Ruddy, pink cheeks and a healthy glow are often signs of youth and vigor – but a too-rosy hue can indicate something more sinister: sunburn, acne, an unexplained rash or underlying health condition, to name a few possible causes. Redness on your face can be an embarrassing and frustrating problem, but luckily there are several treatments to help turn down the heat and restore your natural complexion.
Physicians often diagnose unexplained facial redness as rosacea, a condition that can have a number of different triggers and usually affects adults ages 30 and up, says Jeffrey Benabio, MD, a dermatologist with Kaiser Permanente in San Diego. "Rosacea is basically the word for dilated blood vessels in the nose and cheeks that cause a bright red color on the face," he says. "And for some people, managing rosacea is simply a matter of identifying its causes and finding ways to avoid them."
Ultraviolet exposure from the sun, for example, can worsen an existing case of rosacea. For some people, so can spicy foods or hot beverages, like coffee. Another common trigger, says Benabio, is wind. "Making sure you have a nice, thick moisturizer with you to shield your face if you're going sailing or skiing can help prevent flare-ups," he says.
For some people, though, avoiding these triggers isn't enough to calm their chronic redness. While rosacea is not considered a "curable" condition, there are medications that may help reduce symptoms. Dermatologists often prescribe an antibacterial face wash or a sulfa-based cleanser for sensitive skin. A topical antibiotic cream or oral antibiotic may also be helpful in reducing the inflammation and pimple-like bumps caused by the condition.
Sometimes, over-the-counter or prescription acne medication may also be useful -- but because people with rosacea tend to have very sensitive skin, you should use acne drugs only under a dermatologist's supervision. In the most severe cases, Benabio says, laser treatments can lighten the appearance of permanently damaged blood vessels, as well.