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.