10 reasons your face is red

Many things can turn our faces red, including sunburn, acne, and hot flashes. Here are 10 less obvious reasons for seeing a red face when you look in the mirror.

  1. red-forehead-patches.jpg
    Reddish, oily-looking patches on the face and scalp
    Seborrheic dermatitis
    Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition that causes a red rash, which often appears on the face. The rash may cause the skin to look oily as shown here. The skin can also appear dry and scaly.

    What can get rid of the redness: Seborrheic dermatitis usually requires treatment to clear. A board-certified dermatologist can create a treatment plan tailored to your needs. Treatment may include using a dandruff shampoo and medicine that you apply to your skin for a short time.

    Seborrheic dermatitis: Diagnosis and treatment

  2. red-cheeks-chin.jpg
    Redness and easily irritated skin
    Rosacea

    This skin condition often begins with a tendency to flush or blush easily. If the condition progresses, you many notice that the redness on your face lasts longer — or never fades.

    How to get rid of the redness: While rosacea cannot be cured, treatment can lessen the redness. There are different types of rosacea. A board-certified dermatologist can tell you if you have rosacea. If you have rosacea, your dermatologist can tell you which type of rosacea you have and create a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

    Is rosacea causing your red, irritated face?

  3. fragrance-allergic-reaction-neck.jpg
    Allergic reaction to the fragrance in a skin care product
    Skin irritation or allergic reaction

    A condition called contact dermatitis develops when something that touches your skin either:
  • Irritates it
  • Causes an allergic reaction

The face is a common place to get contact dermatitis. A soap or hair dye can irritate your skin, causing a condition known as irritant contact dermatitis.

If you are allergic to what touches your face, you can develop allergic contact dermatitis. Common causes of allergic contact dermatitis include poison ivy, fragrances, and latex.

How to get rid of the redness: This rash tends to clear on its own when you stop exposing your skin to whatever is causing the reaction.

Because this reaction can be caused by so many products, including those that you’ve used for years, and everyday things in your environment, it can be a challenge to figure out what’s causing the rash. The questions on this page can help you get started:

Contact dermatitis: Tips for managing

If you cannot figure out what’s causing the redness, a board-certified dermatologist can help.

  1. medication-allergic-reaction.jpg
    Acne-like rash caused by medication
    Reaction to a medication

    Some medications can cause a sunburn-like reaction when you spend time outdoors during the day. Using a medication, such as a hydrocortisone (a steroid) cream, for longer than directed can also cause a skin reaction.

    How to get rid of the redness: Check the information that came with the medication to see if you should stay out of the sun. This may be all you need to do to clear the redness.

    If the redness is caused by using a medication, such as hydrocortisone cream, for too long, you may be able to get rid of the rash on your own. You’ll find dermatologist-reviewed information that can help at:

    Red rash around your mouth could be perioral dermatitis

  2. raw-skin-babys-face.jpg
    Red, itchy rash caused by atopic dermatitis
    Atopic dermatitis

    Atopic dermatitis, often called eczema, can cause a rash that appears suddenly. Infants often develop this itchy rash on their cheeks. Regardless of where the rash appears, the skin with the rash tends to feel extremely dry, scaly, and itchy.

    How to get rid of the redness: While atopic dermatitis cannot be cured, treatment can help to clear the skin. A board-certified dermatologist can develop a treatment plan tailored to a child’s (or adult’s) needs.

    Atopic dermatitis: Diagnosis, treatment

  3. psoriasis-forehead.jpg
    Red, dry, and raised patches on the face
    Psoriasis

    Psoriasis (suh-rye-ah-sis) is a condition that causes the body to make new skin cells in days rather than weeks. As these cells pile up on the surface of the skin, you may see raised, scaly patches.

    What can get rid of the redness: While psoriasis cannot be cured, a board-certified dermatologist can develop a treatment plan that can help you see clearer (or clear) skin. You can learn more about treatment for psoriasis at:

    Psoriasis: Diagnosis, treatment, and outcome

  4. spider-veins.jpg
    Without sun protection, spider veins can appear
    Spider veins

    If you don’t protect your skin from the sun, the harmful rays can damage your skin. Over the years, this damage accumulates. Years later, some people who have sun-damaged skin see spider veins on their face.

