Why Is My Skin Always Red?
Knowingly or not, we put our skin through quite a bit every day—especially during winter. And sometimes, it rebels by turning red. Redness can also bring itchiness, dryness, and irritation along for the ride.
Red skin can be our body’s way of saying “Look at me! Something’s wrong!” so it’s important to pay close attention when it presents itself. We tapped Toronto-based, board-certified dermatologist Geeta Yadav, MD to share some of the most common reasons for redness, signs to look out for, and ingredients to keep it at bay.
The Different Types of Skin TonesAs we know, every skin tone is unique. Naturally, the oxygenated blood that runs through our veins gives skin a pinkish hue. And, depending on how much melanin our complexion contains (there are two types: black/brown eumelanin and red/yellow pheomelanin), skin tone can appear pale, tan, olive, dark, and everything in between. That’s what beauty experts and makeup artists refer to when speaking about warm, cool, and neutral undertones.
What Causes Red Skin?If the skin is pale or has more pheomelanin, it can look naturally red or pink. But redness can also occur for other reasons besides genetics. “Eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea can flare up [redness], along with wind and extreme cold,” explains Dr. Yadav. And don’t forget about one of the most obvious culprits: sunburn. “People are less aware of getting sunburns from winter activities, but that can definitely sneak up on people if they’re not wearing sunscreen regularly,” says the derm. It’s more top of mind during the summer, but sunburn is always a factor, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors. “If you're an active participant in winter sports, you're especially at risk; sunlight reflecting off of snow can contribute to significant sunburn,” says Dr. Yadav.
Alcohol and lack of sleep, two things that cause the blood vessels to dilate, can also contribute to a red-tinged complexion. If your undereyes are feeling red and puffy after a late night out, apply refrigerated cucumbers to the undereye area. Cool temperatures improve blood circulation, relieving redness.
Check with your derm before self-diagnosing any conditions, but here are some basic signs and symptoms to keep in mind if you are experiencing frequent redness:
Flushed skin that doesn’t go away tends to be rosacea, but there can be more to it as well. “There are different types of rosacea,” explains Dr. Yadav. “Generally it can lead to bumps on the skin as well as background redness from broken blood vessels, particularly in the center of the face, cheeks, and chin.”
If you’re acne-prone, you may notice red, pink, or purple spots left behind after a breakout. Not to be confused with dark spots, this discoloration is caused by an inflammation of the blood vessels, not excess pigment. It usually goes away on its own, but you can also turn to skincare ingredients like niacinamide or azelaic acid to help brighten the area.
"Sensitive skin is an inherent skin trait,” says Dr. Yadav, which can cause redness. But it’s not uncommon to confuse sensitive skin with temporarily sensitized skin—which happens when an otherwise healthy skin barrier has been compromised either from too many products or irritating ingredients like artificial fragrance.
Also known as dermatitis, this type of inflammation is also quite common. “Dermatitis can be sensitive, with some redness, bumps, itching, or even burning,” explains the derm. In severe cases, she adds that “the skin can also crack to the point of bleeding.”
If you have red patches that feel itchy or sore, you may have psoriasis. While flareups mostly show up on the body, they can appear on the face, too. Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure, but gentle, pH-balanced skincare can help relieve symptoms.
The Best Ingredients for Treating Redness
Vitamin EThis nourishing antioxidant helps protect and cushion the skin and is great for dryness and irritation. Find it in products like our Cleansing Balm and Rich Moisture Cream. If you want to skip the foundation but are concerned about your redness, smooth on a few drops of Mood Lighting—formulated with peptides and vitamin E—for a natural, no-makeup glow that evens out tone.
Aloe VeraYou already rely on aloe after a day in the sun, but it’s beneficial for so much more. “Aloe is a natural hydrator that has anti-inflammatory properties, which is why so many rely on it to help soothe sunburns,” says Dr. Yadav. Plus, the derm adds, aloe is naturally rich in vitamin C, another fantastic antioxidant. Our Moisturizing-Gel Cream is packed with aloe leaf juice, as is our Hydrating Plumping Mask for those times when your skin needs extra TLC.
Sea Buckthorn ExtractA plant-sourced oil whose anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce swelling, sea buckthorn extract is often used for red skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea. It also strengthens the skin’s moisture barrier, which is why we included it in our Antioxidant Oil-Serum.
Colloidal OatmealA.k.a. oat milk. This natural ingredient is extremely calming on inflamed or stressed-out skin. “Colloidal oatmeal can be a powerful ally in treating all of these conditions [above],” explains Dr. Yadav. “It’s known to be incredibly soothing to the skin due to natural concentrations of vitamin E and beta-glucans, a type of sugar that can reduce irritation.” Find it along with another ingredient for redness, marula oil, in our Milky Cleanser.