Of course, not all red skin is caused by rosacea; there are other reasons why your normally healthy looking complexion could suddenly take on a scarlet hue. Two of the most common reasons are sunburn and windburn, says Diane Berson, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City.
If Sunburn Is the Cause...
Prevent sunburn by wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, anytime you go outside, and be sure to reapply after swimming or sweating, or anytime you're out there longer than two hours. And take special precautions if you're currently taking any medications: Some topical acne treatments -- as well as some oral medications -- can increase the skin's sensitivity to sun's rays.
If Windburn Is the Cause...
As for windy days, a scarf or face mask is usually your best protection against the elements. If you're unable to cover up completely, make sure you're wearing a thick moisturizer, says Benabio. And spending hours in a windy environment, like on a ski slope or a motorboat, may require extra protection. Slathering a petroleum jelly product, like Vaseline, onto the exposed areas of your face may help form a barrier and protect against burn.
If Your Face Is Red After You Wash It...
If your skin tends to get red after it's washed, it's probably a sign that you need a more gentle cleanser or that you're using something too abrasive, like a washcloth or loofah, to scrub your face. You may be able to solve this problem, though, by choosing a mild cleanser (like Cetaphil's Gentle Cleansing Bar) and washing only with your fingers, rather than with a cloth or sponge. Don't use face washes that foam or contain alcohol (which can be drying) or that have a grainy texture (which can be irritating to sensitive skin), says Berson.
Applying a moisturizer immediately after washing your face can help reduce redness caused by dry and irritated skin. If that's not enough, makeup may help camouflage some of that color, as well. "To absorb oil, camouflage redness and prevent irritation, look for mineral-based cosmetics that contain powdered formulas of silica, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide," says Berson. "Some cosmeceuticals now also include anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as niacinamide for barrier repair, and antioxidants."
Finally, a red face may also be a sign of another condition going on elsewhere in your body. You may get red in the face when you're embarrassed or after a hard workout -- and that's totally normal, says Berson. But if your face suddenly gets red or feels flushed for no apparent reason (and it doesn't get better quickly on its own), talk to your doctor. It could be caused by an allergic reaction or a temporary spike in blood pressure, both of which should be diagnosed by a professional.
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Proper skin care lays the foundation for successful acne and rosacea treatment." August 1, 2013. (August 14, 2013) http://www.aad.org/stories-and-news/news-releases/proper-skin-care-lays-the-foundation-for-successful-acne-and-rosacea-treatment-
- American Heat Association. "What Are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?" April 4, 2012. (August 15, 2013) http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/SymptomsDiagnosisMonitoringofHighBloodPressure/What-are-the-Symptoms-of-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_301871_Article.jsp
- Benabio, Jeffrey, MD. Personal interview. August 14, 2013.
- Berson, Diane, MD. Personal interview. August 13, 2013.
- Cole, Gary, MD, and Alai, Nili, MD. "Rosacea" MedicineNet. February 1, 2012. (August 15, 2013) http://www.medicinenet.com/rosacea/article.htm
- Jourdain, Sarah. "Do Certain Cleansers Cause Redness?" HowStuffWorks. (August 14, 2013) https://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/cleansing/products/cleansers-cause-redness.htm
- WebMD. "Rosacea - Topic Overview." June 25, 2011. (August 14, 2013) http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/rosacea-topic-overview