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Ask Curology: why is my face red?

An expert explains how to reduce redness in skin.

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Curology Team
May 31, 2023 · 10 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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Welcome to Ask Curology, a series on the Curology blog where one of our in-house licensed dermatology providers answers your questions about all things skincare. Today we’re talking about skin redness — specifically, face redness — and how to tell if red splotches on your face are being caused by irritating ingredients in your skincare products (like alcohol, for example), or whether it’s the result of a skin condition such as rosacea. Read on for expert advice!

Dear Curology,

Why is my face red constantly? I feel like I’ve tried every product there is to reduce redness, but nothing’s really worked. Sometimes my skin even stings and gets more blotchy after I use certain products. How can I get rid of the redness on my face for good?


Rosy-cheeked and not in a good way

Dear Rosy,

There are several possible causes of facial redness, but first off, I want to say how much we feel for you! Red skin usually indicates that your skin is inflamed or irritated, which we know from experience can be really uncomfortable. Don’t worry, though! We’ll help you sort it out so you can find the right solution for your unique skin.

Identifying facial redness

For sensitive skin, a little goes a long way

If the skin on your face often gets red, you may have sensitive skin. There’s no universal cause of sensitive skin, but it could be an underlying skin condition, such as rosacea, eczema (atopic dermatitis), or seborrheic dermatitis. However, your facial redness could also be a reaction to something you’re doing to your skin!

Let’s start by going over a few of the common causes of facial redness or red blotches.

What’s causing face redness?

Leftover redness from acne

If your skin is prone to breakouts, the redness on your face might be post-inflammatory erythema (PIE). That means the inflammation in your skin from acne flare ups is causing your capillaries (tiny blood vessels just beneath the skin’s surface) to dilate, which can lead to facial redness.¹ Ingredients in our personalized prescription formulas, such as niacinamide, may help improve PIE.

Exfoliating too much

Over-exfoliation can leave your skin red, irritated, and vulnerable to breakouts. If you’re using chemical exfoliants, such as AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) or BHAs (beta hydroxy acids), too often—or in too intense a concentration—that could cause some irritation and, yes, redness. AHAs can also increase your skin’s sun sensitivity, and rosacea-prone skin is already sun-sensitive. Face scrubs can have this effect, too; the rough stuff that’s meant to slough off dead skin cells and dislodge clogged pores can be harsh on sensitive skin, causing it to react and turn red.

Washing your face with hot water

Hot water may strip your skin of its natural moisture barrier, leaving your skin damaged and vulnerable. Hot water also causes the capillaries to dilate, which makes your skin appear red and flushed—especially if you’ve got rosacea. Wash your face with lukewarm water instead—your skin will thank you! 

The ingredients in your skincare or beauty products

Alcohol is unfortunately common in skincare products, even though it can dry out the skin and can damage its protective barrier. If your skin gets red and irritated or dries out after using a certain product, look for alcohol, “denatured alcohol” or “alcohol denat.” on the ingredients list. If alcohol is found toward the end of an ingredients list, there might not be enough of it in the product to bother your skin.

Other ingredients can also cause redness, irritation, hives, or an allergic reaction, which is why it’s important to always check the ingredients. We’ve got a quick and easy guide to checking products for irritating ingredients.

Sunburn or windburn

You don’t have to spend all day outdoors to get a sunburn; even when you’re in a car or indoors by a window, your skin is exposed to the sun’s damaging rays. When you do spend extended time outdoors, you’re at risk for both windburn and sunburn. Windburn and sunburn can cause facial redness, so you should protect your skin with SPF year-round. Check out our list of face sunscreens for every skin type and our ultimate guide to sunscreen.

Pro tip: The Everyday Sunscreen by Curology is a mineral-based SPF 30 formula with a silky, non-greasy texture that minimizes white cast—a great choice for everyday wear.


Rosacea is a common chronic inflammatory skin condition often characterized by persistent facial redness. How can you tell if you have rosacea? First, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your skin flush easily (whether it’s from strong emotions, eating spicy foods, drinking alcohol, etc.)?

  • Does your skin easily get red after exercise or minimal sun exposure?

