which is designed for both acne-prone and sensitive skin!
Lupus is an autoimmune condition where your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks parts of your body, including the skin. Some forms of lupus can result in a “butterfly rash,” a red, raised rash across the nose and cheeks that can resemble a butterfly. Lupus needs to be treated by a healthcare provider. Skin symptoms are generally treated with topical corticosteroids or oral medications.¹²
Before diving into tips and tricks to prevent facial redness, remember: It's as unique as you are. The root cause of that redness can vary from person to person, so it's always a good idea to have a chat with a licensed dermatology provider to get tailored advice.
Here are some general tips to keep unwanted redness at bay: First, it's all about using skincare products as directed. You don’t want to apply them whenever, wherever. Stick to the instructions so your products can do their magic.
Next up, sunscreen: Your everyday armor against the sun's harsh rays. Opt for an SPF of 30 or higher, like with Curology’s The Sunscreen, and don't forget to reapply as you go about your day.
Additionally, regular cleansing and moisturizing are like serving your face a balanced diet. These habits help keep your skin happy, healthy, and less prone to that unwanted redness. Consider moisturizers that work easily into your skin and routine, like Curology’s The Moisturizer.
Lastly, dodge those triggers like you would a swarm of bees! If you know that certain foods, drinks, or situations make your face light up like a tomato, steering clear is your best bet.
So, there you have it—some starter tips for preventing facial redness.
There are many possible causes for facial redness, so how do you know when it’s time to call in the professionals? Seeing a healthcare provider is a good idea if the facial redness sticks around longer than a few days without a clear reason.
What if your cheeks are flushed, and you think a deeper medical condition might be at play? That's another good time to consult with a healthcare provider. They'll be able to unravel the mystery and, if necessary, connect you with the appropriate specialist for further care.
Facial redness accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever or a high heart rate, should be addressed promptly too. It's like a neon sign saying, "Hey, it's time for a check-up!" These could be signs that your body is dealing with more than just surface-level issues.
So, when in doubt, reach out! No one knows your body better than you do, but healthcare providers are there to guide you, help interpret the signs your body sends, and provide treatment when necessary.
There are many causes of facial redness, and they each have their own potential treatment. Here at Curology, we can treat acne and rosacea. You’ll have to see a provider in person for the other conditions we discussed.
Curology was founded by a board-certified dermatologist who believes everyone should have access to skincare products that actually work. Our team of licensed dermatology providers will work with you to examine your skin, assess your skincare goals, and provide customized treatment options tailored to your skin concerns.
Getting started is easy. All you need to do is answer a few questions about your skin, snap some selfies, and wait to be put in touch with one of our licensed dermatology providers. Start your 30-day trial* today!
Facial redness has many possible causes, from common conditions like sunburns¹³ or rosacea¹⁴ to less common ones like lupus.¹⁵ It might even be your skin waving a little red flag at a new face cream. But, if your cheeks are persistently rosy and you’re not quite sure why, it might be time to bring in a healthcare provider to help crack the case.
The right solution for reducing facial redness depends on the cause. A licensed dermatology provider can help you find that missing piece since every face is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. For the occasional cover-up, cosmetics with green pigment can be handy for masking redness.¹⁶
Stress can indeed play a role in causing facial redness. Both stressors in your environment, like air pollution or UV exposure, and internal stressors, like psychological stress, lack of sleep, or an unhealthy diet, can affect your skin. Stress can contribute to flare-ups of inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, and pigmentation disorders.¹⁷ So, it's true that if you’re feeling frazzled, your skin might be feeling it too.
Farshchian, M. and Daveluy, S. Rosacea. StatPearls. (2023, April 19).
Tucker, D. and Masood, S. Seborrheic Dermatitis. StatPearls. (2023, February 16).
Sutaria, A.H., et al. Acne Vulgaris. StatPearls. (2023, February 16).
Litchman, G., et al. Contact Dermatitis. StatPearls. (2023, February 9).
Nemeth, V. and Evans, J. Eczema. StatPearls. (2022, August 8).
Sandean, D.P. and Winters, R. Spider Veins. StatPearls. (2023, January 3).
Chartier, K.G., et al. College students' use of strategies to hide facial flushing: A target for alcohol education. J Am Coll Health. (November-December 2020).
Brooks, P.J., et al. The Alcohol Flushing Response: An Unrecognized Risk Factor for Esophageal Cancer from Alcohol Consumption. PLoS Med. (March 2009).
Chartier, K.G., et al. College students' use of strategies to hide facial flushing: A target for alcohol education. J Am Coll Health. Ibid.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol Flush Reaction. (September 2022).
Guerra, K.C. and Crane, J.S. Sunburn. StatPearls. (2022, August 28).
Justiz Vaillant, A.A., et al. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. StatPearls. (2023, February 27).
Guerra, K.C. and Crane, J.S. Sunburn. StatPearls. Ibid.
Farshchian, M. and Daveluy, S. Rosacea. StatPearls. Ibid.
Justiz Vaillant, A.A, et al. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. StatPearls. Ibid.
Farshchian, M. and Daveluy, S. Rosacea. StatPearls. Ibid.
Passeron, T., et al. Adult skin acute stress responses to short-term environmental and internal aggression from exposome factors. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. (2021, June 24).
Laura Phelan is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Benedictine University and went on to get her post-master’s certificate as a Family Nurse Practitioner at the University of Cincinnati.
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Laura Phelan, NP-C