Dermatologist Explains How to Reduce Redness on the Face
By Cynthia Bailey MD.
Many people want to reduce redness on the face because the skin problem is common and embarrassing; it can be a chronic problem for some and a new surprise for others. Fixing facial redness fast depends on knowing what skin condition is causing it and treating that specific cause.
Why would someone get facial redness?
Red facial skin always indicates increased circulation in the skin's blood vessels, especially in the fine capillary network. It may also indicate inflammation in the facial skin.
- If the red flushed skin is simply due to increased circulation in the blood vessels (i.e. blushing) you know it will pass.
- If inflammation is involved then the solution is more complex.
What are the 5 top skin conditions that causes facial red skin due to inflammation?1. Rosacea
2. Seborrheic dermatitis
3. Eczema including:
- Atopic dermatitis
- Irritant dermatitis due to excessively dry skin
- Contact dermatitis – both allergic and irritant due to something that touched your skin and caused a rash (including over exfoliation.
4. Sunburn or photo allergic/toxic reactions
5. Internal causes including Lupus, rare tumors that secrete flushing substances such as Carcinoid Syndrome and Pheochromocytoma, and Asian Flushing Syndrome due to alcohol.
Is facial redness safe or does it need to be treated right away?
Said another way, is red skin on your face skin just a cosmetic issue? No! As a Board Certified Dermatologist, I know that redness on face skin (skin redness is called erythema) from anything other than simple blushing needs to be addressed. Inflammation in the skin can lead to permanent skin problems such as hyperpigmentation, the development of perminent “broken” capillaries and scarring. If facial erythema does not subside with the remedies below, it should be evaluated and treated by a Board Certified Dermatologist.
Tips on the fastest way to get rid of facial redness
Cooling the skin
This is redness relieving because it will constrict the facial capillaries and shunt the blood flow away from skin. This trick can be used for all forms of redness on face skin. Apply a spritz of cool water or a cool water-soaked cloth to facial skin. In a pinch, you can simply place a cool glass of water to your flushing cheeks. You can use cool soaks made of brewed green tea, which is anti inflammatory and will help get rid of redness. I don’t recommend adding anything else to the tea such as citrus; simply use water or plain green tea.
Gentle Skin Care Routine
This is a must if the red skin on your face is stubborn. Here you stop using all potentially irritating facial care products such as acne and anti aging products. Even products enriched with high concentrations of botanical essential oils can cause irritation on weakened skin. Use redness relieving hypoallergenic and fragrance free skin cleansing and moisturizing products such as those I list below. This will also treat dry skin. For sun protection use a broad spectrum pure mineral sunscreen and hat. Again, avoid strong concentrations of seductive botanical essences that are so popular and lovely when applied to normal skin. Wait until your facial skin is no longer red to use these products.
Home redness relieving remedy: How to reduce redness on face with an aloe vera and cucumber mask
One of the best home remedies is a treatment to soothe and calm your skin using a DIY homemade aloe vera and cucumber mask. Cut an aloe vera leaf and let it drain cut side down for several hours to remove the stinky waxy fluid between the skin and the clear inner pulp. Carefully slice off all the green outer leaf. Blend the pulp with cucumber and chill. Dilute as necessary with chilled water to create a cooling mask and apply to your inflamed facial skin. Allow the mask to sit for 10 minutes. You can spritz it with cool water to help cool the heat in your skin. When done, rinse well with cool water and apply a moisturizer. Repeat as necessary. You can keep your blended mask in the fridge for a day or two. Always apply it chilled.
Use color science principles to cover red skin. The opposite color to red is green. Apply a green concealer under makeup or tinted sunscreen. The green color blocks the red wavelengths of light from being seen as they reflect off of your skin and is color correcting for red spots! It’s a nice way to put science and art to work while the redness of your facial skin heals.
The best way to get rid of redness on your face long term - doctor's step by step process.
Treat facial redness due to inflamed skin by treating the cause. Here are quick step by step instructions.
