Red in the Face?
Why Your Too-Rosy Complexion May Be a Warning
Red blotches, sudden rosy flushes, redness around the nose: Is it just mild irritation caused by too much sun, or maybe over cleansing? Or could it be something more serious? If the redness is persistent, here are some of the conditions you should be wary of.
Also known as atopic dermatitis, this condition can produce dry, red, itchy patches on the face and body. It’s more common in children and isn’t contagious, since it’s caused by the immune system overreacting to an irritant. The tricky part is figuring out what that irritant is and trying to stay away from it. Consider cosmetics, detergent used on linens, facial cleansers and soaps, fragrances, hair products and anything else that makes contact with the face as suspects.
The fix. Because it’s itchy, eczema can lead to secondary infections when you scratch it and rip open the inflamed area. Moisturize well after bathing to trap water in the skin and use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to quell the itching. If it doesn’t improve after a week or so, see a dermatologist for a prescription treatment and to rule out more dangerous conditions, such as psoriasis.
A serious, but difficult-to-diagnose autoimmune disease, lupus can produce a distinctive symptom on the face: the so-called “butterfly rash.” The rash, known as acute cutaneous lupus, spreads across the nose and upper cheeks and resembles a sunburn. It usually isn’t itchy. Women, especially women of color, are much more likely to develop lupus than men are.
The fix. Lupus is not curable, but you should see a doctor immediately if you think you might have it. It’s important to get diagnosed correctly and treated so you can prevent life-threatening complications caused by the chronic inflammation that characterizes the disease.
Typically, this genetic disorder doesn’t appear until you’re over 30. More common in women than men, rosacea usually begins with occasional flushed skin on the forehead, cheeks, chin and/or nose, but if it’s not treated, the redness can become permanent, worsening over time to include visible blood vessels and acne-like lesions.
There is a similar condition caused by a minuscule mite that lives in the skin’s hair follicles. In some people, the mite’s presence causes a rosacea-like condition called demodicosis.
The fix. If you have symptoms of either problem, see a dermatologist. There’s no cure for rosacea, but it’s important to slow its progression as much as possible with lifestyle changes such as avoiding sun exposure and food triggers (e.g., spices, alcohol). A dermatologist may also prescribe oral or topical antibiotics or other topical treatments, including lotions containing vitamin C.
For demodicosis, a doctor will prescribe antiparasitic medications.
Like rosacea, this condition is most likely hereditary and may be aggravated by cold weather and stress; it’s not contagious. As awful as it sounds, seborrheic dermatitis is dandruff of the face. It’s characterized by red, scaly patches around the nose and eyelids that may be itchy. You may think your skin is overly dry or chapped, but you’ll find that moisturizers won’t help, since the real problem is excess oil.
The fix. Unless it’s really severe (very itchy and unsightly), you may want to try controlling this skin problem yourself. Use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to stop itchiness and redness and gently wash your face once or twice a day with the mildest dandruff shampoo you can find. If after a few weeks you don’t see improvement, visit a dermatologist for advice and to rule out other conditions.