Rouge to Ruin: Facial Redness Causes

Woman with facial redness
She hides her face, ashamed of its redness. Photo from Unsplash.

For most people, a flushed face is a sign of one thing and one thing only: embarrassment. That’s a fair assessment. Embarrassment does indeed cause facial redness. Often it shows up as a pattern of red right across the cheekbones. It’s a recognizable reality that most of us are familiar with, but it tends to fade within a few minutes.

So push further into your mind; what else does a red face signify? Exertion is probably the next most common answer – and, again, it’s impossible to disagree. If you’ve been exercising up a storm, then your face will show the effort by flushing red. However, as with embarrassment, the redness is temporary.

However, for certain women, facial redness isn’t the result of embarrassment, exercise, alcohol, or the other most commonly suggested issues. Instead, redness is from an illness rather than a transitory reflection of an emotion or physical exertion. There are a number of illnesses that can cause facial redness – and what’s more, you might not even realize that you’re a sufferer.

Facial Redness Isn’t Taken Seriously

Many people don’t take facial redness seriously. There’s a number of reasons this might be the case. Firstly, it’s because – as described above – we all have “normal” explanations for why facial skin may become red, so we don’t suspect anything beyond these when we experience it. Secondly, it’s fair to say that facial redness is seen as acceptable for the majority of people. When you apply blush as part of your makeup routine – the sole purpose of which is to make your face redder – then it can be harder to see redness as a problem.

The result of this is that thousands of women may have skin conditions, and they have no idea that they’re suffering. There are stories everywhere of women having no idea they had a skin condition until informed of it by a medical professional.

So if you’ve ever experienced facial redness, then it’s worth taking the time to think about the causes that might be behind it.

Consider… Cutaneous Lupus

If you’re currently asking yourself “what is cutaneous lupus?” then don’t worry, you’re not alone – it’s not a well-known condition. It’s important to first distinguish between cutaneous lupus and systemic lupus. Cutaneous lupus affects the skin, while systemic lupus, which has been much-discussed in recent years due to Selena Gomez’s diagnosis of the condition, impacts a range of bodily functions.

Cutaneous lupus produces a red, often butterfly-shaped rash over the face and, on occasion, other areas of the body. It can be relatively mild (so you just appear to be more flushed than usual) or extremely severe and painful. It is not dangerous per se, but can be uncomfortable and damage self-esteem. If you have a persistent red rash anywhere on your body (and particularly across your nose and cheeks), then speak to a doctor and raise cutaneous lupus as a concern.

Skin issue or blush makeup
Redness on the face? Is it a skin problem or just the blush you applied that morning? Pixabay photo, CC0 Creative Commons.

Consider… Rosacea

Rosacea and cutaneous lupus are often mistaken for one another. So it’s important to speak to a medical professional if you suspect you have either. Rosacea can cause facial redness, which is often accompanied by a burning or prickling feeling.

Many rosacea sufferers are able to identify particular ‘triggers’ that will cause their skin to flare; these can be dietary, skincare ingredients, or even the weather. Although rosacea causes flares of severe redness, many sufferers also develop permanent patches of redness.

The cause of rosacea is not very well-known, although there is suspicion in the medical community that it is autoimmune in nature. Until more research is conducted, most sufferers deal with the condition by themselves, using over-the-counter skincare treatments and avoiding anything that triggers a flare up.

Consider… Hyperthyroidism

Finally, an overactive thyroid gland can cause facial redness for some sufferers. However, the redness is rarely a skin-specific issue with hyperthyroidism. Instead, it’s a consequence of the overheating that hyperthyroidism can cause, so sufferers will mostly experience red patches of skin along with feelings of being too hot or sweating excessively.

If the above sounds familiar to your experience, then it’s worth checking the other symptoms of hyperthyroidism. If they sound familiar, speak to a doctor; treatment is accessible and usually successful.

In Conclusion

Facial redness is not seen as a problematic skin condition by many, especially when compared to more common ailments such as acne and eczema. However, redness isn’t just something that you have to accept. If you suspect you have any of the above conditions, then speak to a doctor to discuss treatment options. Hopefully, in future, any facial redness you experience comes solely from the blush cosmetics on your cheeks!


