When it comes to your complexion, seeing red is not always a good thing—especially if you have sensitive skin that reacts from the slightest triggers. While facial redness is one of the most common skin issues to deal with, the whys and hows behind it are often a mystery. So here are some facts about redness to keep in mind the next time your skin is looking flushed.
- Redness comes in different forms.
Redness occurs when blood rushes to the surface of your skin and is commonly associated with sensitive or highly reactive skin. But flushing can also be caused by a number of reasons—from sunburn and extreme weather to allergies and rosacea, says Debra Jaliman, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “Rosacea and eczema are both genetic conditions, which can be treated with topical prescription medications,” she adds.
- Your skin care products and routine may also be to blame.
Not all skin care products are created equal, and some ingredients in your beauty products may be doing your skin more harm than good. “Redness can be caused by skin irritation or an allergic reaction from a certain ingredient in a product,” says Dr. Jaliman. Your daily regimen may also be the reason your skin is turning red or feeling extra sensitive. While cleansing and peels are a must for glowing skin, things can easily take a turn when it’s overdone or when using the wrong formula or ingredients for your skin type. Think weakened skin barrier and dry, inflamed complexion. For deep cleansing without the irritation, try a gentler formula like EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser or iS Clinical Cleansing Complex.
- Diet and lifestyle can also be a trigger.
Long nights, poor diet and stress don’t only take a toll on your overall health, they’re also bad news for your skin. “Avoid spicy foods, alcohol, hot tea or coffee, citrus and tomatoes,” says Dr. Jaliman, as these are known to trigger and worsen redness. Temperature changes can also affect your skin, so skip the sauna and exercising outdoors if you’re trying to lessen the flushing.
- Redness can look different on different shades of skin.
“I am a BIPOC dermatologist (of Hispanic and Middle Eastern descent), who treats a large, diverse population, so I have noticed that redness can present differently in different population types,” explains Anna H. Chacon, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Weston Fla. “In fairer skin types, it may be more predominant, and the skin might look more reddish pink. In darker skin types, redness or inflammation may sometimes present with more purplish or hyperpigmented tones,” she says. Eczema, for example, is often described as dry and itchy red patches on lighter skin. On skin of color, it can appear ashen, brown or grayish, instead. When identifying what causes redness on skin of color, Dr. Chacon advises looking out for other symptoms like swelling, warmth, itching and time frame for the condition.
- Over-the-counter products can help calm redness.
Although we’d love to get our hands on a product that fixes all our redness concerns, different skin types don’t always respond to treatment the same way. That said, there are certain ingredients and formulas to look for to lessen flushing and discoloration. “Niacinamide, aloe vera, green tea, azelaic acid and arnica are all helpful to decrease redness,” says Dr. Jaliman. When it comes to formulas, your best bets are oil-free and water-based skin care products, adds Dr. Chacon. (We love the lightweight formulas of SkinCeuticals Redness Neutralizer and REN Clean Skincare Evercalm™ Anti-Redness Serum.)
Furthermore, it’s best to steer clear of products that contain alcohol, fragrance and other abrasive ingredients. You’d also want to give your skin a break from using retinol products if it causes dryness, flushing and itching.
- Know when it’s time to talk to your doctor.
If your skin remains flushed even after trying topical treatments and making changes in your daily activities and skin care routine, then it’s time to seek the advice of your doctor, says Dr. Jaliman. Particularly, if the skin discoloration also comes with other symptoms. “It’s best to seek help and further guidance from a medical professional when your dermatologic condition is significantly impacting your quality of life, or if you just need or want more information,” adds Dr. Chacon.