Skin Redness

Many different conditions can skin redness. Here are 21 possible causes.

Warning: Graphic images ahead.

Diaper rash

  • Rash located on areas that have contact with a diaper
  • Skin looks red, wet, and irritated
  • Warm to the touch

Read full article on diaper rash.

First-degree burn

Share on PinterestImage by: Bejinhan , from Wikimedia Commons

  • The mildest form of burn injury, it affects only the first layer of the skin.
  • Painful, dry, red area turns white with pressure.
  • Skin may peel, but ther is no blistering.
  • Pain and redness will subside after a few days.

Read full article on first-degree burns.

Allergic eczema

  • May resemble a burn
  • Often found on hands and forearms
  • Skin is itchy, red, scaly, or raw
  • Blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty

Read full article on allergic eczema. Share on PinterestBy M. Sand, D. Sand, C. Thrandorf, V. Paech, P. Altmeyer, F. G. Bechara , via Wikimedia Commons

  • Chronic skin disease that goes through cycles of fading and relapse
  • Relapses may be triggered by spicy foods, alcoholic beverages, sunlight, stress, and the intestinal bacteria Helicobacter pylori
  • There are four subtypes of rosacea encompassing a wide variety of symptoms
  • Common symptoms include facial flushing, raised, red bumps, facial redness, skin dryness, and skin sensitivity

Read full article on rosacea.


This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Burn severity is classified by both depth and size
  • First-degree burns: minor swelling and dry, red, tender skin that turns white when pressure is applied
  • Second-degree burns: very painful, clear, weeping blisters and skin that appears red or has variable, patchy coloration
  • Third-degree burns: white or dark brown/tan in color, with leathery appearance and low or no sensitivity to touch

Read full article on burns.

Contact dermatitis

  • Appears hours to days after contact with an allergen
  • Rash has visible borders and appears where your skin touched the irritating substance
  • Skin is itchy, red, scaly, or raw
  • Blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty

Read full article on contact dermatitis.

Chemical burn

Share on PinterestImage by: Blazius (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • This occurs when your skin, mucous membranes, or eyes come into contact with a chemical irritant, such as a strong acid or a base.
  • The concentration of the chemical, duration of contact, and method of contact will determine severity of symptoms and urgency of treatment.
  • First aid treatments for chemical burns include removing the chemical that caused the burn (including removing any clothing or jewelry that has touched the chemical) and rinsing the skin under lukewarm, slow, running water for 10 to 20 minutes (and at least 20 minutes for chemical eye injuries).

Read full article on chemical burns.

Drug allergy

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Mild, itchy, red rash may occur days to weeks after taking a drug
  • Severe drug allergies can be life-threatening and symptoms include hives, racing heart, swelling, itching, and difficulty breathing
  • Other symptoms include fever, stomach upset, and tiny purple or red dots on the skin

Read full article on drug allergies.


This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Caused by bacteria or fungi entering through a crack or cut in the skin
  • Red, painful, swollen skin with or without oozing that spreads quickly
  • Hot and tender to the touch
  • Fever, chills, and red streaking from the rash might be a sign of serious infection requiring medical attention

Read full article on cellulitis.

Scarlet fever

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  • Occurs at the same time as or right after a strep throat infection
  • Red skin rash all over the body (but not the hands and feet)
  • Rash is made up of tiny bumps that make it feel like “sandpaper”
  • Bright red tongue

Read full article on scarlet fever.


Share on PinterestImage by: James Heilman, MD (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons

  • This is a form of severe swelling beneath the skin’s surface.
  • It may be accompanied by hives and itching.
  • It’s caused by an allergic reaction to an allergen like food or medication.
  • Additional symptoms may include stomach cramping and discolored patches or rash on the hands, arms, and feet.

Read full article on angioedema.


Share on PinterestImage by: James Heilman, MD (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons

  • This inflammation of a superficial vein is caused by a blood clot.
  • It typically occurs in the legs.
  • Symptoms include tenderness, warmth, redness, and visible engorgement along the vein.

Read full article on thrombophlebitis.

Bone infection

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  • A bone infection, also called osteomyelitis, occurs when bacteria or fungi invade a bone.
  • Bones may get infected by migration of a bacteria or fungus infecting surrounding tissues or the blood stream, or by penetrating injury or surgery that exposes the bone.
  • Symptoms include pain, redness, swelling, stiffness, and warmth in the infected body part.
  • Fever and chills may also occur.

Read full article on bone infection.


Share on PinterestImage at: Wikimedia Commons

  • This bone cancer typically develops in the shinbone (tibia) near the knee, the thighbone (femur) near the knee, or the upper arm bone (humerus) near the shoulder.
  • It’s the most common type of bone cancer in children.
  • Common signs include bone pain (in motion, at rest, or when lifting objects), bone fractures, swelling, redness, and limping.

