Some people just naturally have a reddish face. Of course, if you work in the open air, you may acquire a weathered, red, jolly-farmer face, especially if you are naturally fair-skinned. But a red face can mean that you have a skin disorder, and appropriate treatment should solve the problem. And, rarely, it can mean a more serious disorder such as ‘systemic lupus erythematosus’ that needs to be properly investigated and treated. So do not feel you are wasting your doctor’s time by seeking help for a red face.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Is my face red all the time, or is the problem flushing/blushing? Have a look at the section on blushing and flushing.

Have I been taking steroids? Steroid tablets can cause a red face in some people. If you think this might be the cause in your case, discuss it with your doctor. Do not simply stop the steroids, because this could make you very ill. Strong steroid creams can also make the face red, and can encourage the formation of thread veins that make the skin look redder.

Am I sensitive to something? Think about whether you have changed your cosmetics or perfume recently, or whether a chemical in your workplace could be responsible. Or have you come into contact with something some people are very sensitive to certain plants and flowers. Nickel in spectacle frames can cause redness around the eyes and ears.

Is it related to sunlight (photosensitivity), even sunlight that is not very bright? Photosensitivity may be the cause if most of your face is red, but the shaded areas under the nose and chin, under a fringe of hair and behind the ears are all right, and the redness stops sharply at your collar-line. This can be a difficult problem for your doctor to sort out because it is often an interaction between a chemical and sunlight. The chemical might be a drug that you are taking (amiodarone, thiazide diuretics, chlorpromazine, some fluoroquinolone antibiotics and some tetracycline antibiotics occasionally have this effect), or the chemical could be in a perfume or a sunscreen.

Is the redness in a special shape? If the redness is just across your cheeks and nose, in a shape like a butterfly, you need to see your doctor. It could be a disorder called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), in which your immune system is not behaving properly.

As well as being red, is my skin scaly, itchy, sore or lumpy? Are there blackheads or pustules? Lots of skin disorders can cause reddening of the skin. You might have ordinary acne, rosacea, dermatitis (eczema) or psoriasis.

What You Can Do about a Red Face

The first step is to discuss the problem with your doctor, to check whether it is caused by a skin disorder that needs treatment. If there is no skin disorder, this may just be the way you are, and you will have to think about disguising the problem if it bothers you. Many cosmetic companies produce make-up to minimize redness, often with a greenish tinge that does not show when it is applied. Try to find one that is ‘hypoallergic’, as people with a red face often have sensitive skin.


First published on:
Reviewed and edited by: Dr Anna Cantlay
Last updated: October 2020

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