Rash on the Face: 7 Common Causes & What to Do

A rash on the face can occur due to contact with specific substances, a reaction to a cosmetic product, medication use or eating certain foods. This rash can be accompanied by systems like redness, itchiness and swelling. 

Facial rashes should be assessed by a dermatologist, who will evaluates the presenting signs and symptoms as well as certain lifestyle considerations. The doctor may also opt to order more specific testing to identify the underlying cause of the rash. 

Treatment for a rash on the face depends on the underlying cause. The doctor may prescribe antihistamines and corticosteroid ointments to improve its appearance. 

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The most common causes of a rash on the face include: 

1. Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is an inflammatory reaction that occurs when a substances comes in contact with the skin on your face. It leads to small lumps and itchy red rashes that can crust over and peel. 

This type of reaction can occur at any age and typically emerges at first contact with a certain product or substance, like jewelry, soaps or latex, although it can also emerge weeks, months or years after continued use or exposure. 

What to do: Treatment for contact dermatitis first consists of eliminating the triggering agent. The dermatologist may prescribe medications like anti-histamines and corticosteroids (oral or topical, like betamethasone).

2. Reaction to cosmetic products

Using cosmetic products, like makeup, hydrating creams, tonics and/or acids can cause rashes. This type of reaction is associated with symptoms like redness, itching, papules and even facial swelling in some cases. These symptoms emerge because the body perceives the product as harmful, which stimulates and exaggerated skin response. 

What to do: To improve a rash on the face, discontinue the triggering products. This should usually be sufficient for reducing symptoms. Symptoms that persist even after discontinuing the product may be treated with anti-histamine medications. Very intense reactions should be assessed by a dermatologist, as these may require more targeted treatment. 

3. Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic disease that mainly affects children. It develops as a result of genetic factors and abnormalities in the skin‘s natural barrier. Symptoms may present as a facial rash that leads to excessive skin dryness, itching and eczema (which are peeling, raised patches on the skin).

This disease is triggered by the body‘s exaggerated response to certain allergens. Skin cells may have these reactions due to certain occurrences from pregnancy, like exposure to substances, climatic changes, smoking or even bacterial or viral infections. 

What to do: Atopic dermatitis is not curable, although symptoms can be managed by eliminating triggers as much as possible, and moisturizing the skin regularly. The doctor can prescribe medications to control inflammation and itching, like corticosteroids, antihistamines or immunosuppressants. 

4. Medication use

Certain medications, like aspirin and penicillin-based antibiotics, can cause allergic reactions, including a rash on the face. This rash may present with facial redness and itching. It occurs as a result of an exaggerated immune response to the substances in the medication. 

What to do: A rash on the face that is accompanied by symptoms like shortness of breath, facial swelling and tongue swelling should be urgently assessed. These are signs of anaphylactic shock, which can be life threatening. 

5. Eating certain foods

Eating certain foods, like shrimp and pepper, can trigger a rash on the face and symptoms like redness and itching. Some patients may also experience swelling of the eyes, lips and tongue, as well as shortness of breath and vomiting. 

What to do: It is important to identify the food that triggered the reaction and avoiding consuming it. To relieve symptoms, the doctor may prescribe medications like anti-histamines and/or corticosteroids. 

6. Sun exposure

Sun exposure can cause a facial rash in some people. It can lead to photosensitivity to UV rays, which can cause symptoms within a few minutes of being in the sun. 

People who are sensitive to the sun may experience a rash due to the body‘s release of chemical substances as an immune response. These substances cause hives, itching and redness on the face. This condition can be confirmed by a dermatologist through a thorough assessment of the person’s symptoms, as well as a skin evaluation. 

What to do: Treatment for a rash on the face is oriented by a dermatologist and mainly consists of using corticosteroid ointments and pills to reduce immune system responses. 

7. Cholinergic urticaria

Cholinergic urticaria is characterized by a skin rash that can appear on the face. It is usually triggered by increased body temperatures, and is common after exercising or after taking a hot bath. In some cases, this style of skin reaction can be triggered by sweating or anxiety attacks. 

Redness and itching on the body and face can spread throughout the body. Some people may also experience excessive salivation, tearing eyes and diarrhea.  

What to do: Treatment for cholinergic urticaria may involve applying cold compresses on the face and affected areas. Very intense symptoms should be assessed by a dermatologist, as more targeted treatment may be needed.