Read full article on osteosarcoma.


  • Superficial burn on the outermost layer of skin
  • Redness, pain, and swelling
  • Dry, peeling skin
  • More severe, blistering burns may occur after extended periods of sun exposure

Read full article on sunburns.

Skin infection

  • A skin infection is caused by a wide variety of infectious agents including bacteria, fungi, viruses. and parasites.
  • Common symptoms include redness of the skin, tenderness, itching, and a rash.
  • See a doctor if you have fever, chills, pus-filled blisters, skin breakdown, severe pain, or a skin infection that doesn’t improve or gets progressively worse.

Read full article on skin infections.

Bites and stings

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Redness or swelling at the site of the bite or sting
  • Itching and soreness at the site of the bite
  • Pain in the affected area or in the muscles
  • Heat around the bite or sting

Read full article on bites and stings.

Heat rash

Share on PinterestImage by: Sentient Planet , from Wikimedia Commons

  • This irritating skin rash occurs due to a combination of heat, sweat, and friction.
  • It’s caused by blockage of the sweat glands.
  • Heat rash develops on body parts that rub together, such as between the inner thighs or under the arms.
  • Small clear or white bumps filled with fluid appear on the surface of the skin.
  • Itchy, hot or prickly red bumps on the skin are another symptom.

Read full article on heat rash.


Share on PinterestMediaJet/Wikimedia Commons

  • Scaly, silvery, sharply defined skin patches
  • Commonly located on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back
  • May be itchy or asymptomatic

Read full article on psoriasis.


Share on PinterestJames Heilman/Wikimedia Commons

  • Circular-shaped scaly rashes with raised border
  • Skin in the middle of the ring appears clear and healthy, and the edges of the ring may spread outward
  • Itchy

Read full article on ringworm.


  • Very painful rash that may burn, tingle, or itch, even if there are no blisters present
  • Rash comprising clusters of fluid-filled blisters that break easily and weep fluid
  • Rash emerges in a linear stripe pattern that appears most commonly on the torso, but may occur on other parts of the body, including the face
  • Rash may be accompanied by low fever, chills, headache, or fatigue

Read full article on shingles.

Anyone with sensitive skin knows the struggles with redness. Even when you think you’ve miraculously gotten rid of your flushed skin for a night, you wake up the next morning and there it is again, glaring back at you. Was it because you washed your face so late at night? Or was it because you tried a new recipe for a make-it-yourself mask? Is it actually rosacea, or is your complexion just taking the rosy-cheek thing to a whole new level? We asked dermatologists why some of us can never seem to get the red out.

You’re not treating the true cause of your redness. “There are many creams on the market that promise to correct redness but often fail to address the underlying issue. For instance, redness from dry skin needs a completely different treatment than redness from rosacea,” says Lotika Singh, a New York City dermatologist. “In some cases where the redness is caused by dilated blood vessels, lasers are the most effective coarse of treatment, and topical creams often fail to produce any results.”

You’re relying on creams alone. “Redness from rosacea requires lasers, and creams supplement that. The best creams are hydrating and non-irritating. I love hyaluronic acid serums,” says Jason Emer, a cosmetic dermatologist and aesthetic surgeon in Beverly Hills. Try Demarche Labs Fullfill Hyaluronic Acid Serum.

You’re washing your face with a foaming cleanser. “Washing your face in the morning and at night is essential for healthy skin, but using the wrong cleanser can further irritate it, making it more red and inflamed. Many foaming cleansers are formulated with ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, or ammonium laureth sulfate. These are surfactants used to cut oil from the skin, but they are particularly harsh and will strip skin of its water and oils, leaving it feeling tight and more irritated,” says Karen Hammerman, a New York City dermatologist. “A good rule of thumb: more lather, more drying. Always use a sulfate-free cleanser that won’t dry out skin. More specifically, look for cleansers with hydrating and soothing properties, such as those containing allantoin. I recommend the Dove White Beauty Bar.”

You’re using too many exfoliating products. “Moisturizers, scrubs, and astringent toners with glycolic acid are problematic. Overly vigorous exfoliation with these products can also traumatize the superficial blood vessels of the skin and make them more prominent, which is the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve,” says Rebecca Kleinerman, a New York City dermatologist. “If you overexfoliate, you’ll have to backtrack into laser treatments or color-correcting green tinted moisturizers to correct or mask the dilated capillaries.”

You’re stripping your skin instead of protecting it. “Rather than exfoliating, start by repairing the barrier. Look for products with skin-repairing ceramides to seal the cracks between skin cells,” says Joshua Zeichner, an assistant professor in the dermatology department at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, who recommends CeraVe Moisturizing Facial Lotion PM because it also has the skin-soothing ingredient niacinamide.

