By Winnie Yu
5 common causes — and cures — for facial flushing.
Embarrassment isn't the only thing that can make you blush. Getting red in
the face could be a sign of adult acne or even a more serious medical
condition, like lupus. Here's how to figure out the culprit and stop the
redness for good:
Facial flushing that comes and goes may be rosacea, a chronic skin disorder
that affects about 14 million Americans. "If you poke the red area with
your finger and let go quickly, the redness will fade and then return rapidly
as blood flows back into the area," says dermatologist Hilary Baldwin,
M.D., president of the American Acne and Rosacea Society. Over time, pimples
may appear, the skin may itch, and blood vessels may become visible.
The fix: Try using green-tinted makeup, or apply an over-the-counter
(OTC) anti-inflammatory lotion that contains licorice extract (such as Eucerin
Redness Relief) or feverfew (like Aveeno Ultra-Calming). If the redness doesn't
go away, your doctor may prescribe doxycycline, an antibiotic that in low doses
diminishes inflammation, or an anti-inflammatory cream such as Metrogel or
Finacia. Visible blood vessels usually require laser therapy. It's also
important to avoid rosacea triggers — common ones are sun, heat, red wine,
cocoa, chili, and hard cheeses.
Certain ingredients in cosmetics and skin-care products — such as benzoyl
peroxide and alpha hydroxy acids — may cause irritant contact dermatitis in
some people, leading to a red or itchy complexion. Allergic contact dermatitis
occurs if your immune system reacts to an ingredient and causes similar
symptoms. While irritant contact dermatitis happens immediately, allergic
dermatitis can take a few days to show up.
The fix: To determine the cause of a contact irritant, you'll need to
figure out what might be new or different in your routine. Once you find the
offender, stop using it and treat the redness with an OTC topical steroid such
as hydrocortisone cream. Apply a cold-water compress to relieve any burning or
swelling. Not sure what's causing the problem? An allergist can do patch tests,
applying small amounts of chemicals to the skin to pinpoint the culprit.
Hormones that caused breakouts in your teens can cause them again in
adulthood. Menstruation, pregnancy, and certain oral contraceptives can also
spur a breakout of pimples. In adulthood, zits are more likely to appear on
your jawline, neck, and cheeks in addition to your T-zone.
The fix: Your doctor may prescribe topical medication along with oral
antibiotics, Accutane, birth control pills, or spironolactone, a hypertension
drug often used off-label to treat acne. (Those last two lower or block
acne-causing androgens — male hormones that women produce too.)
If the redness on your face forms a butterfly-shaped rash across your nose
and cheeks, you might want to get tested for lupus, an autoimmune disease that
affects about 1.5 million to 2 million people and causes inflammation in
various parts of the body, leading to achiness, low-grade fever, and extreme
The fix: Treating the disease — with anti-inflammatories,
corticosteroids, topical steroids, and/or immune suppressants — usually
eliminates the rash.