What’s your skin type?
This will help us personalize your experience.

Seeing Red? Here’s How to Reduce Redness On Your Skin, According to the Pros

UPDATE how-to-reduce-redness-thumbnailUPDATE how-to-reduce-redness-header
Photo by Caroline Tompkins / Refinery29 for Getty Images

Prone to red, flushed skin even when you’re not blushing? It’s time to get real about facial redness. Whether it appears after a tough workout, hot yoga sesh, time out in the sun, or even after simply cleaning your apartment, facial redness can happen for a multitude of reasons like genetics, sensitive skin, the environment, or other skin conditions that can (but don’t have to!) ruin your day. And although it can be an embarrassing, uncomfortable, and a downright frustrating condition, it’s entirely possible to get skin redness under control by avoiding certain skin stressors and swapping in the right skincare products to help minimize skin redness. 

So what causes skin redness and what can we do about it? We talked to two pros, aesthetician, founder, and CEO of Urban Skin RxRachel Roff, and facialist and medical aesthetician, Candace Marino, to help us understand what causes skin redness, how to know if it’s a simple fix or something more serious, and what we can to do treat it. Whether you’re dealing with a little extra flush or all-over redness, we can all learn a thing or two from these expert tips.

About the Experts: 
Rachel Roff, is an aesthetician, founder and CEO of Urban Skin Rx.
Candace Marino is a facialist and medical aesthetician in Los Angeles.

What Causes Facial Redness?

Red, flushed skin is essentially the result of blood vessels under the skin dilating, or widening. As these blood vessels become filled up with blood, they can cause your skin to look red and rosy. A temporary flush (for example, one that appears and disappears after a minute or two) is totally normal. But redness that lingers can happen for other reasons. “Redness is normal for everyone, especially those with a fair complexion, but if the redness lasts for extended periods of time, this could be a sign that there are underlying conditions involved such as rosacea, and the burst of blood vessels,” Roff tells us.

According to Marino, facial redness can either be caused by internal or external factors or a skin condition. There are environmental culprits that are common triggers such as dry skin, sun exposure (especially sunburn), or something like allergies or an allergic reaction. “Some skin types can be more prone to redness based on diet, genetics, skin conditions such as rosacea, or underlying health issues,” says Roff. Hormonal factors and genetics can also cause skin redness, as well as lifestyle changes. Feeling especially stressed? That can cause flare-ups, too, just like spicy foods or irritating and non-hypoallergenic skin care products. Just crushed it at the gym or hit up a happy hour? Both can cause temporary redness too. “Skin can become red and flushed after exercise due to the dilation of blood vessels in the facial skin, and this is usually very normal and an indicator of a good workout. This phenomenon also occurs from alcohol consumption as this increases blood flow to the face,” Roff adds.

When Should I See a Derm?

If facial redness is more than a once-in-a-while issue, you’ll want to go get it checked by a dermatologist. Skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, dry skin, broken capillaries/blood vessels, and more can cause an extended flush or can even be a sign of more serious conditions. Don't stress—just chat with your dermatologist to narrow down the causes, so you can learn to manage your redness and relieve it. 

How Can You Get Rid of Redness?

Once you see a skincare expert and rule out more serious issues, there are a few treatments you can try to get some relief. 

1. Try a cold compress. 

“In general, cold compresses may help with acute redness because they can calm the inflammation that is likely associated with the redness that is causing vasodilation and leading to more blood flow to the face,” says Marino. But, Marino warns, this may not work as well for chronic facial redness. Just pop a wet washcloth in your fridge for 10 to 15 minutes and dab it onto your skin to help constrict blood vessels and relieve redness and blotchiness.

2. Take a cool shower. 

Just like using a cold compress can help, keeping your skin away from direct heat can keep redness at bay (the same reason you should avoid hot showers with a sunburn). “When someone has facial redness, no matter the cause, I recommend always using cool water on the skin—never hot,” says Marino. “I stress that clients avoid direct heat to the skin [such as] hot showers.” 

3. Love hyaluronic acid. 

Although it ultimately depends on the cause of the redness, ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, aloe, calendula, oatmeal, allantoin, chamomile, and licorice root all have anti-inflammatory properties and can improve redness, says Marino. Specifically, many of these work to moisturize, combat dryness, and soothe dry skin or sensitive skin, as well as reduce redness and inflammation. Try THE ORDINARY Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5. It’s formulated with a concentrated form of hyaluronic acid that’s designed to absorb easily into the skin, hydrating it from the inside out. 

4. Use a non-abrasive shower sponge. 

“Abrasive materials on the skin, like physical scrubsand even washcloths, [have the] ability to worsen redness,” says Marino. So skip the rough loofah and wash with a skin-smoothing cloth or just your hands and a gentle cleanser to avoid over-exfoliation. “When someone is pulling red, there is underlying inflammation, heat, and blood vessel dilation going on,” explains Marino. “We want to do our best to calm it, not encourage it.” Instead of your go-to shower scrubbie, swap it for a gentle-on-skin bath mitt to cleanse calmly.

5. Color correct to disguise redness. 

Sometimes there’s just a little redness you want to temporarily hide, such as around your nose or mouth, and color-correcting can really come in handy. Try a green concealer to disguise redness and apply your usual makeup routine right on top. You’ll be surprised at how well a color-correcter can hide rosacea flare-ups or blemishes.