You think natural ingredients will work better than medications. “Many of my patients are nervous about using prescription medications or seeking out advice from a dermatologist for their condition because they fear potential chemicals that can burn or further irritate their skin. So they will turn to options they consider safer or more natural, only because they mistakenly believe that what’s safe to eat must be safe to put on their skin, or because they are found readily without a prescription: yogurt, honey, tea tree, milk, et cetera,” says Rachel Nazarian, a New York City dermatologist. “Not only does this practice typically delay improvement in their skin redness, it can even worsen the condition when substances that are considered natural have an inappropriate pH for skin or trigger skin allergies, creating more redness and inflammation. In reality, redness can be a sign of inflammatory skin conditions, including rosacea or seborrheic dermatitis, and will respond beautifully to medication that has been specially formulated and balanced for these sensitive-skin conditions.”

You cover up redness by tanning. “Many patients will try to work on a ‘perfect tan’ to help mask the appearance of redness. This is the exact opposite of what works best. Lots of facial redness can be attributed to rosacea, which actually flares tremendously with sun exposure,” explains Scott Dunbar, a New York City dermatologist. Not to mention what it does to your skin cancer risk. “It’s tough to get rid of redness quickly, but adding a daily moisturizer with SPF of 30 or more that doesn’t irritate your skin is a great way to reduce the flaring that comes from sun exposure.”

Best of Beauty 2015:

Do you ever wonder how some people can walk out of a gym looking like they just walked in? If you are reading this then you, most likely, are one of lucky ones whose face turns beet red after even the shortest workout.

A red face from exercise may seem like a cause for concern, but more often than not it is just your body’s way of handling the extra heat created by exercise. When you exercise, many changes happen in your body:

• You will breathe faster to maximize the amount of oxygen in your blood.
• Your heart will beat faster, which increases blood flow to your muscles.
• Your small blood vessels will widen to deliver more oxygen to your muscles and carry away carbon dioxide and other waste products that build up.

It is this widening of the blood vessels that causes the flushing of your skin during exercise!

When you exercise, your body temperature increases and carries the blood towards the skin’s surface, causing one to sweat and cool off. This natural body mechanism can lead to a flushed, red face, which can be especially more noticeable in fair-skinned individuals.

Most facial redness during exercise can be considered normal; however, if you are exercising in extreme heat, a red face could be an early sign of heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. According to the Mayo Clinic, other symptoms of heat exhaustion can include excessive sweating, nausea and light headedness. Heatstroke occurs when the body can no longer compensate for the excess heat. This may involve a reduced ability to sweat with skin that is hot and dry or only slightly moist. Heatstroke can be life threatening and requires immediate medical attention, as it causes your body’s temperature to elevate beyond 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

While the redness you experience during exercise cannot be cured or fixed, you can take measures to try and reduce the redness. Try exercising in a cool environment and wear light-colored and loose fitting clothing. Staying hydrated with plenty of water is key in preventing heat stroke. If exercising outdoors, exercising in the early hours or late afternoon may reduce your heat exposure.

Skin Struggles?

Red, itchy skin long after a workout might mean your body has more going on that just standard warm up and cool down during exercise. If you are struggling with skin issues and don’t know where to turn, the skin health experts at Forefront Dermatology are ready to help. To find the Forefront dermatologist nearest you, visit the locations page today.

Facial Redness: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

5 Potential Causes of Facial Redness

  • 1 – Rosacea
  • 2 – Acne
  • 3 – Seborrhea
  • 4 – Lupus
  • 5 – Eczema

Many people struggle with red, swollen skin. Facial redness can be caused by a host of conditions, including sun damage, rosacea, seborrhea, and acne. If you’ve been dealing with rough, red skin and want to alleviate this sometimes painful condition, it’s important to learn what might be causing your facial redness.

In order to treat your facial redness, it’s important to examine the causes behind it.

Facial redness causes run the gamut, ranging from serious diseases like lupus to mild cases of eczema. Take a look at six of the most common factors behind facial redness and discover ways you can better treat and maintain a radiant, smooth complexion.

One of the most common reasons for a red complexion is rosacea. This is a common, incurable, chronic skin condition that can mimic adult acne. This condition typically affects the central portion of the face, particularly the nose.

The symptoms of rosacea:

  • Facial redness
  • Small red pimples
  • Find red vascular lines on the face
  • An enlarged red nose with bulbous qualities
  • Eye issues, which may include red, swollen eyelids, conjunctivitis, and cornea inflammation

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, rosacea could be to blame. This common skin condition affects at least 16 million people in the United States, and tends to be more prevalent among Caucasian people with fair skin.