Rosacea is the classic cause of persistent redness on the face
If you have rosacea, craft a facial care routine to address it. Seborrhea is often present with rosacea prone skin. Both are common skin problems. The good news is that treatment overlaps for these 2 red complexion conditions.
There are 2 types of rosacea that cause facial erythema. Both have an increase in facial capillaries and flushing from common triggers such as spicy foods, alcohol, exercise, etc.
Signs you may have rosacea
If you think you suffer from rosacea, there are three main skin symptoms you may notice.
The skin signs of acne rosacea include:
1. Facial pimples and red spots, especially on the apples of the cheeks, mid-forehead, chin and nose.
2. 'Broken' facial capillaries on the cheeks, chin and nose that cause flushed skin from common culprits such as spicy foods, alcohol, exercise, hot showers and extreme temperatures, all of which make facial redness worse.
3. Enlargement of solitary oil glands called sebaceous hyperplasia papules.
Know the 2 types of rosacea
Erythematotelangiectatic type 1 rosacea: Sensitive skin is a hallmark of this type of rosacea. Skin is easily irritated by harsh products, climates and temperatures, all of which will make facial redness worse. These common triggers lead to rosacea flare ups. Flushed skin often stings. The skin is fine textured with scale, small pimples and visible fine broken capillaries.
Papulopustular type 2 rosacea: Skin is more sebaceous, oily, red, thick and swollen with large pores, bigger pimples but less sensitivity.
Signs that your face may be red because of seborrheic dermatitis include:
1. Red, greasy, flakey scaly skin in the nose crease, along the sides of the nose extending to your chin, in and between your eyebrows. Sensitive skin and skin dry patches in areas of red spots are common.
2. Beardruff in your facial hair and dry itchy dandruff along your scalp and ears.
How to reduce redness on face with dermatologist's products and skin care tips to heal facial redness from rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis
My popular Redness Relief Kit has the best products to reduce redness on your face from rosacea and seborrhea. I combine the highest concentrations of pyrithione zinc soap and pharmaceutically pure stable green tea antioxidants, caffeine, hyaluronic acid and resveratrol (grape antioxidants) to soothe redness. Face skin is cleansed once daily with Calming Zinc Soap and Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy is applied twice daily under moisturizer to reduce flare ups.
I’ve tried just about every product, Rx and OTC, on the market and seen numerous dermatologists (spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in the process) to get some relief for my ultra-sensitive, rosacea-plagued face, and nothing has really helped…until now. Dr. Bailey’s Zinc Soap and Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy, followed by zinc oxide sunscreen has made a HUGE difference–and in only about a month. My itching and flaking are gone, the redness is almost gone, and I break out much less frequently. It’s like a miracle. I feel so fortunate to have come across her website and wonderful products, and I recommend them highly!" - Barbara, 7/16/14
Using the right moisturizer helps heal redness prone skin and avoid facial redness. Dry skin never heals well and my Facial Flaking and Redness Solution Kit gives you the best moisturizer to use both as a day cream and a night cream.
Using a really good mineral broad spectrum SPF sunscreen is also important to reduce redness. I created my Rosacea Therapy Kit to take out the guess work treating your red complexion. Get exactly the products sensitive skin needs. Apply the Daily Face Cream after the Green Tea twice daily as your day and night cream. The hyaluronic acid in the Green Tea works really well with the squalane in the Face Cream without feeling greasy. Add more hyaluronic acid to plump crepey skin fine lines and wrinkles by selecting the Instantly Luminous Serum. Every day, apply the Sheer Strength Broad Spectrum SPF Sunscreen on top. I always like a 'real' sunscreen and never recommend a moisturizer with SPF because they usually do neither job well, especially with sensitive rosacea prone skin. My Rosacea Kit comes with a powerful clear broad spectrum SPF. This is the best Complete Skin Care Routine to heal rosacea and seborrhea.
Alternatively, if you want to build your own Complete Skin Care Routine, pick products for each essential skin care step. My patients use the following strategy:
- CLEANSE by alternating a pH balanced, hypoallergenic face wash with the Calming Zinc Soap. My top choice is my Extremely Gentle Foaming Facial Cleanser or VaniCream Cleansing Bar. One cleanser is used in AM and the other in PM.
