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What Redness Looks Like for Different Skin Tones

One of the hands down most frustrating parts of establishing a solid skincare routine is trying to decipher the clues your skin leaves on your face. We’ve all been there: You add a chemical exfoliator or swap out a moisturizer, and all of a sudden you’ve got a weird patch on your cheek and no idea where it came from or what it means. One of the most frustrating skin signs that something’s up? Redness, which shows up differently for everyone and is especially dependent on skin tone. 

While everyone’s skin is different, those with lighter skin tones have an easier time noticing redness, which presents more visibly on less melanated skin. Still, there are other ways to determine if you’re having a redness reaction, even if you’re not prone to turning bright pink after an especially intense face peel. To help you get a lock on skin redness, no matter your skin tone, and understand what it means, we spoke to two dermatologists. Read on for all the details on how to identify and treat redness for all skin tones.

What is skin redness?

According to Uchenna Okereke, MD, a Boston-based dermatologist, skin redness is actually just a visible (or not, depending on your skin tone) sign of skin inflammation caused by something underlying, not a treatable skin concern. Think of inflammation like a symptom, the way a sore throat might be a symptom of an infection.

Redness could be caused by a few different things. Here’s how to get to the bottom of yours.

 When treating redness in her patients, Okereke starts by determining “whether it’s a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as an autoimmune disorder, an infection, or a reaction to environmental factors, or something they’re actively applying to the face.” While the “why” of redness can be as simple as applying a new product to your skin, it can also be a sign of a more serious issue — which is why Okereke recommends always seeking out a dermatologist if redness is an ongoing concern for you. 

How does it appear on different skin tones?

For those with lighter skin tones, redness is almost too easy to identify, simply by visual cues. For dark skin tones, though, “the pigment in deep skin tones often masks the underlying redness,” explains dermatologist Cula Dautriche, MD.

Still, she says, “there are other telltale signs of inflammation in deep skin tones.” Warmth or heat radiating from certain areas of the skin, tenderness or pain, swelling, itching, and peeling are all, similar to redness, symptoms of inflammation in your skin. “These are useful clues that an area of the skin may be inflamed when it is hard to appreciate the change in skin color,” says Dautriche. 

How to treat skin redness

Both Dautriche and Okereke stress that it’s important to see a dermatologist if you’re dealing with an ongoing flush or its related symptoms, especially if you have trouble identifying it yourself or are experiencing other skincare concerns. Okereke, an expert in rosacea — which often goes underdiagnosed in patients with darker skin tones — points out that dermatologists are a lot like detectives when it comes to redness and know exactly what questions to ask to determine what your skin needs.

For instance, acne-like bumps on the face that don’t respond to acne treatment, redness or acne-like bumps predominantly on the central face, and a burning or stinging sensation when applying products are all signs that point to rosacea, a skin condition that requires a doctor’s expertise to treat. If this sounds like your skin, definitely make an appointment. 

Fun fact: Inflammation can be *good* in moderation. Don’t miss our guide to all things inflammation.

If, on the other hand, you’re dealing with environmental factors such as seasonal dryness, sun exposure, or regular old wear and tear on your skin barrier — lookin’ at you, maskne — the redness or non-visible inflammation cues you experience can be handled at home. The difference between a bit of pinkness or heat after use of retinoids, for example, and a more serious skin condition is length of time and severity, says Okereke. “If it’s persistent and really uncomfortable, it’s time to see a dermatologist,” she advises. 

Your skin-soothing routine

For minor redness woes, skip exfoliating and give your skin some soothing hydration to keep that inflammation at bay. Try the Avocado Ceramide Recovery Serum, which is clinically proven to visibly reduce redness. But instead of calling it a day, it also helps address the source of that redness — as well as the itchiness, flaking, and other signs of inflammation that may appear instead in skin of color. It has five ceramides, identical to those naturally found in your skin barrier, to fortify the barrier (which, when compromised, can lead to inflammation.)

Moisture is another must. Our Banana Soufflé Moisture Cream not only nourishes skin and replenishes moisture, but it also offers a calming combination of electrolyte-rich banana and centella asiatica. Centella asiatica, often called cica, is known for its healing abilities, especially for irritated skin. However your redness presents, it can help.

Okereke also recommends using a gentle cleanser. (Try Papaya Sorbet Cleansing Balm, which nourishes and calms skin with papaya seed oil while removing makeup and grime.). She also recommends — you guessed it — sunscreen, preferably one with zinc as zinc is ultra-soothing. 

The bottom line? Skin redness is a sign of inflammation — and while not all skin tones show redness, there are other ways to tell if your skin is inflamed. While you can soothe a flare-up with specific skincare ingredients, consider seeking out a derm’s advice to treat it if it won’t go away. Because while redness will get your attention, it’s up to you to get to the bottom of it.

Keep reading about skin redness:


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Avocado Ceramide Recovery Serum


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Banana Soufflé Moisture Cream


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Papaya Sorbet Enzyme Cleansing Balm


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