Why Does My Face Flush When I Exercise?

Q: Why does my face get so flushed after I workout and why does this seem to happen to some people (me!) more than others? Is there anything I can do about it? — Sarah, 29, Brooklyn, NY

A: The first thing you can do about it is relax! There’s nothing wrong with getting red — or even fuschia — in the face.

When you exercise, capillaries in your face and throughout your body dilate and blood flows through them in an effort to move the heat your body is generating to the skin’s surface, where it can be radiated off. This effort helps to keep you cool while you work out, but it can also make your skin look flushed — especially in the face.

“Patients who get pink in the face following exercise usually have more superficial blood vessels in the skin of the cheeks and chin,” Dr. James Marotta, a dual board certified facial plastic surgeon in practice in Long Island, NY tells HuffPost Healthy Living. “The result is that temporarily more blood is flowing through these superficial vessels resulting in a pink or ruddy complexion.”

But Dr. Naila Malik, a dermatologist in practice in Southlake, Texas and the creator of the Naila MD Skincare line disagrees. “It is less likely that the ‘red blushers’ have more capillaries under the skin of their faces than their ‘pinkish glower’ counterparts in the physiologic range of blushing.”

Instead, she offers this explanation to:

“Some people blush more than others and this is more likely due to the fact that these people have a more significant dilatation of the capillaries than the ones who merely get a pinkish glow; Plus the dilatation is more prolonged in these ‘blushers’ hence they stay redder for longer periods of time.”

Dr. Bobby Buka, a dermatologist based in New York City says that both Malik and Marotta are right; while some people — often those of Anglo-Saxon heritage — have more capillaries in their faces to begin with, others may have one of several conditions that can cause more blood to flow through the same number of capillaries.

If you have more capillaries in your face to begin with (i.e. those of Anglo-Saxon heritage), then exercising will cause them to fill (how we shunt heat from our bodies by redistributing blood closer to the skin’s surface) and give you a flush-face. On the other hand, several conditions can cause more blood to flow through the same number of capillaries.

“If you suffer from rosacea or other ‘vasomotor’ dysfunction (i.e. the way your skin’s nerve fibers are wired to your blood vessels), then even though you may have the same number of capillaries as your neighbor, those caps will inappropriately dilate to give you a flushed face,” Buka wrote in an email to HuffPost Healthy Living. “Which is more common? Probably the former.”

Of course, if you’re exercising in extreme heat, a red face could indicate the onset of heatstroke. Other symptoms of heatstroke include excessive sweating, nausea and lightheadedness, according to the Mayo Clinic. Heatstroke requires immediate medical attention, as it causes your body’s temperature to exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit and can lead to brain, heart, kidney and muscle damage.

But if the cause is simply exertion, there is little you can do without surgical intervention. “Intense pulsed light or laser treatments can diminish the overall number of blood vessels, rid patients of unwanted spider veins, and diminish overly ruddy or reactive facial skin,” says Marotta.

Or you can just enjoy a temporary rosy glow — and a face that announces to the world that you’ve been living healthfully.

More from HuffPost Healthy Living:

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Why Does My Face Turn Red When I Exercise?

Popsugar Photography

There’s nothing like the feeling of getting all hot and sweaty from a good cardio workout. You feel amazing, full of energy, and all revved up on endorphins, so why do people keep asking if you’re OK? You catch a glimpse of your sweaty self in the bathroom mirror, and the unnaturally, brilliantly red face staring back takes you by surprise, too. Wait-are you OK?

Your frighteningly scarlet skin may not look the prettiest, but it’s no cause for alarm. It’s actually just a sign that you’re working hard and building up heat. When your body temperature begins to climb, you perspire to keep cool, but it also dilates the blood vessels in your skin to reduce your overall body temp. Your face turns red because warm, oxygenated blood rushes to the surface of your skin, which helps heat radiate off of it and prevents you from overheating.

Go ahead and continue exercising as long as you feel good and have no other symptoms. If you find that your flushed face is accompanied by fatigue, dizziness, sweating more than usual, or nausea, then it could be a sign of heat exhaustion, which is more likely to happen outside on hot and humid days. Working out in a hot room or in higher temps is definitely a risk, so if you experience these symptoms, stop exercising immediately, get inside where it’s cooler, loosen up tight clothing (or remove it altogether), and drink plenty of cool water.

