Blushing or blemished? The many reasons for red skin

From seborrhea to acne: What causes facial redness and other skin problems?

 A woman receives treatment for her skin with a facial (Illustrative) (photo credit: PIXABAY)
A woman receives treatment for her skin with a facial (Illustrative)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

Is your face red but you’re not blushing? Dr. Michal Salomon, an expert dermatologist, lists what causes this and explains recommended treatments.

Red cheeks can add charm and beauty to your face, yet often they indicate a medical problem. In fact, facial redness is relatively common among fair-skinned people. In many cases, it occurs due to dilation of blood vessels, which is caused by exposure to various factors like fever, strong emotions or after strenuous exercise. There could be other causes, as well. Here are some familiar ones.


This common condition causes redness which is accompanied by dead skin. Seborrhea usually appears on the face, especially on the sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears and scalp and develops in the third and/or fourth decade of life. It affects men more than women and is aggravated as a result of various factors such as weather or stress. Treatment includes the use of treatments containing anti-fungal or anti-inflammatory ingredients.

Sensitivities or allergies

Did you know? Sometimes using a particular product, or exposure to various allergens, can accelerate the development of skin infections. These infections are manifested by a rash/facial redness.

So for redness that hasn’t appeared before, it’s important to check if a new product like shampoo or moisturizer has been used. If so, stop using it and see if there is an improvement. When the source of the redness is unknown, go to a dermatologist who can refer you to an allergy test to detect the problematic allergen.

Asthma of the skin (atopic dermatitis)

This condition is common, appearing in about 20% of children and 5% of adults. When infants have the condition, it appears as a red face; adults have it on the folds of the elbows, behind the knees and other areas.

The recommended treatment includes frequent lubrication of the skin. In case the rash is severe, apply steroids which aren’t recommended for frequent use or use topical anti-inflammatory non-steroid ointments which are less effective but safe to use long-term.


Acne is a common skin disease in adolescents. The appearance of acne pimples on the face often causes a reddish appearance.

Symptoms include the appearance of black and white comedones and pimples on different areas of the body, including the face, back and chest. The treatment of acne sometimes involves the use of topical or oral retinoids, or a limited course of antibiotics.

Dermatitis around the mouth (perioral dermatitis)

This chronic dermatitis looks like redness or rash-like pimples around the mouth or nose, and sometimes even around the eyes. The cause isn’t clear, but children and women are more likely affected. Don’t use steroids which aggravate this but treat the rash with anti-inflammatory drugs.


This is a chronic skin disease characterized by increased redness of the facial skin, which sometimes also involves the eyelids. Symptoms include facial flushing and sometimes acne-like sores. Rosacea is most common in women aged 30 and over, and when it occurs in men it can also cause a bumpy-looking nose. The factors that aggravate it are high temperatures, sun exposure, drinking alcohol and stress.

The usual treatment is first and foremost to avoid the factors that encourage outbreaks as much as possible. In mild cases, local treatment with an antiparasitic ointment can be done. In more severe cases, the use of an oral anti-inflammatory antibiotic is recommended.

When someone with rosacea has dilated blood vessels, laser treatments can  be used which cauterize the tiny blood vessels in the skin and improve the reddish appearance.


One of the most common causes of rosacea is a parasite called demodex. Not many are aware of this, but it turns out that sometimes redness on the face is a sign of the presence of this parasite in hair follicles. Although demodex is a parasite that is usually harmless and it appears in most of us, when it appears on a large scale, it may affect the appearance of the face. Conventional treatment includes the use of an antiparasitic ointment, but when the demodex is widespread, oral antibiotics are used. It’s very important to diagnose the presence of the parasite in order to give appropriate treatment.

Bottom line 

There are many different causes of facial redness. The good news is that today most problems are treatable. See a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Michal Salomon is a senior dermatologist at Sheba Medical Center, director of the Contact Dermatitis Clinic. This article was written in partnership with Zap Doctors for Walla!