For many, rosacea goes undiagnosed for years. Many mistakenly believe their rosacea flare-ups are just a sign of sensitive or flushed skin, but that’s simply because this auto-inflammatory condition can ebb and flow. Unlike acne, rosacea isn’t outgrown but there are treatment options that can reduce redness and lessen its symptoms.

What causes rosacea?

While the exact cause of this skin condition is still unknown, rosacea can flare up for a variety of reasons, including abnormal reaction of blood vessels, bacteria, improper use of facial products, sun exposure, and lifestyle triggers, like alcohol abuse and poor diet habits.

Treatment and Prevention

You can’t prevent rosacea, but you can commit to avoiding certain triggers. If you believe your facial redness is caused by rosacea, avoid eating spicy foods, smoking, and wear only high-quality cosmetics that offer sun blocking protection without clogging pores.

Shop Our Products For Sensitive Skin

2. Acne

Acne is the most common skin disorder in the United States, and affects over 50 million Americans annually. This sometimes painful skin condition often begins in adolescence, when young men and women begin puberty; while many see their acne woes disappear after reaching adulthood, many deal with adult breakouts result in facial redness and painful, swollen blemishes.

What causes acne?

Acne forms when the tiny pores on the surface of your skin become plugged with oil, dead skin cells, bacteria, and debris. Each of your pores opens up to a follicle beneath the top layer of your skin; each of these follicles contains a single hair and a sebaceous gland. The latter is responsible for producing sebum, a waxy substance that keeps your skin soft and supple.

When hormonal fluctuations occur, this gland pumps out an excess of sebum. This oily substance can pick up dead skin cells and bacteria on its way out of the pore, creating a plug. When the plug presses against your skin, your body sends red and white blood cells to fight infection. The result? A painful pimple that may be surrounded by facial redness that’s sensitive to the touch.

Treatment and Prevention

If you’re struggling with acne, it’s important to follow a daily skin care regimen using products that are gentle on the skin. With facial redness, it’s especially important to avoid abrasive products, in terms of cleansers and cosmetics. Gently dab your face and avoid harsh scrubbing to prevent further irritation.

3. Seborrhea

Seborrhea, also known as seborrheic dermatitis, is a common skin condition that affects millions of Americans each year. Typically, it presents as flaky, red patches. These patches may or may not be itchy, and when this condition is found on the scalp, it can be called dandruff. Most often, you’ll spot these patches on your chest, around your belly button, on the buttocks, in skin folds under your arms or behind your knees, and within the groin.

Newborns and adults ages 30 to 60 are most likely to struggle with seborrheic dermatitis, but it tends to be more common in men and those with oily skin.

What causes seborrhea?

Health care experts aren’t sure exactly what causes seborrhea, but typical culprits include:

  • Excess stress
  • Genetic predisposition
  • A yeast that thrives on the skin
  • Medical conditions
  • Cold, dry weather conditions

Treatment and Prevention:

Seborrhea is typically a lifetime condition that can be controlled with the right habits. However, if your seborrhea is caused by an underlying medical problem, treatment of the issue may clear up your facial redness and dryness.

Rest and exercise can help to reduce stress, which in turn reduces the likelihood of seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups. Wash every day with a gentle cleanser, and consider using medicated shampoos and sulfur products to control this condition.

4. Lupus

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can cause damage to virtually every part of the body, including organs, joints, and the skin. This condition is relatively rare; there are 16,000 new cases reported in the United States each year. It’s most commonly seen in women, but men, children, and teenagers can develop this condition as well.

What causes lupus?

Many researchers believe that lupus develops as a result of a combination of factors, including genetic predisposition, hormonal imbalances, and environmental factors. There are more than 50 genes associated with lupus, but none of those have been proven to be a direct link. When it comes to environmental factors, researchers are split. Most believe a virus or chemical can trigger the disease, but other examples of potential triggers include UV rays, infections, colds, exhaustion, and emotional stress.

Treatment and Prevention:

Lupus isn’t preventable, but early diagnosis can help manage this disease. If you believe you have lupus, it’s important to see a rheumatologist, who can treat the condition through a variety of medications.

5. Eczema

If your facial redness consists of dry, scaly patches and itchy, cracked skin, you may have eczema. This common, chronic skin condition appears first as dry red and brown patches in skin folds—often inside of elbows, behind the knees, on the underarms—or on the face, neck, hands or feet.

Eczema is truly an umbrella term; it can be used to describe many rash-like skin conditions, or may be used in reference to atopic dermatitis, a skin condition most common amongst infants and young children.

What causes eczema?