  1. I had rosacea. After eating Indian food five days in a row during a trip to Portland, Maine, in 2014, my face flared up with red skin AND pustules. I called my dermatologist’s office, explained that I couldn’t afford to come in to see her, and her receptionist told me to use Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength as facial soap. Not only have I not had a flareup since, I haven’t needed anti-acne products like the Proactiv that I used to use. (If you google “head & shoulders rosacea,” you’ll see all sorts of forum discussions about it.

  2. Hello There… I want to thank you so very much for this insightful entry. I’ve already printed this out, and am going to consult with my dermatologist. I’ve been diagnosed with rosacea and the medication provided me no results whatsoever. Then I was told it was due to anxiety.
    Again… Thank you very much. I will take this very seriously.

  3. Reblogged this on Beckie's Mental Mess and commented:
    I wanted to reblog the following entry by “When Women Inspire” by Christy Birmingham.
    I have personally been told by doctors/psychiatrist that the redness was due to rosacea or anxiety. I was prescribed medication that didn’t help with the ongoing problem of redness on my cheeks.
    I found this entry to be extremely insightful and wanted to share it with you.

  4. Being a redhead, my face turned RED in my younger years due to shyness, embarrassment and insecurity. I outgrew that only to be tormented by red-faced (and body!) hot flashes, which have also dissipated. My mother, however, had the tell-tale signs of systemic lupus in the form of the butterfly rash in her early 40s, and didn’t see a doc about it until later when other lupus symptoms occurred. Great post and so worth a read!

  5. I have rosacea Christy. I used to fret over it and hate it. And I’ve had a few new doctors check me for Lupus, which freaked me out.

    Now I am super careful about what products I use on my face, and always, always wear sunscreen. My husband loves my rosy cheeks.

  6. Hi Christy,

    I was actually diagnosed with rosacea in January. The only symptoms I have are a little bit of redness, not horrible and no acne, but I noticed it enough to see a doctor. I have a cream that I now only apply at night instead of 2x a day, so it has helped. I used to cover it up with foundation, but then I remembered when I used to buy blush. So, no more foundation; I decided to use the rosiness to my advantage. 🙂 So far, so good.

    What I do notice is that my face gets shiny more, and I haven’t been able to determine if this is from rosacea or not. I’m hoping someone else here on your post might be able to answer. Nor have I been able to decipher whether it’s from facial lotion, etc. I, too, wear sunscreen all the time, and am aware of the normal triggers for redness. Honestly, living in a box would be advantageous, since exercise, spicy foods, wine, sunshine, etc. are triggers. 🙂

    Anyway, thanks again. This has been helpful and also reassuring that I’m not alone in dealing with this. Hugs, my friend…

  7. I like that u noted there is more than meets the eye with redness – and just wanted to add that what makes me very sad is that we tend to fail to get to root causes – like what led to thyroid problems (usually a stressed and long strained immune system – and then what led to that… possibly metabolic syndrome – an overworked liver and possibly low nutrients from malabsorption or pathogens) and in my very humble opinion I believe that anyone with skin problems needs to rebuild their inner terrain – because the skin is a big dumping ground (as our largest organ) and so a huge mistake folks make is to only think dermis – but usually the skin reflects what is going on in the gut – the GI – and our modern day culture likes to ignore gut cleansing As not needed – and I know a few folks who have recovered from some chronic conditions – it took a few years and it involved cleaning and supplementing to rebuild the entire body terrain – so many people get caught up in managing symptoms until organs fail!!

  8. Interesting post, Christy. I wasn’t aware of Cutaneous Lupus. I have to admit that it takes very little to make me blush, but my skin always has a pinkish hue. My mum said that I was born red, and that’s more or less the way I’ve stayed with my very fair skin. The redness isn’t related to any of the conditions you describe, though.

  9. I’m so pleased to see this post, Christy. As you say, facial redness can be a serious condition, and women, more often than men, will ignore it. You are an advocate for women, and I for one am grateful ♥

  10. Thanks for your great post and helping raise awareness that lupus can be a cause! Once, an unenlightened coworker tried to make fun of me for “hitting the blusher a little heavy” that day, when really it was a systemic lupus flare causing the facial rash. Some workplace friends quickly put her in her place!

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