    What can get rid of the redness: A board-certified dermatologist may be able to get rid of the spider veins with laser treatment. Medical insurance does not cover this treatment.

    Medical procedures, such as laser treatment, are best performed in the office of a licensed doctor, such as a board-certified dermatologist. Watch this video to find out why.

    Who should provide your cosmetic treatment?

  5. shingles.jpg
    Shingles rash
    Shingles

    Shingles causes a painful, blistering rash, which can appear anywhere on your skin, including your face.

    What can get rid of the redness: The rash tends to clear on its own, but if you develop a painful rash on your face, treatment is especially important. Without treatment, a shingles rash on your face can permanently damage your eyesight.

    Taking an anti-viral medication can save your eyesight and prevent long-lasting nerve pain. Without treatment, the nerve pain can last for months or years. That’s true no matter where the rash develops on your skin.

    Shingles: Diagnosis and treatment

  6. butterfly-lupus.jpg
    Butterfly rash of lupus
    Lupus

    Lupus is an autoimmune disease. This means that your body’s own immune system mistakes part of your own body as something foreign and attacks that part of the body. When someone has lupus, the immune system can attack different organs. Sometimes, this causes redness and swelling on the skin.

    Some people who have lupus develop a rash on their face that’s shaped like a butterfly. You may also see other types of redness and swelling on your face.

    How to get rid of the redness: A board-certified dermatologist can tell you whether lupus is affecting your skin. If it is, a dermatologist can:
  • Develop a treatment plan that can help get rid of the redness on your face.
  • Work with your other health care providers who will treat the lupus.

Lupus and your skin

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    Sézary syndrome can cause widespread redness
    Rare cancer

    Sézary syndrome is a type of T-cell cutaneous lymphoma (CTCL), which is a rare cancer. CTCL begins in a type of white blood cell called the T-lymphocyte (T-cell). Signs of this cancer begin on the skin because most T-cells are found in the skin.

    What can get rid of the redness: To get rid of the redness you need to treat the cancer. You can find out more about this cancer at:

    Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma

When to see a board-certified dermatologist

Because many conditions can cause your face to turn red, it’s essential to get the right diagnosis. Board-certified dermatologists are trained to treat thousands of conditions that affect the skin.

If the redness on your face lasts more than 2 weeks, make an appointment to see a dermatologist.

Find a dermatologist


Images
Images 1,2,3,4,5,8,9: Used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.

Images 6, 10: Used with permission of Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology:

  • 6 -  J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008; 58:959-63.
  • 10 - J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017; 77:719-27.

Image 7: Getty Images

References
Chamlin SL and Lawley LP. “Perioral dermatitis.” In: Wolff K, et al. Fitzpatrick’s dermatology in general medicine (7th edition). McGraw Hill Medical, USA, 2008:709-12.

Cohen DE. “Irritant contact dermatitis.” In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. (second edition). Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008:223-30.

Cohen DE and Jacob SE. “Allergic contact dermatitis.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008: 135-46.

Costner MI, Sontheimer RD. “Lupus erythematosus” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008:1515-35.

Crawford GH, Pelle MT, et al. “Rosacea: I. Etiology, pathogenesis, and subtype classification.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2004;51:327-41.

Chung JH, Hanft VN, et al. “Aging and photoaging.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2003 Oct;49(4):690-7.

Habif TP, Campbell JL, Jr., et al. In: Dermatology DDxDeck. 2006. China. Mosby Elsevier. Card #37: “Psoriasis: Lesions.”

Madkan V Sra K, et al. “Human herpesviruses.” In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. (second edition). Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008:1205.

Willemze R. “Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.” In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. (second edition). Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008:1867-86.

Woo SM, Choi JW, et al. “Classification of facial psoriasis based on the distributions of facial lesions.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008; 58(6):959-63.