Red Face? Here’s What Might Be Causing It

Whether it comes and goes or your skin appears flushed 24/7, skin redness is one of the most common skin concerns out there. But there’s no single obvious cause for redness, and therefore no straightforward solution for it. Instead, you have to look for the context clues — like how large the area is, whether it looks flaky, if you just exercised, what you’ve been eating, and if you’ve gotten a lot of sun lately — to get to the bottom of your redness. The good news: Once you figure out what’s behind it, your specific redness becomes much easier to treat. Here, four common causes and how best to handle each.

Broken Capillaries

Broken capillaries are tiny, red blood vessels that have become permanently dilated, making them visible to the naked eye. Up close, they look like a network of spider-like lines and branches and give skin a red hue from afar.

“Most broken capillaries are acquired via sun damage or trauma to the skin — however, they can be caused by medical conditions such as rosacea, pregnancy, or more serious conditions,” says Dr. Caren Waintraub of Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC.

The best solution is an in-office treatment, says Dr. Waintraub, who recommends a vascular laser or intense pulsed light therapy (IPL). Storing your products in the fridge may also help, albeit temporarily, as the cold can restrict blood vessels. As for prevention, be diligent about your sunscreen use — since chronic sun damage is a common factor for broken capillaries — and seek out anti-inflammatory ingredients in your skin care products to minimize irritation to skin.

Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, a.k.a. PIH, is “a temporary alteration in the pigmentation of the skin after injury or inflammation,” says Dr. Waintraub. It’ll look like a red mark or spot in the area where you had any inflammation — usually from, say, a pimple or even a mosquito bite. This kind of pigment is most common in those with a light to medium skin tone. In darker skin tones, PIH appears more brown or purple than red.

Time is your friend for this, says Dr. Waintraub, as PIH usually fades on its own within a few weeks to months. But using products with brightening ingredients like vitamin C and azelaic acid may help speed things up. The sun can cause further discoloration, so be sure to apply ample sun protection daily.

The best way to hide these marks while they fade is with a concealer. We like to mix a dab of concealer with a pump of the Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer and pat into skin with our fingertips for a natural finish.

Irritation or Dryness

This one gets meta, since dryness itself has multiple culprits. “It can be caused by a number of factors that impair the moisture barrier of the skin, including an underlying medical condition such as eczema, exposure to agents that cause irritation or allergy, or skincare regimens that remove too much moisture from the skin,” says Dr. Waintraub. This type of redness will look like red or scaly patches without clearly-defined borders.

The solution — as well as prevention — is in keeping your skin’s protective moisture barrier healthy and efficient. Incorporate products into your skincare routine that “repair the skin barrier by replenishing the ceramides, lipids, and fatty acids deficient in your skin,” says Dr. Waintraub. 

Also, look for formulas that are designed to keep the barrier intact, such as Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Face Mask. It features encapsulated retinol, a kinder, gentler retinol that delivers it to the deeper layers of skin so it can work from the bottom up and limit any damage to the outer moisture barrier. It also has hyaluronic acid, which buffers the retinol and keeps skin calm and properly hydrated.

Chronic Skin Conditions

Redness could also stem from a diagnosable skin condition like rosacea, psoriasis, or eczema. “Rosacea is caused by a variety of genetic, environmental, and inflammatory factors which lead to increased flushing, redness, papules, and swelling,” says Dr. Waintraub. Everything from spicy foods to emotional stress can cause a flare, so the treatments are all about minimizing inflammation.

Meanwhile, psoriasis appears as well-defined and scaly red plaques on the body. Genetics play a huge role, though “psoriasis can be associated with joint disease as well as other inflammatory systemic conditions,” says Dr. Waintraub. “Treatment is aimed at decreasing inflammation as well as blocking the immunologic pathways thought to be responsible for the development of psoriasis.”

Finally, eczema — commonly known as atopic dermatitis — is caused by a defect in the skin’s moisture barrier, which means skin can’t hold onto water as well as it should. “This defective barrier leads to increased skin dryness and irritation,” Dr. Waintraub explains. The treatment focuses on repairing the barrier and minimizing inflammation caused by the moisture loss. For all the above, consult your dermatologist to confirm any diagnosis and get for the best solution for you.

Red skin is a completely natural skin problem, but that doesn’t mean you need to just grin and bear it. Once you’ve identified what’s causing your crimson complexion, just follow these tips to keep your skin soothed and even-toned.

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