10 Causes of Facial Redness

Changes in skin color tend to go unnoticed in most cases. Facial redness can appear from many causes. Fortunately, most of them are benign.
10 Causes of Facial Redness

Last update: 03 June, 2023

Skin flushing is a common symptom in people of all ages. It’s associated with increased blood flow in the small vessels that run under the epidermal surface. In most cases, this sign is most evident on the skin of the face, neck, and upper chest. Here are 10 causes of facial redness.

Reddened skin is usually a harmless manifestation in response to heat, strong emotions, or the consumption of spicy foods. Additionally, studies claim that alcohol, rosacea, and menopause are common causes of facial redness.

10 causes of facial redness

1. Heat

High body temperature promotes the activation of peripheral compensatory mechanisms that try to cool the skin. This is accomplished by sweating and dilation of the blood vessels.

Vasodilation is responsible for giving the skin a light pinkish or reddish hue. In this way, ambient heat and physical activity are the most common causes of facial redness.

On the other hand, the flushing of the skin can also be the result of conditions that occur with fever and hyperthermia. For this reason, people should seek medical attention if they develop redness associated with a persistent sensation of heat, fatigue, shortness of breath, and exhaustion.

2. Anxiety and strong emotions

Anxiety, stress, and strong emotions are triggers for the release of hormones in the body. Cortisol and norepinephrine are substances that play a vital role in regulating the cardiovascular response.

In this way, they promote greater blood flow and an increase in heart rate. They favor redness on the cheeks, forehead, and chin.

Anxiety causing facial redness.
The states of anxiety and stress increase hormones that lead to redness of the face.

3. Spicy and seasoned foods

The intake of various foods can promote redness of the skin in susceptible people. This fact is due to the intestinal absorption of some external mediators and food additives that stimulate vascular dilation, among which are the following:

  • Sulphites
  • Nitrites
  • Capsaicin
  • Histamine
  • Ciguatoxin

Foods flavored with red pepper and chili are high in capsaicin. This substance is included among the main causes of facial redness and headaches after ingestion. Similarly, both the sulfites contained in wines and juices, as well as the nitrites present in cured meats, are responsible for the appearance of this symptom.

On the other hand, the histamine contained in tuna, salmon, and mackerel can promote arterial vasodilation and the appearance of palpitations. Some research suggests that the histamine concentration in canned tuna can reach up to 50 parts per million (ppm), this being the maximum limit recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

4. Alcohol

Drinking alcohol is one of the most common causes of facial redness. The symptoms of alcoholism occur when alcohol is metabolized into acetaldehyde by the action of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase.

Acetaldehyde acts at the level of the vascular system and peripheral tissues, causing drunkenness and flushing.

In general, acetaldehyde is degraded to acetate by the action of the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase, reducing its effect on the body. However, some substances can block this enzyme, promoting the accumulation of acetaldehyde in the tissues. This fact causes a syndrome characterized by tachycardia, sweating, and redness.

5. Rosacea

Rosacea is a chronic skin disease that manifests itself with redness and small visible blood vessels on the skin of the face. Also, some people may have pimples with purulent content, similar to acne. In general, symptoms appear progressively, then disappear and recur over time.

This condition can manifest itself at any age, being more frequent in adult women. Similarly, it’s related to various factors that act as triggers of the manifestations on the skin, among which are the following:

  • Changes in temperature
  • Stress
  • Sunlight
  • Medicines and meals

6. Medications

Drugs can be responsible for facial redness as an adverse effect to their administration or as a result of interactions with other substances. Studies affirm that the main drugs associated with redness of the face are the following:

  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Beta-blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Vancomycin and amphotericin B
  • Methylprednisolone
  • Nicotinic acid
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Morphine
  • Metoclopramide

Similarly, the combination of certain drugs with alcohol is included among the causes of facial redness. Metronidazole, ketoconazole, cephalosporins, and antimalarials are some of the drugs that are associated with this chemical interaction.

7. Menopause

Menopause is the physiological period in a woman’s life when menstruation stops. It usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 and is characterized by adaptive changes in hormone levels.

Variations in hormones are associated with episodes of hot flashes. These manifest with a sensation of heat, facial redness, sweating, and palpitations.

Currently, hormone replacement therapy has shown satisfactory results in controlling the symptoms of menopause. For this reason, professionals recommend going to a medical consultation early to define the state of health and opt for different treatment options.

8. Endocrine disorders

Endocrine diseases associated with excessive or deficient production of hormones are included among the possible causes of facial redness. In this sense, the associated hormonal pathologies are those that promote an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, as well as an increase in body temperature, sweating, and vasodilation.

Cushing’s syndrome is one of the endocrine conditions associated with facial flushing and dermatological changes. It’s diagnosed when there are high levels of cortisol. In addition, this disease is often associated with weight gain, accumulation of fat around the abdomen, diabetes, and long-term heart disease.

Cortisol hormone causes facial redness.
Cortisol is responsible for a part of the cases of facial redness, either due to a punctual increase or due to its chronic persistence at high levels.

9. Serious allergies

Serious allergic processes or anaphylactic reactions occur when the body responds excessively to a foreign agent or substance. This fact is the result of the release of mast cells and vasoactive mediators, such as histamine. It usually appears with hives, flushing of the face and chest, gastrointestinal disturbances, and respiratory distress.

Severe allergies must be addressed early, as they can progress to respiratory obstruction and death. Similarly, allergy sufferers must maintain strict medical control in order to prevent the appearance of serious episodes in the long term.

10. Carcinoid syndrome

Carcinoid syndrome is a pathology that occurs due to the secretion of neuroendocrine mediators by tumors that proliferate in the digestive tract or at the lung level. Facial flushing is the most frequent symptom in this pathology and is usually accompanied by abdominal pain and shortness of breath.

It’s possible to prevent facial redness

The causes of facial redness can range from harmless processes to underlying diseases that affect the quality of life. In general, prevention is aimed at controlling the pathologies that cause vasodilation and flushing on the face. In this sense, doctors recommend avoiding extreme temperatures, consuming plenty of water, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Susceptible people should avoid excessive alcohol consumption, and the intake of spicy food, as well as developing anxiety and stress management techniques. Similarly, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice if facial redness is accompanied by other symptoms, such as headaches, palpitations, itching, and shortness of breath.

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