To prevent heat exhaustion, make sure to drink plenty of fluids before and during your workout. If you love outdoor workouts, try to exercise during a time of day when temperatures are the lowest, like in the early morning. It also helps to run on shady trails in the woods or on a breezy path near a lake or beach. Here are more tips on how to stay cool when working out in the heat and how to recover after a hot and humid workout.

This article originally appeared on Popsugar Fitness.

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“The term for these small facial vessels that can remain dilated and create redness is telangiectasia,” says Dr. Wong, who often recommends in-office treatments of intense pulsed light to reduce the redness. “The light energy causes the dilated vessels to constrict or shrink and has a calming effect on the skin.”

The products helping my skin chill out right now:

While I haven’t been officially diagnosed with rosacea (there are no tests to say for sure, so doctors judge based on patient history and a skin examination), my symptoms certainly fit the bill: I have a history of frequent flushing, persistent redness and those dilated red blood vessels on the face. Others with rosacea, especially men, may also get papules and pustules, raised red bumps on the cheeks or nose.

Since there’s no cure for rosacea, which can worsen over time, my best bet is staying away from my triggers whenever I can. That means avoiding skincare with harsh ingredients (alcohol-heavy toners, strong chemical peels and abrasive scrubs), certain foods (hot drinks, anything spicy and alcohol), stress and, of course, intense exercise.

That said, I’m not about to give up high-impact cardio (the endorphin rush is just too good), but I’ll be better about avoiding the most strenuous activity on hot days, reduce the frequency of cardio-heavy blasts, and add more slow-and-steady sessions into my routine. Keep calm and carry on, as they say.

Dr. Diane Wong’s tips for minimizing post-workout redness:

– Exercise in a well-ventilated room that isn’t stuffy

– If training outside, wear SPF and go in the early morning or evening, when the temperature’s lower

– Stay hydrated; drink 10-12 cups of water every day

– Cool down post-workout: apply a cold towel to your nape, use an ice cube on your neck or wrists, and splash water on your face

– Avoid caffeine, spicy foods and alcohol since they’ll spike blood flow

– Use skincare with anti-inflammatory ingredients like green tea extract

It sure does get old when people constantly point out your red face after a tough workout.

But instead of sucking on ice cubes, standing in front of a fan or trying other tricks to de-redden your face, try embracing your vivid hue as a proud sign of your effort.

Rob Newton, Edith Cowan University professor of Exercise and Sports Science, says a red face is actually a sign that your body is working efficiently to cool you down.

“When we exercise, our vascular system redirects blood away from non-essential organs and systems, such as the digestive system, to supply more blood flow to the working muscles,” he told Coach.

“If the body senses that its temperature is rising, we start to sweat and the vascular system shunts blood to the skin to try and shift heat away from the muscles and interior of the body, so that this heat can be radiated into the atmosphere.”

Our faces have a particularly high capacity of blood supply, which is why we go particularly red there.

Women are particularly prone to red face because they tend to sweat less and shunt more blood to the skin, whereas men rely more on sweat to keep cool.

“This is actually a much better mechanism when exercising in the heat, because it also means that women lose less fluid and so are more effective at exercising in the heat compared to a man with the same fitness level and other features,” Professor Newton point out.

Of course, some women – and men – go brighter red than others, which Professor Newton says comes down to variation in individuals’ cooling systems, as well as skin tone.

“People with paler skin will appear much redder when they exercise,” he points out.

“This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the head and face have a large surface area relative to the volume and so are a very effective ‘radiator’ to get rid of heat from the body.”

Weights sessions tend to lead to short bursts of red-face because blood pressure increases and sends blood to the face temporarily. But when the effort stops, your face returns to normal.

“It is important to breathe while you lift – breathe in during the lowering phase and breathe out with the lifting phase,” Professor Newton says.

“This should reduce increases in blood pressure and therefore generate less red-faced appearance.”