Researchers have been unable to pinpoint a direct cause of eczema, but believe that it develops due to a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. Some of these factors include certain irritants found in soap, detergent, shampoo, and juices. Environmental factors may also include certain foods (especially dairy products) and extreme temperatures. Like acne, hormonal fluctuations can also cause eczema flare-ups and excess facial redness.

Treatment and Prevention:

There is no cure for eczema, but there are ways to reduce the appearance and frequency of these flare-ups. There are certain creams and ointments that doctors can prescribe for more severe cases of eczema, but there are some easy DIY ways to combat the facial redness and itching associated with this skin condition.

Try one of these home remedies to treat your eczema:

  • Take a lukewarm bath
  • Apply moisturizer regularly
  • Wear breathable fabrics
  • Pat skin dry instead of rubbing
  • Avoid triggering factors

5 Ways You Could Be Making Facial Redness Worse

Facial redness can affect anyone at any age, but there are certain triggers that can contribute to red skin. Make sure you’re not unwittingly adding flame to the fire. Here are five things that can make your facial redness worse.

  1. Stress: We’ve long been told that stress affects our health in a variety of ways, so it should come as no surprise that excess stress can make facial redness worse. To prevent stress-induced redness, practice meditation, exercise regularly, and be sure you’re getting the adequate amount of rest.
  2. Sun Exposure: We all know spending too much time in the sun can cause a sunburn, but any type of sun exposure can make facial redness worse. The UV rays from the sun trigger your blood vessels to grow; the only way to reduce this is through laser treatment. Be sure you’re sporting sunscreen every time you head outside.
  3. Alcohol: Alcohol causes inflammation throughout your body, and this inflammation is easy to spot on your skin. Excess alcohol causes the small blood vessels in your skin to widen, allowing more blood to flow close to the surface of your skin. This can lead to flush, which may cause capillaries to break. Drink in moderation to avoid these harmful effects.
  4. Poor Quality Cosmetics: Using poor-quality cosmetics with harmful ingredients can irritate the skin, resulting in itchy redness. Always select high-quality products that treat your skin while providing the look you want. Browse Colorescience for products that offer SPF protection and a flawless finish.
  5. Spicy Foods: If you’re struggling with rosacea or another form of facial redness, leave the spicy foods alone. In a survey of over 500 rosacea patients, 61 percent of those affected by spicy foods said hot peppers triggered rosacea signs and symptoms. It turns out spicy foods can dilate blood vessels in the skin, increasing the appearance of facial redness.

If you’re looking for facial redness treatment, first consider the causes behind your skin irritation. Finding the root of the problem helps you discover the best solution, so talk to your health care provider and try some of the above remedies for facial redness.

Shop for Redness Correcting Products Today

Facial redness is one of those mysteries I’m never quite sure how to solve. It’s apparent when my face seems more flushed than usual, but I’m not always clear what I should do about it or even why I have it. Case in point: I’ve apparently spent my whole life with a mild case of rosacea (which I suspected for years but didn’t confirm until a month ago). And last year, when I experienced what turned out to be an eczema flare-up, even the dermatologist I visited had to walk me through a very long series of questions before determining exactly what I was experiencing.

There’s a wealth of information out there on the many types of facial redness, but it can get incredibly overwhelming to sort through it all. Instead of suggesting that you google multiple variations of “Why is my face red?” and play a guessing game, I spoke to three top dermatologists about the most common causes of redness and how to treat each one.

“Your face becomes red when blood vessels dilate,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “This means that more blood rushes to your skin, giving it a red appearance.” From there, however, it gets a lot more complicated. Ahead, find derms’ best tips for identifying, soothing, and treating any kind of flare-up, from overexfoliation to seborrheic dermatitis.

1. Rosacea

Rosacea is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you try to self-diagnose facial redness. But it’s not always the case, so it never hurts to get a second opinion from a derm. “Rosacea is a condition where your skin is sensitive and overly reactive to environmental triggers,” says Dr. Zeichner. “These triggers include extremes in temperature, stress, spicy foods, and alcohol.” It also varies in appearance. I previously thought it showed up as a persistent flush under your skin, but it can manifest in multiple forms. Jessica Weiser, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City, identifies the most common one as erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (ETR); this is the commonly seen “flat” redness and flushing. But you might also notice papulopustular rosacea, which she characterizes as redness with a primary feature of “pimplelike pink and red bumps, some with whiteheads.”

As far as treatment goes, there are two things to know. First, there is no permanent “cure” for rosacea, although it can be managed, which Dr. Zeichner recommends you do as early as possible to prevent progression. Second, what you do depends on how mild or extreme your specific case is. There are topical options that constrict blood vessels and calm inflammation, like Rhofade, which Dendy Engelman, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City, often suggests. In more severe cases, Dr. Weiser says, you may need to consider low-dose antibiotics or laser treatments. In any case, expect to wait a minimum of four to six weeks to see noticeable improvement. The final thing you want to do is keep your skin barrier in good shape. Dr. Zeichner suggests gentle cleansers, soothing moisturizers, and total avoidance of exfoliating ingredients (both chemical and physical). A good tip: As far as the rest of your routine is concerned, look for products designed for “redness relief.” (Clinique’s Redness Solutions line is fantastic.)

