Red Face: 10 Common Causes & What to Do

A red face can occur following prolonged sun exposure, during moments of anxiety, nervousness or shame, or when performing exercising. These are normal and expected causes of a red face, and do not require intervention. 

A red face may be a sign of a health condition, for example. Some health conditions associated with a red face include lupus and allergies.

Because the reason for a red face may vary, it is best to consult a dermatologist, especially if you are unsure of the underlying cause. You should seek assessment if your red face is accompanied by other symptoms, like joint pain, fever, swollen face or increased skin sensitivity. 

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What causes a red face?

The main causes of a red face include: 

1. Heat and sun exposure

Prolonged time under the sun or in a hot environment can cause a red face, which is normal. This occurs due to dilation of the blood vessels in the face. 

Spending too much time in the sun can cause a sun burn, which damages skin cells and leaves the skin red. 

What to do: It is important to use sunscreen everyday, and not just when you are planning to be in the sun. Sun screen not only protects the skin from sun rays, but it also prevents the appearance of rashes and delays skin aging. You should use light clothing to prevent discomfort and overheating, and drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. 

2. Psychological situations

It is common for the face to become red during stressful situations that cause anxiety, shame or nervousness. These situations are associated with an adrenaline release, which makes the heart beat faster, the body heat up and the blood vessels to dilate. All of these conditions lead to increased blood circulation, which can be easily noted in the face due to thinner skin. 

What to do: Because the redness is associated with an active psychological state, it is best to relax and get comfortable when you feel anxious. As time passes with rest, the symptoms from the adrenaline rush, including the red face, will reduce. If you experience these reactions to stress frequently and if they interfere with your personal or professional life, you should see a psychologist for assessment and treatment for relaxation techniques. 

Check out these herbs for anxiety that can be used to make soothing, relaxing teas. 

3. Intense physical activity

A red face from exercise is caused by an increased heart rate and increased blood flow, which can lead to a red face.

What to do: Because the red face is just a consequence of physical activity, no specific interventions are needed. Once you relax, these temporary changes from exercise tend to resolve, including the red face. 

4. Systemic lupus erythematosus 

Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease characterized by the red rash on the face that is shaped like a butterfly. 

With this disease, immune system cells attack other healthy cells in the body as if they were foreign invaders. This causes joint inflammation, fatigue, fever and sores in the mouth or nose. 

What to do: Treatment should be based on the presenting symptoms and severity of the disease. The doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication, corticosteroids or immunosuppressants. 

In addition, lupus is characterized by periods of flare-ups and remissions, which is why treatment should be uninterrupted and frequently monitored by a doctor. 

5. Allergies

A red face may be a sign of an allergy to food or contact with a substance. An allergy can also erupt due to increased skin sensitivity, which can happen after applying a new cream or soap on the face, for example. .

What to do: In these cases, it is important to identify the allergy trigger and avoid contact or consumption of it. You should consult a dermatologist to assess your skin and recommend creams or soaps that are best suited for your skin, to prevent allergic reactions and hypersensitivity.  

6. Rosacea

Rosacea is a dermatologic disease that is characterized by a red face, particularly on the cheeks, forehead and nose. Although the exact cause of this disease is not known, it may be triggered by excess sun exposure, excess heat, skin products (with acids for example), spicy food, alcohol intake and psychological factors (like anxiety or nervousness).  

In addition to a red face, some patients will also experience increased skin sensitivity, feeling heat on the face, a swollen face, the appearance of skin lesions that may contain pus and dry skin.

What to do: Rosacea treatment should be oriented by a dermatologist and is aimed at relieving symptoms improving quality of life. You can apply a cream to the reddened area or just use a moisturizing soap to prevent dryness. You should also apply sunscreen with a high SPF. 

7. Fifth disease

Fifth disease, which is scientifically known as infectious erythema, is an infectious disease caused by the Parvovirus B19. It is characterized by swollen airways and lungs, and is most commonly diagnosed in children. 

In addition to flu-like respiratory symptoms (like fever and runny nose), patients with also present with a red face, red legs and a red torso that itch. The red rash on the face is one of the main ways to differentiate a flu from fifth disease. 

What to do: It is important for the child to be assessed by a pediatrician to confirm a diagnose and intiiate treamtent. Treatment usually involves plenty of fest and fluids to support the immune system in eliminating this virus. The doctor may also prescribe medications to relieve symptoms, like analgesics or anti-inflammatories (like ibuprofen and acetaminophen) to relieve pain and fever, or anti-histamines (like loratadine) to relieve itching. 

Although the immune system is able to resolve the infection, the child should still be monitored by a pediatrician to prevent the emergence of complications, like severe anemia. Children with a weakened immune system or with a previous blood disorder should be closely watched, as this disease is easily transmitted within members of the family.

8. Spider veins

Spider veins are a common skin finding that are associated with visible blood vessels on the nose, lips or cheeks. They can cause a red face as well as mild itching and pain. 

What to do: You should consult a dermatologist for appropriate treatment. One option is laser therapy, in which laser rays are applied directly on the spider veins to increase local temperature and close the vessels, leaving them less visible. Sclerotherapy can also be prescribed, and involves injecting substances within the blood vessels to make them smaller. The dermatologist may recommend surgery in some cases.

9. Cold exposure

A red face can also be caused by cold exposure during winter, or from working in low-temperature environments, like in a freezer.

Low temperatures or cold, dry wind can reduce natural skin oil, which an damage the epidermis (the outer skin layer that acts as a natural skin barrier). 

A red face, especially around the cheeks and nose, can emerge, leading to irritation, inflammation, increased sensitivity or skin flaking. 

What to do: You should apply a moisturizing cream to your face, particularly one that contains ceramide or hyaluronic acid. These retain water in the skin and improve the skin barrier. You should also avoid very hot baths, which can dry out the skin. You can use humidifiers in the house to increase moisture in the air. In very severe cases, the doctor can prescribe corticosteroid ointments. 

10. Menopause

Menopause is a life phase in women that is characterized by a lack of a period for 12 consecutive months. It generally occurs between 45 and 55 years old, and is related to a reduction in estrogen production in the ovaries. Common symptoms include hot flashes, that can be intense and spread throughout the body and face, causing redness. 

Hot flashes are very common during menopause and can emerge suddenly. They can be accompanied by other symptoms like excess sweat or cardiac palpitations. Learn more about common menopause symptoms and how to manage them. 

What to do: You should consult a gynecologist to confirm a diagnosis and initiate treatment, which may include hormone replacement therapy. This can be done with synthetic hormones or with soy isoflavones. Check out these teas for menopause that can help to reduce symptom severity naturally.