It’s sustained aerobic exercise, such as jogging, group fitness classes or high intensity sessions, that will give you the long-lasting red face.

“The harder you are exercising and the hotter the environment, the more red-faced you will appear,” Professor Newton explains.

Ultimately Professor Newton says you shouldn’t blush about a red face.

“Enjoy it – your red face means that your vascular system is directing large amounts of blood through your skin which is bringing lovely hormones and cytokines, as well as nutrition and removing toxins which will help keep your skin younger looking and healthier,” he points out.

“If you really want to reduce this lovely blood flow however then I recommend exercising in cooler environments, and using cooling practices such as wet towels and fans.”

The one time you do need to worry about a red face is if you are too hot and are at risk of hyperthermia, which is an extreme elevated body temperature that can be deadly.

To avoid this, Professor Newton says it’s important to stay hydrated in the heat and seek medical assistance if you have a headache, dizziness, dry, clammy skin or have stopped sweating.

RELATED: Running hot and cold: Why blushing isn’t all that bad

I’m not one to share post-workout selfies on social media, because the one time I did, I got a ton of people commenting, “What’s up with your face?” and “Are you OK?” My face gets incredibly red, and it stays like that for a while after I’ve been working out, especially in the Summer. It’s super fun to go somewhere like the grocery store after an intense CrossFit workout and have people do a double take. I did have a fellow mom say, “My face gets like that, too,” which made me feel better. So what’s the deal? Is it bad if your face turns beet red after exercising?

If your skin tone is fair, congratulations — you’re more likely to experience redness in the face, Dr. Woodin said. That’s because your skin pigmentation isn’t dark enough to cover the redness. Or for some people who have a high fitness level, their body may not need to cool itself as much at the surface. Kate Huether, MD, founder of The ReKovery MD, added that you may be more prone to a strawberry-red complexion if you have more capillaries in your face or if you suffer from a skin condition such as rosacea, which is worsened by increased body temperature.

However, Dr. Woodin wants to make it clear that “having a red face does not mean you’re unfit. It simply means that you have more of a blood supply to your face.” Everyone’s body is different, and this is an “involuntary and uncontrollable reaction that should be embraced.” So next time you’re self-conscious after a tough workout, don’t be! Take that sweaty selfie and show off that beet-red face with pride.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jenny Sugar

Dr. Benjamin Barankin, Toronto dermatologist and spokesperson, Acne and Rosacea Society of Canada, rosaceahelp.ca, says that it’s a particular type of rosacea I could have: vascular rosacea, which is rosacea limited to the face.

Triggers for red face from exercise

Exercise isn’t the only culprit. Eating hot and spicy foods, drinking a hot beverage can also result in vascular rosacea, says Barankin. Stress, too much sun or wind and alcohol are other triggers for rosacea.

Another issue, my pale skin. (Thanks mom and dad!)

“Rosacea is more common in fair-skinned individuals, and in particular people from England, Ireland and Eastern Europe,” he says. Originally, I’m from Newfoundland with Irish roots.

“It typically starts showing up after age 30 and is considered a chronic condition; up to 50 per cent of patients have or will develop involvement of their eyes.”

While I only get flushed, it can also result in pimples and pustules in some people.

Red face from exercise hints at other health issues

The insight that I find curious is this: “More recently, rosacea has been associated with other conditions including migraines, inflammatory bowel disease, and cardiovascular disease.”

I do get migraines. But I’m finding it happening less as I get older. It’s like my red skin has swapped roles with my migraines, as I get red face from exercise more often than I do migraines.

Turns out my fitness rosacea is more than a headache. It is a headache.

I’m not one to share post-workout selfies on social media, because the one time I did, I got a ton of people commenting, “What’s up with your face?” and “Are you OK?” My face gets incredibly red, and it stays like that for a while after I’ve been working out, especially in the Summer. It’s super fun to go somewhere like the grocery store after an intense CrossFit workout and have people do a double take. I did have a fellow mom say, “My face gets like that, too,” which made me feel better. So what’s the deal? Is it bad if your face turns beet red after exercising?

Is a red face a sign someone has high blood pressure?

