Facial redness can be characterized by spidery blood vessels, thickened uneven skin around the nose, or flushed skin across the cheeks. These appearances are caused by dilated facial blood vessels due to an allergic reaction, aging, sun damage, long term dry skin, or infection. Read below on major categories of causes for facial redness, including rare causes and treatment options for a red face. We also prepared a free digital checker for you to narrow down possibilities.
Symptoms of facial redness
Persistent redness across the face may seem, at first, to be merely a blush of embarrassment or a touch of sunburn. But if the "blush" does not fade and the "sunburn" does not heal, it may actually be a form of autoimmune disorder that is causing inflammation of the head and face. Facial redness and skin thickening is also called rosacea, facial telangiectasia, or rhinophyma.
Common characteristics of facial redness
If you're experiencing facial redness, it's likely that it can be described by the following.
- Redness across the face: Especially on the cheeks and the bridge of the nose
- Small, spidery blood vessels: Likely visible on the cheeks and nose
- Roughness, bumps, and pimples: These will likely occur along with a burning or stinging sensation.
- Thickened, damaged, uneven skin, especially around the nose
- Watery, irritated, bloodshot eyes
Who is most often affected?
People who are most likely to experience facial redness include the following.
- Fair-skinned individuals
- Women are more commonly affected
- Men seem to be more severely affected
- Anyone with a history of blushing easily and frequently: Especially if the person has the sensation of heat in the face at the same time
- Anyone who is an alcoholic
When is facial redness most likely to occur?
You are most likely to experience facial redness due to the following environmental conditions or activities.
- During the summer: This is because heat dilates blood vessels and extended sun and wind exposure can dry, irritate, or burn the skin.
- During exercise: This is due to increases in circulation.
- During stress: This is due to increased blood pressure.
- During sudden temperature swings: Such as when going from a warm building to outdoor cold
Is facial redness serious?
The severity of facial redness ultimately depends on the cause.
- Not serious: Mild redness is rarely serious in itself. However, it can cause serious social and professional consequences due to embarrassment, self-consciousness, and loss of confidence.
- Moderately serious: Persistent facial redness should not be ignored since it can be a warning sign of a more serious condition.
- Serious: If the redness is accompanied by eye pain and irritation, or by thickening of the skin around the nose, it may lead to vision loss, facial disfigurement, and blocking of normal airflow. More than half of people with rosacea will also develop eye problems at some point.
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Causes of facial redness
Dilation of the facial blood vessels (flushing)
Blood vessels can dilate in the face due to the following, resulting in redness.
- Allergies: Sensitivity to certain foods and medications will cause flushing. A contact allergy to soap, cosmetics, sunblock, and anything else put on the face will cause stinging, burning, and redness.
- Sunlight: Especially when it comes to flare-ups of the redness
- Emotional stress: Such as from embarrassment, worry, or anger
- Strenuous exercise
Diseases of the skin can cause damage to the surface of the skin and its underlying structure and result in permanent redness and unevenness. These diseases may specifically result in the following.
- Redness with bumps: This may appear on the nose, cheeks, chin, and forehead, along with sore, burning eyes. This is essentially caused by blood vessels in the face dilating and expanding.
- Red, dry, scaly patches of skin: These may appear on the forehead, hairline, neck, ears, and face, as well as on other parts of the body.
- Reddened, thickened, uneven skin with pimples
Damage to blood vessels in the face
Damage can occur due to the following:
- Aging, obesity, and/or poor circulation
- Broken blood vessels, often from sun damage
Rare and unusual cause types
Less common causes of facial redness include the following.
- Heredity: A tendency toward facial redness, sometimes severe, may run in families.
- Microscopic skin mites: These are normally found on human skin but are far more numerous in people with certain forms of facial redness and inflammation.
This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
Allergic contact dermatitis of the face
Allergic contact dermatitis is a condition in which the skin becomes irritated and inflamed following physical contact with an allergen. Common products known to cause allergic dermatitis include plants, metals, soap, fragrance, and cosmetics.
Top Symptoms: facial redness, face itch, scabbed area of the face
Symptoms that always occur with allergic contact dermatitis of the face: facial redness
Non-specific facial rash
Nonspecific facial rash means a rash without fever or other symptoms. There are many possible causes for this:
- Contact dermatitis, which means direct facial contact with a substance that causes an allergic rash.
- Noncontact (atopic) dermatitis, which means an inhaled substance such as dust or pollen is causing an itchy facial rash.
Fifth disease, or erythema infectiosum, is a viral illness that causes cold symptoms followed by a lingering red rash on both cheeks.
Sun exposure and/or pregnancy can trigger melasma, which causes brown or grey-brown freckled patches on the face.
- Alcoholism can cause a persistent, rash-like redness of the face due to dilated blood vessels.
