This is what causes red skin, and here’s how to fix it
There is only one place I want my face to be red, and that’s my cheeks, where I painstakingly paint on blush for a youthful glow. See also: naturally rich red lips. But mostly, the redness on my face radiates from my nose like I have a perpetual cold. Or it presents itself as an overall ruddy appearance when I lapse in my skin routine or diet. I can cover it with makeup, but I’d rather not.
Instead, I want to get rid of the source of the problem. Why does skin get so red, and how can I make it go away?
The underlying cause for many cases comes down to heat. Increased blood flow, aka hyperemia, happens when the body is overheating. That blood flow is sent to the surface of the skin so you can cool off and “the face being exposed to the elements makes it the perfect site for that flow,” shares Dr. Bobby Buka, a leading dermatologist in New York City and contributing Founder and Chief Science Officer of the First Aid Beauty skin care line.
“Outside of excess body heat, a condition called rosacea is the most common source of facial redness for most of my patients,” Dr. Buka tells HelloGiggles. “It’s caused by microscopic mites on the skin surface, and flares up from certain triggers such as alcohol, exercise, and others.”
Dr. Anna Guanche, board-certified dermatologist and celebrity beauty expert, says that those who have rosacea or a tendency towards it may notice more redness as they age. “Usually, these are individuals who blush easily and stay redder longer after exercise. They can then develop telangiectasia, or dilated small vessels on the surface of the skin. This leads to a chronically red appearance to the skin,” Dr. Guanche tells HelloGiggles.
Redness can be caused by irritation, too, says Dr. Buka, often because of wind exposure. “When the face is continually pummeled by the wind, blood flow to the area increases while simultaneously moisture is being sapped from the skin,” he says.
And then there is the facial redness that comes from something you can’t change—your parents. “Some are simply born with rosy cheeks—also known as keratosis pilaris rubra—or the Prince Harry cheeks,” shares Dr. Guanche.
Facial redness can even be caused by viral infections, or it could just be allergies, eczema, or sunburn. Whatever the issue is, there is a way to return your skin to the unruddied color.
“Minimizing facial redness is done by addressing the cause. Irritation from ‘windburn’ can be fixed with facial moisturizers containing ceramides, which keep skin supple. If rosacea is the culprit, anti-mite therapies will correct the condition and get facial complexion back to normal,” Dr. Buka notes.
Dr. Guanche suggests an emollient cream with silymarin (milk thistle) or Glycyrrhiza inflata root (licorice root). “Cool compresses with a 15-minute relaxation period to reduce blood pressure and calm everything are helpful.”
If skin care products aren’t working, it might be time to head to your dermatologist. “Prescription products such as Avar are our go-to, and for flushing, Rhofade is an effective prescription vasoconstricting cream that takes out the red for hours when applied,” Dr. Guanche says.
Treating the cause should always be a priority, but when facial redness persists, coverage can be the answer. “As far as daytime products, a bit of green tint neutralizes the red appearance, so makeup or treatment creams that are (pale mint) green can help,” Dr. Guanche suggests.
Some of the products below do both at the same time, and the other cleansers, serums, creams, and masks are top rated products to calm irritated skin and reduce redness.
1REN Evercalm Anti-Redness Serum
$48Shop it Sephora
This serum calms skin and protects it from further irritation with milk polypeptides and beta-glucan. It has hyaluronic acid too, for hydration. Keep it in the fridge for extra coolness.
2Aveeno Ultra-Calming Foaming Cleanser
$7.99Shop it Ulta
Feverfew extract is the star ingredient in this cleanser. Extracted from chamomile, feverfew is soothing, and its inclusion in this product makes this cleanser safe for redness-prone sensitive skin.
3Dr. Jart Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment
$52Shop it Sephora
Tigers roll themselves in the centella asiatica plant to heal their skin, and the plant’s medicinal properties will work for you, too. This treatment has a green hue to tone down flushing and sunscreen to protect skin all day.
4A’PIEU Madecassoside Cream
$15Shop it Soko Glam
Just like the previously mentioned Dr. Jart treatment, this cream also contains centella asiatica but without the correcting color. It’s also super moisturizing, and it plumps up skin with adenosine and lactic acid.
5IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Redness Neutralizing Correcting Cream
This cream works more like a cover-up than a treatment, but cover it does well. And it still includes redness-reducing ingredients, like colloidal oatmeal, aloe, avocado oil, and green tea.
6Paula’s Choice CALM Redness Relief 1% BHA Lotion Exfoliant
You can exfoliate redness-prone skin if you do it the right way. This one gently rids you of dead skin cells with 1% BHA, leaving you with glowing skin.
7SkinRX Lab MadeCera Express Mask (5 Pack)
Guess what, this one has an ingredient derived from centella asiatica, too. This sheet mask calms red and irritated skin and will help heal any damage you already have with hydrating ceramides.
8Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Sheet Mask
Have a sunburn? This mask soothes, and along with the usual calming ingredients, it also lowers the skin’s temperature.
9Clinique Redness Solutions Daily Relief Cream
If you have rosacea and broken capillaries, this cream could help. It uses probiotics to lessen redness and blotchiness, and over time, can lessen the look of those red broken capillaries. Use it both morning and night for best results.
10Origins Mega-Mushroom Relief & Resilience Soothing Treatment Lotion
$20Shop it Sephora
This lotion is light and watery for those days you don’t want to pile on anything too emollient. But still, it’s powerful enough to target the root of redness and inflammation thanks to nutrient-rich reishi mushrooms.
11Korres Greek Yoghurt Foaming Cream Cleanser
$26Shop it Sephora
This gentle cleanser starts as a cream but foams up as you massage it into your skin. Greek yogurt contains proteins, minerals, and vitamins that soothe and calm redness-prone skin while cleansing.
12Re:P Bio Fresh Mask With Real Calming Herb
Your irritated skin can benefit from clay masks, as long as you use the right kind. This mask with kaolin, calendula, and chamomile cleans your pores and reduces inflammation. The long list of 5-star reviews swears it does exactly what it claims.
13La Roche Posay Rosaliac Anti-Redness Intense Face Serum
La Roche Posay’s star ingredient, ambophenol, along with thermal spring water, has been clinically proven to help manage rosacea—they’ve got the studies to prove it. Use this serum twice a day before moisturizing.
14Cetaphil Redness Night Relief Moisturizer
Cetaphil offers an inexpensive but effective nightly moisturizer. It provides hydration throughout the night and doesn’t contain potentially irritating ingredients like fragrance.
15SkinCeuticals Redness Neutralizer
Protect against environmental stressors—a leading cause of redness—with this serum that makes skin feel cooler. It contains a peptide complex that combats triggers that can lead to redness and flushing and makes skin feel better in the process.
16First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense
This intensely hydrating cream comes at the recommendation of Dr. Bobby Buka. “One particular product that’s proven helpful for redness is First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Cream, a powerful over-the-counter treatment that effectively hydrates the skin,” he shares.
17Avene Antirougeurs Day Redness Relief Soothing Cream
SPF is one of the most important parts of your skincare routine (especially if you have sensitive skin), and this cream keeps you protected with SPF 25. It has a light green tint to mask redness and ingredients to minimize any redness you already have.
Origins Hello, Calm Relaxing & Hydrating Face Mask/listheader]
$28Shop it Sephora
Made with trendy (and effective) cannabis sativa seed oil, this mask calms and hydrates skin, just like it says it does. It has almost 5 stars and a 98% recommendation rate on Sephora, a sign of a truly stellar product.