Red, splotchy skin can be frustrating, but there are ways to fight back! One of the best is visiting a dermatologist, who can help you determine the underlying cause of your skin redness so you can treat it most effectively.
To help you get started, consider these common causes:
- Climate changes: If your skin redness started around the time temperatures dropped and heaters started cranking, you may be experiencing an impaired skin barrier as a result of low-humidity wintry weather. During winter, many slightly oily skin types cross over into the dry end of the spectrum -- and dry skin can become even drier and more susceptible to outside irritants.
- Allergies: Various topical ingredients, particularly fragrances and preservatives, can cause allergic reactions in the skin; food allergies, too, can manifest as skin redness and inflammation. If you suspect that you suffer from allergies, visit your dermatologist for patch testing to determine which specific ingredients you may need to avoid.
- Rosacea: If you have noticed any symptoms of rosacea - facial redness and flushing, prominent facial blood vessels, thickening and redness in the nose, or enlarged oil glands (which appear as yellowish bumps) - don't put off seeing a dermatologist! The earlier you catch rosacea, the better, as many prescription treatments can alleviate symptoms and prevent its progression.
So, what can you do about redness?
- Strengthen the skin barrier: If you're experiencing frequent redness and irritation, bolstering your skin's natural defenses is a great place to start fighting inflammation. Look for moisturizing topical ingredients like ceramides, cholesterol, glycerin, and stearic acid, and strengthen your skin barrier from the inside out by consuming soothing omega-3 fatty acids (in the form of fatty fish and flax seed, for example, or in the form of dietary supplements).
- Choose your skin-care products carefully: Regular use of the following anti-inflammatory ingredients will go a long way toward soothing your skin:
· Sulfacetamide· Salicylic Acid
But when it comes to redness, avoiding irritating ingredients and products can be just as important:· Benzoyl peroxide -- although an effective acne-fighting ingredient, and often suitable for those with only mild sensitivity -- is too strong for anyone with moderate to severe flushing and redness.
· Alpha hydroxy acids, like lactic and glycolic acid, may also be too harsh for very sensitive skin types.
· "Minty" ingredients like peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, and menthol are common causes of flushing and irritation in sensitive skin types.
· Vitamin C in its topical form may also cause redness. Consume this excellent antioxidant orally instead, and stick to topical antioxidants like green tea and coenzyme Q10.
· "Anti-redness" creams with hydrocortisone or other steroids: While these products temporarily constrict enlarged blood vessels (due to rosacea, for example), those vessels will eventually rebound and possibly even become larger, creating a cycle of inflammation.
- Avoid abrasive products: Gritty exfoliating scrubs and abrasive cleansing pillow and cloths are too harsh for sensitive skin types, and will only worsen the cycle of inflammation. Instead, remove dead skin cells with non-abrasive ingredients like salicylic acid.
- Cover up: When shopping for concealer to cover areas of redness, look for yellow-tinted products, which mask redness most effectively.
- Choose professional treatments wisely: Spa skin treatments like facials, microdermabrasion, hot wax, or sauna and steam rooms can further irritate sensitive skin, particularly if you have rosacea. I generally recommend that patients avoid such treatments; if you're going to have one, though, be sure to tell your aesthetician about your skin redness and sensitivity so he or she can select appropriate anti-inflammatory ingredients.
Certain dermatological procedures, on the other hand, can be highly effective in treating chronic red skin: Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and vascular laser treatments, for example, can quickly eliminate broken blood vessels. Talk to your dermatologist about your options, and always have these treatments performed by an experienced doctor.
Wishing you great skin!
All of Dr. Baumann's recommended skin care products are available online, and a portion of proceeds goes to The Dermatology Foundation.
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