- CORRECT skin redness with medicated prescription products after Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy. (Check with your doctor to see if this is right for you.) I use clotrimazole cream twice a day for stubborn seborrhea red spots to treats Pityrosporum yeast that plays a role in seborrhea and rosacea.
- HYDRATE skin using a healing face cream applied twice daily to restore the sensitive skin barrier and prevent flare-ups. My Daily Moisturizing Face Creams, Natural Face and Body Lotion and Natural Butter are the best products for sensitive skin. Boost barrier healing with a few drops of my Omega Enriched Facial Booster Oil containing sea buckthorn and other hypoallergenic organic botanical oils.
- PROTECT skin daily using mineral sunscreen because the sun can be a trigger to rosacea.
Makeup or green concealer, if used, is applied last. Simple mineral based makeup products are best for rosacea and seborrhea because they lack potential allergens or irritants present in liquid makeups.
Stubborn or severe rosacea or seborrhea should be treated by a dermatologist.
Three different types of eczema can cause facial redness
In all of them, you need to build an entirely hypoallergenic facial care routine that allows barrier to heal and inflammation to subside.
Types of eczema that cause facial erythema
Atopic dermatitis is a type of eczema that usually is hereditary and involves more than just the face. Atopic skin structure is weaker than normal, prone to dryness and easily irritated, which will make redness worse. Allergens seep into skin faster and atopic eczema patients are highly allergic because the skin's immune system is hyperactive. Common triggers include fragrances and preservatives in skin care products, wool, perfumes, laundry soap, etc. People with atopic dermatitis need to use fragrance free, hypoallergenic products.
Allergic contact dermatitis is eczema due to something your skin touched that it's allergic to. Classic examples are poison oak or ivy, fragrances and preservatives in products, essential oils, metal and even face masks. Personal care products, including hair care products, can cause redness from allergic eczema on the face. So can pollen and plants that touch the face or blow onto the face, especially plants in the composite (sunflower) family, also called the Asteraceae family. Airborne allergens like home cleaning spray and fragrance products, chemical fumes and even wood smoke can also be allergens. To calm red facial skin on skin sensitive to allergens, use fragrance free and hypoallergenic face wash and moisturizer until skin heals. Avoid contact with the allergen.
Irritant dermatitis is redness and irritation caused when your skin’s dead skin cells and barrier break down due to direct contact with something harsh such as products used to treat acne prone skin (benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, retinoids, glycolic acid and other AHAs etc.), anti aging ingredients used to treat fine lines and wrinkles, and even harsh wind and weather. Over exfoliation removes too many dead skin cells and makes skin prone to skin irritation. It also creates it. Physical exfoliants and acid exfoliants can lead to over exfoliation. Protect your skin, reducing inflammation, by using a gentle face wash and moisturizer until skin heals.
How to heal a red complexion from eczema
Your skin care routine must be hypoallergenic, hydrating and fight inflammation. I call this ‘Gentle Skin Care’. It is how I cool down facial inflammation and skin redness from many causes.
Dr. Bailey's Gentle Skin Care Cool Down to Reduce Redness on Your Face:
- Cleanse with only hypoallergenic gentle pH balanced face wash, soap or cleansers such as Extremely Gentle Facial Cleanser or VaniCream Cleansing Bar. Use cooler water temperature to avoid stripping skin oils and to constrict capillaries and reduce redness on face skin. Even avoid hot showers.
- Apply healing moisturizer to lock in skin hydration within the magic 3 minutes after toweling dry. Best moisturizers include my Daily Face Cream for Normal/Oily or Dry/Normal skin types, Natural Face and Body Lotion and Natural Face and Body Butter. These can be used as a day and night cream. If you use the Green Tea Skin Therapy (with hyaluronic acid to help fight inflammation and bind water), apply this before your moisturizer.