Facial rash without fever is rarely serious, but a medical provider can make a definite diagnosis and help with easing any symptoms.
Diagnosis is made through patient history and physical examination, and sometimes skin testing.
Treatment involves removing any substances that are provoking a reaction; moisturizing the skin; using prescribed antihistamines or corticosteroid ointments; and strengthening the immune system through improved diet, sleep, and exercise.
Top Symptoms: facial redness
Symptoms that always occur with non-specific facial rash: facial redness
Symptoms that never occur with non-specific facial rash: fever
Urgency: Wait and watch
Rosacea is a long-term disease that affects the skin and sometimes the eyes. It causes redness and pimples. Rosacea is most common in women and people with fair skin. It most often affects middle-aged and older adults.
Top Symptoms: facial redness, rough skin on the face, pink or red facial bump, nose redness, raised rash
Symptoms that always occur with acne rosacea: facial redness
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a non-contagious chronic skin condition that produces an itchy rash. It is caused by a genetic condition that affects the skin's ability to protect itself from bacteria and allergens. The most susceptible are those with a family hi..
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the deep layers of the skin. It can appear anywhere on the body but is most common on the feet, lower legs, and face.
The condition can develop if Staphylococcus bacteria enter broken skin through a cut, scrape, or existing skin infection such as impetigo or eczema.
Most susceptible are those with a weakened immune system, as from corticosteroids or chemotherapy, or with impaired circulation from diabetes or any vascular disease.
Symptoms arise somewhat gradually and include sore, reddened skin.
If not treated, the infection can become severe, form pus, and destroy the tissue around it. In rare cases, the infection can cause blood poisoning or meningitis.
Symptom of severe pain, fever, cold sweats, and fast heartbeat should be seen immediately by a medical provider.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination.
Treatment consists of antibiotics, keeping the wound clean, and sometimes surgery to remove any dead tissue. Cellulitis often recurs, so it is important to treat any underlying conditions and improve the immune system with rest and good nutrition.
Top Symptoms: fever, chills, facial redness, swollen face, face pain
Symptoms that always occur with cellulitis: facial redness, area of skin redness
Urgency: Primary care doctor
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Facial redness treatments and relief
Facial redness remedies that you can try at home include the following.
- Be mindful of sun exposure: Protect the skin of your face from the sun. Always use sunscreen and wear hats when outdoors.
- Maintain a skincare routine: Keep your face very clean, using only cool water and mild cleansers, and do not let your skin become too dry and manage oil production.
- Use gentle or recommended products: Try over-the-counter treatments made for the skin condition that you have.
- Address your overall health: Make changes in diet, sleep, and exercise that will improve overall health.
- Keep stress low: Make lifestyle adjustments that will help you reduce and manage stress.
When to see a doctor
You should schedule an appointment with your physician in order to be evaluated for the following.
- Ongoing or concerning facial redness: The earlier the treatment begins, the more effective it will be.
- Burning and irritation around your eyes: Vision can be affected — even long-term — if this is not treated.
- Facial redness flare-ups: This way your condition can be managed before it becomes more severe.
- Testing and treatment of any contact allergies
- Discussion of laser treatment: This can help fade permanent redness or visible blood vessels.
When it is an emergency
If your facial redness is associated with a worsening or ongoing fever you should seek medical care as this is a sign of an infection.
If you feel faint, lose consciousness, vomit, have nausea, or you stop sweating after exercising, you should seek medical care immediately as this may be a sign of heatstroke.
While blushing is normal in many situations, such as due to exertion or the fact that you're warmer than usual, facial redness can be better prevented via a few strategies.
- Keep your face clean and limit irritants: Use gentle products and consult a dermatologist if necessary.
- Protect your skin from the sun: Find a sunscreen that works for you or keep a hat with you when you're outdoors. You can get a sunburn — even a bad one — in cold temperatures or if there are clouds in the sky. Up to 80 percent of the sun's rays can still penetrate clouds.
- Wear natural, breathable fabrics: This can help you stay cooler. Wear layers during colder months that can be removed indoors.
- Drink water: This can help keep you cool and your skin hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids is especially important when working or playing outside in warmer temperatures.
Questions your doctor may ask about facial redness
- Any fever today or during the last week?
- Did you possibly brush into poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac?
- Is the red area flaky and rough to the touch?
- Do you have skin changes anywhere that skin touches or rubs other skin (such as the back of the knee, inside of the elbow or wrist, or the armpit)?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.
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- Rosacea treatment: Eye problems. American Academy of Dermatology. AAD Link
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- Seborrheic dermatitis. National Eczema Association. National Eczema Association Link
- Causes of rosacea: Demodex mites & microbes. National Rosacea Society. National Rosacea Society Link