6. Try a topical solution.

If you need to kick it up a notch when it comes to treating redness, a topical treatment may be your bestie. “A cream or gel treatment is best as a topical treatment and should include ingredients such as niacinamide and ceramides to combat inflammation and redness,” says Roff. Niacinamide and ceramides work together to help improve skin texture, increase hydration, build proteins in your skin to help strengthen your skin barrier, and make your skin the good kind of glowy. Roff recommends the URBAN SKIN RX Even Tone Barrier Repair Ceramide Cream, which contains these ingredients and promotes an overall healthier skin barrier.  

7. Ice roll it out.

If you don’t already have an ice roller, here’s your cue to jump on the ice-rolling bandwagon. We’re hooked on this tool for its calming, de-puffing, eye-opening, hangover-helping, migraine-soothing powers. And if you’re looking for a quick, calming fix for red, irritated skin, an ice roller can absolutely do the trick. “A great way to combat redness and inflammation at home is by using an ice roller on your skin after washing your face. You can even apply a serum first, then roll to really combat inflammation. Try the URBAN SKIN RX Hydrafirm + Brightening Serum, which contains hyaluronic acid, alpha arbutin, and niacinamide to help firm and plump the skin as well as brighten and even out the complexion,” says Roff. Our go-to-tool? The KITSCH Ice Roller. Pop it in your freezer and it stays cold for hours. Pro tip: If you’re coming in from the sun, smooth some aloe vera on your skin and then work it in with your ice roller for instant relief. 

8. Laser it.

If redness has taken up a more permanent residence on your skin, laser treatments may be a more long-lasting solution. The latest laser treatments can help treat broken blood vessels, which are the root cause of facial redness caused by rosacea, eczema, and other skin conditions. “One way to combat chronic redness is through the use of lasers such as IPL, which uses light to collapse your visible blood vessels. This treatment is relatively painless and is great for reducing redness,” Roff tells us. 

How to Prevent Redness

Even though you know how to treat red skin, often the best course of action is to help prevent the redness from setting in in the first place. 

1. Always wear sunscreen.

“Wearing sunscreen is imperative for all skin types,” says Marino. “When it comes to facial redness, sunscreen is imperative for cosmetic reasons as it's going to prevent it, because the sun is one of the biggest triggers for rosacea, and can cause sunburns which can contribute to exacerbated flare-ups.” If you have especially sensitive skin, Marino recommends a mineral sunscreenmade up of zinc and titanium oxide, as she’s found this type of SPF “generally more tolerable.” 

2. Moisturize frequently.

Make sure to keep up your skincare routine and double-check that your routine includes moisturizer. “Moisturizing is important when dealing with redness, because it helps protect and comfort the skin and can also reduce inflammation,” says Marino. She notes that niacinamide is a great ingredient for redness, as it’s both hydrating and anti-inflammatory. “Healthy, functioning skin should have a good balance of water and oil,” she adds. “When the skin is balanced, it is well-nourished and hydrated, which reduces irritation and improves the feeling of the skin.” Try the CERAVE Moisturizing Cream (it’s pretty much the G.O.A.T. of skin barrier strengtheners).

3. Avoid common irritants. 

We told you earlier that common triggers can cause flare-ups. And it’s these triggers you’ll want to avoid, in order to prevent redness from popping up. Many people find that the following are common causes of their facial redness: alcohols, witch hazel, soaps, sodium lauryl sulfates, fragrances, essential oils, menthol, peppermint, and camphor. It might sound like a lot, but you’ll want to do an elimination test of all of your lotions, cleansers, moisturizers, serums, and more to find out the exact cause of your skin concerns. 

“Remember, with red skin, it's reactive and probably sensitive,” says Marino. “We need to do things to calm, cool, soothe, and hydrate, and avoid anything that can exacerbate the issue.” That means also avoiding skincare ingredients such as salicylic acid or witch hazel, as well as spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, or “anything that gets the metabolism heated,” notes Marino.

How you apply your skincare matters, too. Apply all products, regardless of irritants, in a pressing—not wiping—motion. “Products removed should be gently rinsed with cool water, not scrubbed or wiped off with a washcloth,” adds Marino. Those with red skin, in general, want to avoid physical exfoliants altogether in skincare. “Stick to enzymes, which digest dead skin cells and go to work topically without over-stimulating the skin,” she says.

The takeaway? Just because you’ve always suffered from facial redness, doesn’t mean you have to deal with the skin condition forever. Even if you just have a once-in-a-while flare-up, it’s possible to not only reduce redness but prevent it from happening in the first place. Follow these expert tips and you’re on your way to clear, even-toned skin for good.

Want more skin-saving tips from the pros? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

Like this article? Share it with your friends by clicking the icons below! 

About the author
Runa Rhattacharya
Runa Bhattacharya
Runa is an NYC-based writer and Registered Nurse with over 8 years of experience covering beauty and wellness. She’s worked for publications like SELF, Cosmopolitan, and more. She’s passionate about beauty, science, and two careers that she loves!
Share Article
Article Last Updated May 13, 2022 12:00 AM