2. Eczema

Ah, eczema, the brooding mystery of skin conditions. This one can be surprisingly tough to diagnose, as I found out firsthand when I got my 2018 flare-up. “Eczema and allergic contact dermatitis are difficult to differentiate from clinical evaluation alone because both have inflamed, pink dry patches that cause significant itching or a burning sensation,” says Dr. Weiser. If you think you have it, exit your nearest search engine and leave things to a professional. A dermatologist should carefully go through your medical history and personal care products to determine which condition you’re experiencing. You might be prescribed a topical cortisone or an anti-inflammatory cream to bring down the redness and inflammation. Keep the rest of your routine full of gentle, mild ingredients, and avoid fragrance altogether. Steer clear of retinol and embrace hypoallergenic labels, and you should see an improvement within one to two weeks. “These conditions generally flare with cold weather, change of climate, or change of skin care products, so they tend to respond readily when conditions are optimized,” says Dr. Weiser.

3. Overexfoliation

Take a peek in my bathroom cabinet and you’ll see that I love an intense peel pad or resurfacing AHA. But it’s not such a good idea to use these on any area with redness, particularly if your skin is dry or dehydrated. Dr. Engelman warns that this combination can severely weaken your skin barrier and subsequently trigger inflammation. “If the barrier function is damaged, skin becomes vulnerable to infection from microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungus, and leads to sensitivity and redness,” she says. To get things back on track, put down the exfoliants and reinforce your barrier function with lots of moisture. She particularly likes products containing the ingredients hyaluronic acid and niacinamides.

4. Contact Dermatitis

This is basically a fancy way of saying that you bought a new product and had an allergic reaction to one or more of the ingredients, whether it’s because they’re causing direct irritation or because your immune system has a true allergy. Dr. Zeichner says some common irritating ingredients are things you might find in your acne treatments, like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Other common causes include fragrances and preservatives.


Check if you have rosacea

The first signs of rosacea include:

  • redness (blushing) across your nose, cheeks, forehead and chin that comes and goes

  • a burning or stinging feeling when using water or skincare products

The redness may be harder to see on darker skin.

As rosacea gets worse, your cheeks, nose, skin and forehead will be red all the time. Credit:

Hercules Robinson / Alamy Stock Photo

Tiny broken blood vessels that do not go away may appear on your skin. Credit: / Alamy Stock Photo

You may get small pink or red bumps. Sometimes these become filled with a yellowish liquid. Credit:


Other symptoms can include:

  • dry skin
  • swelling, especially around the eyes
  • yellow-orange patches on the skin
  • sore eyelids or crusts around roots of eyelashes – this could be blepharitis
  • thickened skin, mainly on the nose (usually appears after many years)


It’s not known what causes rosacea, but some triggers can make symptoms worse. Common triggers for rosacea include:

  • alcohol
  • spicy foods
  • cheese
  • caffeine
  • hot drinks
  • aerobic exercise like running

If you’re not sure it’s rosacea

Check what else it could be?

Rosacea can look a lot like other conditions, such as:

  • acne
  • contact dermatitis, seborrhoeic dermatitis and other types of dermatitis
  • lupus
  • keratosis pilaris

9 Reasons Your Skin Gets Red And Sensitive — And How To Fix It

Elizabeth Arden PREVAGE City Smart Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Hydrating Shield $68,

Courtesy of Elizabeth Arden

Sensitive skin. There could be a few things triggering redness as a result of sensitive skin. “It’s increasingly more common due to pollutants and for some people it is over-exfoliating,” Dr. Engelman says. “With sensitive skin you don’t want any products that can irritate the skin, so opt for hypoallergenic and fragrance-free options.” Consider it a major bonus if products create an anti-pollution shield, such as Elizabeth Arden PREVAGE City Smart.

Allergies. “When you experience redness due to an allergic reaction, the redness is a result of increased blood flow as your body is producing histamines to fight the allergen,” Dr. Engelman says. “If that is the case, taking an antihistamine like Benadryl should help calm it down, and topical steroids can help alleviate the allergic reaction on your skin.”

Aveeno Ultra-Calming Hydrating Gel Cleanser, $6.79,

Courtesy of Aveeno

Your facial cleanser. Look for ones that are specifically designed for sensitive skin. “I like oil-based cleansers as they are able to remove the products on your face without the need for repeated scrubbing,” Dr. Engelman says. Be sure to skip harsh exfoliators for that reason. “The key is to find a gentle enough product that provides exfoliation and right after make sure you replenish your skin barrier with a ceramide product, like Elizabeth Arden Advanced Ceramide Capsules.”