A touch of red in the cheeks can give you an appealing healthy glow.

But a face that’s too rosy is perceived by many as unhealthy — a common belief being it’s a sign your blood pressure’s up. But is this really the case?

Cardiologist Professor Garry Jennings says there are dozens of causes of red faces but that high blood pressure’s “not really on the list”.

“That doesn’t mean you can’t have a red face when you’ve got high blood pressure, but most people don’t,” he says.

But it is a tad confusing because some factors that can raise blood pressure in the short term can also give you a red face.

An ongoing problem of high blood pressure — when the force pumping blood exerts on artery walls is greater than normal — nearly always has no outward signs at all though.

There are usually no inward signs for that matter either. That’s the reason we’re all told to have regular blood pressure checks taken by a doctor, says Professor Jennings, chief medical adviser of the Heart Foundation.

However, very severe high blood pressure may cause symptoms such as headache or breathlessness.

“The vast majority of people with high blood pressure have no symptoms,” he says.

“So if you don’t have it measured, you’ve really got no idea. You can’t look around a room and pick out the people who’ve got it either.”

Is is really possible to get windburnt pic teaser

Exercise and alcohol are two factors that can send your blood pressure up in the short term. And confusingly, both can turn your face a bit red.

While a drink or two doesn’t send your blood pressure up very much or for very long, it’s a different story for those who make a habit of drinking to excess, Professor Jennings says.

“In people who drink more than a few drinks a day, there’s an association — the more they drink, the more likely they are to have high blood pressure. And one of the complications of binge drinking can be a stroke related to very high blood pressure.”

In the case of exercise, regular activity helps keep your blood pressure healthy. But short bursts can cause blood pressure spikes — the reason you should have your level tested when resting rather than immediately after you’ve been running around.

Red face from stress?

What about stress and anger which can also send your complexion crimson? While people talk about being so mad “it makes their blood boil”, these emotions are less closely linked with raised blood pressure in the long term than most people think, Professor Jennings says.

However, some research has suggested people who score highly on tests of impatience or hostility may be at increased risk of developing high blood pressure. Other reports point to suppressed hostility — that is, bottling things up – as a factor. So emotional states may not be entirely irrelevant.

But whether you’ve got a flushed face from alcohol, exercise or emotions, the bodily changes involved are completely different from those causing high blood pressure.

“High blood pressure is a problem that starts in the very tiny arteries going away from the heart. Redness or any kind of flushing is actually on the other side of the circulation, in the veins, which aren’t particularly affected by high blood pressure,” Professor Jennings says.

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It’s important not to wait for a sign of any kind to get your blood pressure checked. Professor Jennings says all adults should have it checked by a doctor every two years.

While the level tends to “drift up over the years rather than suddenly going ‘woosh'”, treatment is more successful if it starts before your heart and blood vessels have been extensively damaged.

The extra stress on the heart and blood vessels can increase the risk of fatty deposits or blockages forming, raising your odds of heart attack, stroke and some other illnesses.

“This is something that can be there without you knowing about it, but if you know about it, you can do something about it,” Professor Jennings says.

While there are many effective medicines, lifestyle changes that can also make a powerful difference include:

  • getting more exercise
  • reducing your salt intake
  • losing excess weight
  • moderating alcohol intake

Reducing your blood cholesterol level (through diet or drugs) and stopping smoking can also add to the reduction in heart attack or stroke risk from any lowering of your blood pressure.

As for a red face, this can have a wide variety of causes including rosacea (a skin condition that may also cause swelling and sores), allergies, inflammatory conditions, fever, and sunburn. Medications (including some used to lower blood pressure) can also cause a red face as a side effect.

However, one thing that’s very unlikely to be behind your red face is high blood pressure.

So that’s one less thing to get hot and bothered about.

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. Use the menu to see other pages.

A GI tract NET often causes no symptoms in its early stages. This type of tumor is usually found by a surgeon during an unrelated surgery or on x-rays for another condition. People with a GI tract NET may experience the following symptoms or signs. The signs and symptoms of carcinoid syndrome and carcinoid crisis, conditions that a GI tract NET can cause, are also described. However, the cause of a symptom may be a different medical condition that is not a GI tract NET.