If you answered yes to either, you could have a mild rosacea tendency—which is very common! Rosacea causes a red face, dilated blood vessels, and sometimes, acne-like bumps (but not blackheads or whiteheads). This is medically known as acne rosacea. Although rosacea is not exactly acne, it may also be accompanied by ordinary pimples (acne vulgaris).²

Unfortunately, we can’t stop facial redness due to dilated capillaries without certain in-office dermatology treatments, such as lasers or pulsed light. However, temporary redness from inflammation can be improved by ingredients—such as ivermectin, niacinamide, metronidazole, and azelaic acid—which are available in the Custom Formula ᴿˣ by Curology, if your Curology provider thinks it’s the right treatment for you.

How to help prevent facial redness or rosacea flare-ups

To keep rosacea from worsening, do your best to avoid the common triggers of facial flushing. Minimize exposure to hot or spicy foods and alcohol, and try to stay cool. Most importantly, protect yourself from the sun!

Studies show that changing what you eat may play a role in helping to prevent rosacea symptoms, too.³ Here are some simple tips:

  • Avoid hot drinks and foods.

  • Avoid spicy foods that contain capsaicin.

  • If you drink alcohol, try cutting back.

  • Avoid cinnamaldehyde-related foods, such as tomatoes, citrus, cinnamon, and chocolate.

How to reduce facial redness: pro tips 

Resist the urge to exfoliate dry, flaky skin

If your skin is both red and dry, exfoliating often makes matters worse. Cut back on anything that tends to dry or irritate your skin, such as exfoliation (physical or chemical), over-the-counter products containing retinol, or any prescription topicals containing retinoids. This is also not the best time for microdermabrasion or chemical peels.

Use a gentle, hydrating cleanser

Consider using a gentle, hydrating cleanser, such as the Curology Gentle Cleanser. Avoid harsh cleansers and scrubs; if it leaves your skin feeling tight, shiny, or dried-out, it’s not doing you any favors.

Choose your moisturizer wisely

If your skin is red and dry, try applying a moisturizer for sensitive skin. To replenish, protect, and repair irritated or damaged skin, look for moisturizers with the following ingredients:

(We explain these more in our Moisturizer Guide!)

The Curology Cream Moisturizer contains a combination of emollient, humectant, and occlusive moisturizing ingredients, which makes it an excellent option for soothing and protecting sensitive skin prone to redness.

Ceramides are your skin’s best friend

Ceramides are naturally occurring lipids (fats) in the skin that can also be found in some moisturizers and skincare products. They can help repair and strengthen the skin’s protective barrier, so adding a product with ceramides to your skincare routine might help. 

Here are a few moisturizers with ceramides we recommend for sensitive skin prone to facial redness:

Protect and nourish your skin with a thicker moisturizer when the temperature drops

Heavier, richer moisturizers such as EltaMD Intense Moisturizer or CeraVe Healing Ointment can help lock in moisture and provide a defensive barrier to shield your skin against cold wind. A thick cream containing hyaluronic acid or glycerin (which helps the skin draw in and retain moisture) can also be helpful.

5 Dermatologist Approved Tips To Reduce Facial Redness

You can trust Curology’s experts 

Curology is a full-service skincare company offering products made with proven effective ingredients. Our licensed dermatology providers help take the guesswork out of your skincare routine by determining the products your skin needs and creating a personalized prescription formula to help you meet your skincare goals.

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What’s causing face redness?

There are several possible causes of facial redness.  A few of the common causes of facial redness or red blotches include leftover redness from acne, excessive exfoliation, washing your face with hot water, sunburn or windburn, or rosacea. In some cases, redness may be caused by certain ingredients in your skincare products.

How do I prevent facial redness or rosacea flare-ups?

To keep rosacea from worsening, do your best to avoid the common triggers of facial flushing. Minimize exposure to hot or spicy foods and alcohol, and try to stay cool. Most importantly, protect yourself from the sun! Other simple tips include:

  • Avoid hot drinks and foods.

  • Avoid spicy foods that contain capsaicin.

  • If you drink alcohol, try cutting back.

  • Avoid cinnamaldehyde-related foods, such as tomatoes, citrus, cinnamon, and chocolate.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

Bae-Harboe, Y.S., Graber, E.M. Easy as PIE (Postinflammatory Erythema). J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. (September 2013).

 Zhang, H., et al. Rosacea Treatment: Review and Update. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). (February 2021).

Weiss, E., Katta, R.. Diet and rosacea: the role of dietary change in the management of rosacea. Dermatol Pract Concept. (2017 October 31).

Erin Pate is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL.

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• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Erin Pate Nurse Practitioner, NP-C

Erin Pate, NP-C

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