There are a number of reasons why your skin might be red. Maybe you’re experiencing a flare-up from an underlying condition, or perhaps, your skin is, simply, a little thirsty. In any case, redness is your body’s way of showing you that it’s trying to heal, explains dermatologist Dr. Annie Chiu, MD. “When your skin gets red, it is showing inflammation, flushing, or the result of increased blood vessels in the skin's surface,” she says. “This increase in vascularity is the body's process to fight off infections or irritants.”
She says the causes of redness fall into three main groups:
- Inflammatory redness (think: acne or rosacea)
- Redness caused by rashes (like that of eczema or an allergic reaction)
- Flushing caused by broken blood vessels.
You’ll find that sometimes, redness can be quelled at-home (with skin care or even simple lifestyle changes). Other times, however, you might need the help of professionals. “If you are experiencing discomfort, are having difficulty breathing, or have redness near or on your eyes, see a doctor immediately,” Dr. Chiu says. “But generally, when redness is bothersome and symptomatic longer than two weeks, see your dermatologist to determine the actual cause and explore ways to treat the underlying condition.” Below, experts detail common causes of redness and various treatments that can help.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Annie Chiu, MD, is a board certified dermatologist and founder of The Derm Institute.
- Dr. Jonathan Cabin is a board certified head and neck surgeon specializing in minimally invasive facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. He practices at Beverly Hills’ Center for Advanced Parotid & Facial Nerve Surgery.
Rosacea: You Have Options
Rosacea is characterized by flushed skin, bumps, and dryness. “It is a very common condition affecting those over the age of 20 and it can be treated with various topicals, prescriptions, lifestyle changes, and laser," says Dr. Chiu. She suggests calming rosacea by avoiding its triggers, applying sunscreen (to protect the sensitive areas from UV light), and applying niacinamide.
Laser can be brought in for persistent redness, says Dr. Cabin. “The VBeam laser (along with some other redness-targeting light therapies) is one of the most effective therapies to reduce persistent redness. But it will depend on how the rosacea presents itself and will typically be used only if conservative measures are not fully effective,” he says.
Broken Capillaries: Energy Treatments
Broken capillaries can appear as lines on an area of bright redness. "Broken capillaries are really just dilated blood vessels very close to the surface of the skin,” says Dr. Cabin. “Certain people are predisposed to these lesions, especially those with fair skin. But in those predisposed (and even those that aren’t), external factors can cause these lesions and make them worse.”
When it comes to in-office treatments, he suggests IPL and VBeam. “They are really the only way to eliminate these lesions once they’ve formed,” he says. “Complete elimination may require multiple treatments, and there is no guarantee that these areas of redness will be totally removed. So, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Cherry Angiomas: VBeam
Dr. Cabin describes cherry angiomas as reddish moles. “No one really knows what causes them, but the characteristic overgrowth of small blood vessels within this lesion is what gives them their red hue,” he says. He suggests undergoing a VBeam laser treatment to help alleviate redness.
Post-Inflammatory Scarring or Redness: Time
You might not love this answer, but sometimes the best way to quell your redness is time. "For an isolated episode of redness related to a time-limited event, like a scar, the wisest approach may be the simplest: the passing of time," says Dr. Cabin.
Buddenkotte J, Steinhoff M. Recent advances in understanding and managing rosacea. F1000Res. 2018;7:F1000 Faculty Rev-1885.