Ingredients that calm inflammation to help fight redness due to eczema include green tea antioxidants.
Green tea is one of the best redness solutions because it is soothing, anti inflammatory and rich in the right antioxidants to heal skin. The most powerful green tea product is my Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy. Cool soaks made with chilled brewed green tea can help calm redness in a pinch.
Other helpful topical product ingredients to soothe red inflamed facial skin
Read labels and look for:
- aloe vera,
- hypoallergenic botanical oils such as coconut, sunflower, jojoba, apricot, avocado and shea butter.
Find these ingredients in my facial moisturizers.
Sun protect red facial skin using a hat and a pure mineral sunscreen.
Facial redness caused by sunburn, sun exposure and sun allergy
We all know that UV rays can burn skin. They can also activate substances applied on your skin or coursing through your body such as medicines.
Why does a sunburn cause facial skin redness?
It’s actually a normal reaction from overexposure to UV rays which lead to an inflammatory cascade of events and redness. Redness from summer UVB sun usually begins 6 hours after exposure and peaks at 12-24 hours. It can show up faster and be more severe in extreme sun exposure situations.
Red facial skin from sun allergy and phototoxicity can happen from medicines you take and substances you apply to your skin.
Facial skin is commonly exposed to sun and often the first area on your skin to manifest sun allergy or phototoxicity. Even sun through window glass can cause these reactions. If you have applied a sun sensitizing chemical (natural or synthetic), or are taking a sun sensitizing medicine you may experience excessive facial redness after UV exposure.
Know the most common medicines that cause sun sensitivity and redness of facial skin:
- Tetracyclines including doxycycline and minocycline
- Sulfa drugs
- Ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin and ofloxacin
- NSAIDS such as ibuprofen and naproxen
- Blood pressure and fluid pills such as:
- Furosemide (Lasix)
- HCTZ (hydrochlorothiazide)
- Isotretinoin and acitretin
- Diabetes medicines such as glipizide and glyburide
- Some biologic medicines
How to reduce redness on face from sun sensitivity due to medicines?
It is always important to use a broad spectrum SPF on facial skin daily. This will help reduce flare ups of red face skin from a medicine sun allergy. Even so, if you think a medicine is causing your skin to be red then you need to see your doctor.
Sun allergy due to substances applied to your skin are usually due to fragrance and essential oils.
This is also called berloque dermatitis and it can be quite dramatic. Substances that can cause this include fragrances in bergamot, citrus and musk ambrette among others. Many of these ingredients are no longer used in perfumes but berloque dermatitis is making a comeback because of the popularity of essential oils
Why can essential oils cause skin burns when exposed to UV rays?
Some natural essential oils contain compounds called furocoumarins, which are photosensitizers that intensely increase the skin’s sensitivity to UV light, including light in tanning beds and through windows. Plants and essential oils containing furocoumarins include:
- lime and all citrus
- St. John’s wort
- wild garden parsnip
- wild and garden carrot
Internal causes of red skin on your face
Interestingly, Asian flushing may be reduced by applying brimonidine gel, 0.33% an hour before enjoying a cocktail. Taking an antihistamine prior to consuming alcohol may also reduce flushing but there are severe risks If this is the cause of your red facial skin, I think it is a good idea to learn more about Asian flushing because the phenomenon is not entirely a cosmetic annoyance. Clearly, the other 3 diagnosis need medical evaluation as well.
What’s the bottom line from a dermatologist regarding facial redness?
Blushing is temporary but redness from inflammation needs to be treated. In my 30+ years practicing as a Board Certified Dermatologist, I know that red facial skin often means weakened skin barrier, skin is easily irritated and sensitive! Redness prone facial skin may also be more prone to allergies and intolerances to some of the harsher acne treatment products and anti aging products made with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, vitamin C, niacinamide, azelaic acid, fragrances, harsh preservatives, alcohol and AHAs such as glycolic acid. Chemical sunscreens can also irritate redness prone facial skin. Complexions suffering from facial redness need hypoallergenic and non-irritating products for most of their facial care.
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