If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help figure out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

Symptoms of a GI tract NET

GI tract NETs may cause tumor-related symptoms. GI tract NETs are also the type of NET most likely to cause carcinoid syndrome (see below), which has its own set of symptoms.

People with a GI tract NET may experience the following tumor-related symptoms or signs:

  • Abdominal pain caused by blockage of the intestines

  • Diarrhea, especially in people who have carcinoid syndrome, had part of their intestines removed, or had their gallbladder removed.

  • Rash

  • Bright, red blood in the stool or dark, tarry stool. This is a sign of intestinal bleeding.

  • Scale-like skin sores, which can be a sign of pellagra, a severe deficiency of vitamin B3

  • Mental disturbances, another sign of pellagra

  • Constipation

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Weight loss that cannot be explained

  • Jaundice, which is when the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow

  • Fatigue

Carcinoid syndrome

Carcinoid syndrome is the classic example of a functional NET and occurs most commonly in patients with small intestine and lung NETs that have spread to another part of the body, called metastatic. In carcinoid syndrome, serotonin is produced by the tumor and can cause 1 or more of the following symptoms or signs. Serotonin is most easily and reliably measured in the urine, when it gets converted into 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), and it is measured with a 24-hour collection. Not all people with a GI tract NET develop carcinoid syndrome.

People with carcinoid syndrome may experience 1 or more of the following symptoms or signs. It is important to note that these symptoms alone are not enough to diagnose carcinoid syndrome. Blood or urine tests to measure for suspected hormones are also needed to make a diagnosis.

  • Facial flushing, which is redness and a warm feeling over the face

  • Sweating

  • Diarrhea

  • Shortness of breath

  • Wheezing or asthma-like symptoms

  • Unexplained weight gain

  • Weakness

  • Fast heartbeat

  • Heart murmur

  • High blood pressure and significant fluctuations in blood pressure

  • Carcinoid heart disease, which is a scarring of the heart valves

Carcinoid syndrome may damage the heart, so reducing its symptoms is important. Stress, strenuous exercise, and drinking alcohol may make these symptoms worse. Some foods may also trigger the symptoms of carcinoid syndrome, including foods high in:

  • Amines, such as aged cheeses, yeast extracts, tofu, sauerkraut, and smoked fish and meats

  • Serotonin, such as walnuts, pecans, plantains, bananas, and tomatoes

Carcinoid crisis

Carcinoid crisis is a term used when patients experience severe, sudden symptoms of carcinoid syndrome, usually in times of extreme stress, such as surgery. Carcinoid crisis primarily includes serious fluctuations in blood pressure and heart rate. Carcinoid crisis is the most serious and life-threatening complication of carcinoid syndrome. A carcinoid crisis may be prevented and successfully treated with octreotide (Sandostatin), a medication that helps control the production of hormones, or lanreotide (Somatuline Depot).

Managing symptoms

If a GI tract NET is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may be called palliative care or supportive care. Below is information on how some of the symptoms of a GI tract NET can be managed. Be sure to talk with your health care team about the symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

  • Facial flushing. Avoid stress. Ask your doctor about specific substances and foods, including alcohol, that can cause facial flushing, so you can avoid them.

  • Wheezing. Ask your doctor about the use of a bronchodilator, a medication that relaxes the muscles in the lungs to make breathing easier.

  • Diarrhea. There can be many causes of diarrhea in people with NETs. If your diarrhea is caused by carcinoid syndrome, somatostatin analogs and telotristat ethyl (Xermelo) can help. If the diarrhea is caused by bile acid malabsorption, which occurs after removal of the gallbladder, ursodiol (Actigall, URSO 250, URSO Forte) can help. If a lack of pancreatic digestive enzymes has caused the diarrhea, replacement enzymes can help. Ask your doctor for specific recommendations.

  • Heart problems. Tell your doctor immediately if you think you may have a problem with your heart and ask about the use of diuretics. Diuretics are drugs that lower blood pressure by helping the body get rid of water and sodium.

Learn more about managing common cancer symptoms and treatment side effects.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

Red face when working out

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