Dry skin. “Skin that is irritated as a result of dryness is an easier problem to find a solution for but there is still a method—with dry skin you should be replenishing moisture and oil,” says Dr. Engelman. “The easiest way to do that is to apply a product containing glycerin immediately after you shower to lock in the moisture. I like Bio-Oil or Weleda Rose Oils. For those with extra dry skin, try a hyaluronic acid product.”

IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Redness Redness Erasing Correcting Powder, $38,

Courtesy of IT Cosmetics

Your diet. Foods that can increase blood flow to the skin—hence triggering redness—should be avoided. Spicy foods top the list, as well as alcohol and drinks that are hot in temperature, including tea and coffee. Warming spices like ginger, cumin, black pepper and cloves are also a culprit; they can cause an anti-inflammatory response.

Makeup. “When applying makeup, I emphasize patting not rubbing your makeup as the friction caused while rubbing can increase the redness,” Dr. Engelman says. You can also mask redness with the right foundation and color-correcting makeup. Look for products that are specifically designed to tackle redness as well as gentle formulas.

PÜR Correcting Primer Redness Reducer, $33,

Courtesy of PÜR

Your skincare products. “Some people say go as natural as possible but you have to remember natural doesn’t mean it’s not an irritant,” Dr. Engelman says. “Some of the most natural things in the world are extremely toxic. With that said, my advice is to keep it simple with the ingredients as the longer the list the higher the chance that something in there will irritate you. The redness formulations are generally tested for that, so look to tried and tested formulas that other people are recommending. Then the rest is up to you and your dermatologist for trial and error.”

Of course, slap or scratch anyone and it will inflame their skin. In dermatographia the reaction is distinctly more severe. There is puffiness and extensive redness (in fair skin). Everyday things like wearing a belt or scratching an itch can make a person appear to have endured significant injury. If Russell scratches her face, it swells. “It looks like I have a black eye or something,” she said. “I have to be careful and not rub my eyes. I definitely have had people ask, ‘Whaaat happened to you!?’”

Ariana Page Russell/Skin Tome

The reaction can also be brought on by cold weather, strong emotions, hot water, or exercise. The finding is usually incidental and requires no treatment, but some people with severe or especially itchy versions take antihistamines to minimize the allergic-type symptoms, which can then spread to parts of the skin that were not stimulated. Russell doesn’t take medication. Her treatment has consisted of owning her skin and turning the condition into something positive.

“Thank you for making what we have an art form and giving me a way to explain to people it’s perfectly normal and beautiful,” a reader from Belgium wrote to Russell recently. “I have lived with it for years trying to hide it and now I can say it’s my art.”

Russell realized that she had dermatographia in an understated fashion. “I just thought my skin was really sensitive, and then I started photographing the drawings and people were like, ‘What is this?’” Russell was in graduate school at the time and went to a University of Washington physician who gave her the diagnosis. “It was like, here you go, congratulations. Everything else I kind of learned on my own.”

Skin Tome

Russell started taking the photos in 2003. She later began a website with some of her skin-writing photos and in 2008, without telling Russell, a friend submitted one of the images to a site called “It’s Nice That.” They published it, and her site “started going crazy.”

“And then I got this email with the subject line, ‘Hello from Kelsey at ABC News,’ and I thought, is this spam?” It wasn’t. It led to a 20/20 segment. Since then, she has become a modern face of the condition. Also the body and voice.

“I’ve become this unofficial expert on dermatographia since there’s not a whole lot out there about it. People will just write me and ask for my opinion on how they should treat it. Sometimes they send me photographs of their own skin, even without me asking them to, which I love receiving.”

“Some people write their name or my name on their arm,” Russell said. “Other people do elaborate drawings and have a friend photograph it.”

Those responses led Russel to start a site called Skin Tome, where she is forming a dermatographia community predicated on sharing and lack of shame. She is also collecting information about dermatographia to help those with the condition, about which there aren’t many mainstream resources. Most doctors have little to offer on the subject, and as diseases go, addressing it is usually a relatively low priority. But the effects can be insidious. Skin conditions also manifest well inside of the skin.

How are skin rashes described?

