Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 1/24/2022
Redness on your face can be great if you’re playing Santa for the holidays or joining the circus, but otherwise the coloration could be a sign of things gone awry with your skin.
There are many potential causes of facial redness, and in truth your face might be red because of anything from the weather to a disagreeable diet.
But persistent redness and the forms of it that make you feel self conscious are not signs of jolly seasons ahead; they’re a suggestion that something bigger might be going on.
Redness can be caused by conditions like rosacea, irritation from pollution, acne and even certain issues with hypertension.
Reducing redness on the face can be easy — if you follow the correct guidelines. Read on to learn more.
It’s important to first understand that the color red can be easy to see on some sensitive skin types, and harder to see on others. So redness is somewhat subjective. What specifically causes redness to happen, however, is less clear.
What we do know is that redness is a sign of irritation, inflammation or another symptom of something not working the way it’s supposed to.
And that acne may take the form of red pimples, for example, but it could also take the form of more serious lesions or inflammatory acne, which can contribute different kinds of blemishes to the breakout problem.
Another potential (and common) cause of facial redness is rosacea.
Women tend to get rosacea more often, yet it’s typically worse for men when they do get it.
Symptoms can include engorged and strained blood vessels in the cheeks and nose.
Rosacea is a chronic skin condition characterized by rashes and reddened skin on the face, especially (as mentioned above) on the nose and cheeks. Genetics as well as external factors like excessive sun exposure and stress may cause flare-ups and increased redness.
Fair-skinned people tend to be diagnosed with rosacea more frequently, but there’s reason to believe this is only the case because it’s harder to detect in people with darker skin.
Treatments, however, are effective — particularly preventative ones like sunscreen and certain medication.
Irritated skin can be caused by a number of factors such as sunburn, chemical or other types of burns and more. Even cold weather or wind can lead to facial redness.
There are other less obvious causes of redness that, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, might commonly make a person’s skin more red.
Reactions to medication
In rare circumstances, redness on your skin can be a sign of rare types of cancer.
The most important thing you can do to reduce skin redness is to determine its underlying cause. But treating that could take several forms. Here are some of the most common ways to reduce redness on your face:
Dry, dirty skin that’s rife with dead skin cells can breed bacteria, not to mention capture dust, dandruff, pollen and other pollutants. If you’re not properly washing your face every day, any of those items can irritate your skin.
Applying a moisturizer after you cleanse — and especially one containing hyaluronic acid, which has been shown in studies to help your body retain moisture can help your skin stay hydrated and soothed.
It’s important to understand that dry skin can be more easily irritated — even by the wind, so moisturizing is a good bet.
Exfoliating, meanwhile, will remove not just debris and irritants from your skin, but those dull, dead cells that are hanging around after their time is up.
That may ironically cause some temporary redness, but after a few days even prescription-strength retinoids will leave your skin looking glowy, healthy and younger.
A word to the wise: Talk with a healthcare professional about retinoids before using them, especially if you have other existing skin conditions. You don’t want to make your skin overly dry when trying to treat it.
Whether it’s acne or another infection, antibiotics may be the best way to get a breakout strain of bacteria under control — and therefore reduce redness by eradicating acne.
There are parts of your lifestyle that can influence skin irritation and redness. Whether it’s a dirty pillow case, smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, or just forgetting to drink water, there’s plenty you can do to irritate your skin and cause redness.
Yet improving any of these bad habits can help your skin be less reactive — and clear.
Conditions like rosacea and acne are best avoided with preventative measures, so if you’re open to expanding your skincare routine, you should do so.
Sensitive skin or not, redness is something you need to discuss with a healthcare professional.
A healthcare professional may recommend any number of things to help get rid of redness, and while we've briefly touched on some of the ways to help your body maintain perfect skin, it's hardly a comprehensive list.
A healthcare professional might recommend products like hydroxy acids or azelaic acid to treat acne, or they might suggest laser treatment to deal with the long-term effects of rosacea. They may even suggest something simple, like a cool compress to soothe irritation.
Or they may recommend trying different skincare products than what you’ve been using, to avoid a harmful ingredient or something you’re sensitive to.
The best way to reduce redness on your face is to start by consulting with a healthcare professional, so the next time you look flushed, it's out of pride.