The skin is the body’s largest organ and also the most conspicuous. The skin of the face is the most visible of all so it is hardly surprising that any disfiguring marks can be a cause of great distress.
Faces, of course, come in many different colours but whatever the skin tone, the appearance of red blotches will almost certainly be unwelcome. Although such facial redness can, in some instances, be an indication of an underlying health problem, there are many instances where this reddening has little or no health significance. Some of the most common causes are as follows:
The reddening of the face in response to a psychological stimulus is perfectly normal and occurs when the body’s sympathetic nervous system causes the small blood vessels close to the surface of the skin to dilate increasing the blood flow to the region. The reverse effect is seen when fear is experienced and the skin lightens. In this instance, the body’s reaction is to maximise the blood supply to other parts of the body. This is sometimes referred to as a “fight or flight” response. Such changes of skin colour are usually of short duration and are a good indication of effective hormonal systems. Those prone to blush easily often feel that this feature shows shyness or lack of confidence and are embarrassed by it which in turn may cause more redness but some studies have actually revealed that those who blush easily tend to be more generous, trustworthy and virtuous than most.
Just as with blushing, the appearance of “hot flushes” is due to the action of hormones but when this occurs at random for no apparent reason, this is usually due to a hormone imbalance and is typically experienced at certain life stages such as puberty or menopause. In most cases, there is no need for concern.
Whereas blushing and flushing tend to be short-lived events with no lasting effects, Rosacea is a chronic (long-term) condition.
It often develops in middle age and it causes facial redness of a more permanent nature. Flushing often occurs but the redness persists in the form of small visible blood vessels, papules (raised spots) and pustules (pus-filled spots). Rosacea can be a painful condition and the affected skin may be itchy or give a burning or stinging sensation. The skin may become thickened in places often being dry and rough. When the skin around the nose becomes thickened, this can lead to the development of a bulbous nose (rhinophyma) which is often, unfairly and incorrectly, regarded as an indication of excessive alcohol consumption. Raised red patches (plaques) sometimes form and in severe cases, facial lymphedema (swelling due to fluid retention) may occur.
Most people are familiar with this condition in which raised red spots are surrounded by an area of reddened skin. Officially termed “miliaria rubra” it is considered to be due to sweat glands not functioning correctly and is most frequently observed during hot weather. It can occur on the face but other parts of the body are also frequently affected.
This is a general term for the reddening of the skin from any cause but there are many specific types of erythema many of which have unknown causes and others known to be viral in origin. These are almost invariably short-lived and the rashes fade as the disease runs its course. Some of these have quite specific appearances such as erythema multiforme in which the rash typically forms areas resembling a target or bull’s eye. This form of erythema can be caused by many different things but one of the most common is the herpes simplex virus, which is also responsible for the appearance of cold sores. Like almost all viral infections, it tends to be time-limited and the rash fades as the disease runs its course.
Many people suffer from allergies and the appearance of red marks on the skin is one of the classic symptoms. As part of the body’s natural defences, when a threat is detected such as the presence of foreign pathogens, histamines are produced. These help the immune system by increasing the porosity of the walls of capillaries to white blood cells so enabling them to fight off any invaders. The skin of course has many such blood vessels and redness of the skin occurs with many infections but unfortunately, for those with allergies, this reaction can also be inappropriately triggered by everyday substances and events.
The appearance of a sudden rash when the skin is exposed to the sun is a particular type of allergic reaction and is mainly seen in fair-skinned individuals. It is quite different from sunburn or prickly heat rashes and normally subsides fairly quickly after the skin is shaded from the sunlight.
Red Blotches on face after Shower
Many people find that after showering or bathing, skin takes on a red blotchy appearance. Various parts of the body can be affected but the face tends to be particularly vulnerable. This can be due to an allergic reaction to soaps, detergents or even the water itself but is more commonly the body’s normal reaction to a sudden change of temperature. Unfortunately, different parts of the skin may react differently leading to a blotchy or mottled appearance. Skin which has previously been damaged or the site of injuries such as scars may show more marked reddening than undamaged skin. The red discolouration normally fades fairly quickly but in some cases may persist for an hour or more.
Dermatitis is a general term for inflammation of the skin and this almost invariably involves reddening. Many substances are known skin irritants affecting most people but of course different people have different degrees of skin sensitivity and those with allergies may develop dermatitis after being in contact with apparently innocuous items.
Red Spots on Face – Not Acne
The appearance of red spots on the face is often erroneously referred to as acne but it is important to differentiate between this condition and other causes of spots and rashes.
True acne invariably involves greasy skin along with the eruption on various types of spots including blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, nodules (hard lumps under the skin) or cysts (large pus-filled lumps). It is normally associated with hormonal changes so is commonly seen in teenagers around the time of puberty but may also make an appearance during menopause. Acne normally disappears after a period of time. If any facial spots do not have these appearances and the skin is dry rather than greasy, the condition is not due to acne.
What Causes Red Spots on the Face?
There is no single cause for the appearance of red spots on the face. In some cases, such as acne above, the skin suffers an overload of bacteria leading to localised infection. Viruses are notorious for their ability to produce sudden, often spectacular, rashes. Some spots may be due to yeast or fungal infections but many simply appear as a result of the working of the body’s sympathetic immune system. There are many other skin conditions such as skin tags, warts or cancers and any unexplained, suspicious, changing, or rapidly growing lesion requires expert medical evaluation.
How to Remove Red Spots from the Face
In most cases, red spots or blotchy red skin is more of a nuisance than of any great medical significance and there are many propriety make-up products designed to conceal spots but these are not recommended in the case of acne where the pores should be kept as clear as possible. Medical preparations, both over-the-counter and prescription are available for specific types of spots due to bacteria, yeasts or fungi. In addition to the use of topical treatments, consideration should also be given to any known cause of the spots such as allergies and the avoidance of any triggers or the use of antihistamines may be beneficial. Maintaining a healthy balanced diet is also important. Areas of permanent redness due to the appearance of thread veins (telangiectasia) can receive specialist cosmetic treatments such as electrolysis, sclerotherapy or laser therapy.
So the appearance of facial redness is certainly nothing to be embarrassed about and may even be an indication of an effective hormonal system. Many such episodes are transient in nature and with a little forethought, some can be avoided and others effectively managed. In cases where the problem is due to an underlying medical problem, that problem needs to be addressed so the involvement of health professionals may be necessary but in most cases, the prospects of improvement are good.