Skin rashes can be described in the following way:

  • Redness of the skin (called erythema).
  • Flat abnormally coloured areas of skin (called macules). Macules are often either red, dark red or purple, brown or white.
  • Solid raised areas which are up to half a centimetre across (called papules).
  • Solid raised areas which are more than half a centimetre across (called nodules).
  • Areas of red raised skin (called plaques) and scales, which have a flaky silvery-white appearance.
  • Reddish-purple lesions which do not fade with pressure (called purpura):
    • If less than one centimetre across then these are called petechiae.
    • If more than one centimetre across then they are called ecchymoses.
  • Blisters: these are swellings of the skin containing fluid:
    • If a blister is less than half a centimetre across then it is called a vesicle. If filled with yellow fluid (pus) then it is called a pustule.
    • If a blister is larger than half a centimetre across it is called a bulla (plural is bullae).

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What skin conditions often cause itching?

Skin disorders that can cause itching include (please click the links to separate leaflets which provide further information):

  • Dry skin
  • Eczema
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Urticaria
  • Lichen planus
  • Psoriasis
  • Folliculitis
  • Prickly heat/heat rash

What are the common causes of skin rashes?

Please click the links to separate leaflets which provide further information:

Red (erythema) but not scaly

  • A skin infection called cellulitis.
  • An allergic reaction called urticaria.
  • Reaction to a medicine you are taking.
  • Burns.
  • Viral rashes – eg, measles or rubella (German measles).
  • Vasculitis. This is a condition involving inflammation of blood vessels, which may occur with various illnesses, including rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Erythema nodosum. This is a condition which causes red rounded lumps (nodules), most commonly on the shins.
  • Redness on the palms of your hands may be caused by liver disease, pregnancy or an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).
  • A red rash may occasionally be due to an inflammatory condition called systemic lupus erythematosus, especially if it is on the cheeks.

Red (erythema) and scaly

  • Psoriasis. This is a condition where there is inflammation of the skin.
  • Eczema. This is sometimes called dermatitis and also involves inflammation of the skin. It may be caused by an allergy and is then called atopic dermatitis/eczema. This may happen in response to some plants – eg, poison oak or ivy.
  • Seborrhoeic dermatitis (in adults). This is a type of skin rash sometimes called seborrhoeic eczema. In babies it is known as cradle cap.
  • Fungal (or ‘yeast’) skin infection, such as athlete’s foot, groin infection (tinea cruris), ringworm, scalp ringworm or infection with candida.
  • Pityriasis rosea. This condition is described as ‘self-limiting’ and the rash will clear itself naturally.
  • Pityriasis versicolor. This is a rash which is caused by a yeast-like germ.
  • Lupus erythematosus.
  • Lichen planus. This condition mainly affects the skin and causes an itchy rash.


  • Red macules may be due to a reaction to a medicine or a viral rash – such as measles or rubella – as well as other causes.
  • A brown macule may be a mole but check with your doctor if a mole changes or you are concerned it might be a melanoma.
  • A white macule may be due to a condition which causes pale patches of skin (called vitiligo) or a skin complaint with flaky discoloured areas (called pityriasis versicolor).
  • If a macule is dark red or purple and does not fade when you put pressure on it then it is a purpura (see below) and you need to see a doctor urgently. This is because it could be a sign of meningitis or blood infection (septicaemia).


  • Common causes of papules include acne, viral wart, seborrhoeic wart, molluscum contagiosum, scabies, insect bites and skin tags.
  • Other causes include psoriasis.

Purpura and petechiae

  • These are dark red or purple and don’t fade with pressure. You need to see a doctor urgently because there may be a serious cause that needs urgent treatment, such as meningococcal infection.
  • However, common causes include injury to the skin or repeated coughing. More serious common causes include liver disease such as cirrhosis.
  • Less common causes include vasculitis (eg, Henoch-Schönlein purpura) or a low level of platelets in your blood (eg, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura).


  • Common causes of a nodule include a sebaceous cyst, lipoma, skin cancer, or a wart.
  • Other causes include rheumatoid nodules (associated with rheumatoid arthritis) and Heberden’s nodes (associated with osteoarthritis).


  • Skin inflammation, including reactions to medicines, contact dermatitis, eczema. Eczema on your legs may be caused by varicose veins (varicose eczema).
  • Diseases of your immune system – eg, bullous pemphigoid.
  • Viral infections – eg, chickenpox, hand, foot and mouth disease.
  • Skin infection: a germ (bacterial) infection with impetigo or viral infection with herpes simplex (cold sores or genital herpes) or with herpes zoster (shingles).
  • Rarer causes include pemphigus and pemphigoid.


  • Skin infection by a virus (eg, cold sores due to herpes simplex virus) or bacterial germs (impetigo).
  • Inflammation – eg, psoriasis.
  • Pustular skin reaction to medicine you are taking.
  • Pustules on your face may be acne or rosacea.


Ulcers may be due to venous leg ulcers, pressure ulcers, diabetes skin ulcers or cancerous (malignant) skin ulcers.

Why does my skin turn red so easily?

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