We’ve all had red skin at some point in our lives. Temporary redness can come from embarrassment (blushing) or a menopausal hot flush. However, more lasting redness can be due to a range of reasons including sunburn or a reaction to alcohol, as well various skin conditions. This redness, known as erythema, can be caused by dry or sensitive skin. It can also be due to an underlying skin condition such as eczema or contact dermatitis – or an infection.
You’ll probably find that you have other symptoms alongside the redness, acting as clues to help you, or your healthcare practitioner, identify what the problem is. These include the following:
CONDITIONS LINKED TO RED SKIN
The reason for skin redness is sometimes obvious but on other occasions, it might be less clear. It might be because you have dry skin, it could be a reaction to an allergen or irritant and/or due to a skin infection.
Red Skin triggers and factors
Although there are many things that can make our skin go red – from what we eat and what we wear to our lifestyle – it might take some time figuring out the specific cause in each case.
Allergens and irritants
Weather and temperature
How to manage red skin
Finding out what’s causing your red skin can help you manage it better. There’s a big difference between treating eczema and treating a fungal infection, for example. There are many different treatments available that can help ease red skin depending on the cause.
If dry skin, eczema, contact dermatitis or psoriasis are the underlying cause of your redness, then using an emollient regularly can help. Emollients are moisturisers which should be applied often everyday – at least twice a day. Always use generous amounts, even when you feel your skin doesn’t need them. However, always read and follow the instructions on the emollient you are about to use, unless told to otherwise by your doctor.
Applying emollients regularly can help soothe red skin by
- Adding moisture to skin and trapping it inside
- Forming a protective barrier over the skin to keep irritants out
- Helping flare ups of conditions, such as eczema.
Washing with an emollient or soap substitute is also recommended as regular soaps and cleansers can irritate the skin and cause further dryness. Emollients don’t foam up like soaps, but they still work to get you clean. If you’re having a bath, you can also add emollient bath oils.
Mild steroid creams and ointments can be bought from your pharmacy to help relieve contact dermatitis and mild-to-moderate eczema - helping to reduce redness. These types of creams can also help with insect bites and certain forms of allergies; please always read the label to ensure you are using the steroid product correctly and for the right thing. If in doubt, talk to a healthcare practitioner.
It’s important to know that majority of steroid creams are applied very differently to emollients:
- Apply very thinly and to just a small area
- Apply once or twice a day for a maximum of 7 days (always check the label of your product)
- Only apply to certain parts of the body and not to the face, eyes, broken or infected skin, genital areas or the bottom
- Majority have age restrictions so please check the label
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should speak to your doctor before using a steroid cream.
If your redness is still there after a week, see your doctor as you may need a different treatment.
Antihistamines can be used to help relieve certain conditions such as atopic eczema, contact dermatitis and urticaria. Ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice on taking an antihistamine that’s right for you.
Antifungal creams and ointments are available to treat athlete’s foot and ringworm. Some also contain a mild steroid to help reduce any inflammation. Consult with your pharmacist before use to ensure the product is correct for your situation.
Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if:
- Self-care treatment has not worked after a week
- If the redness is getting worse or the red area is growing bigger very quickly
- The red area is hot, swollen, painful or blistered
- You also feel unwell
- If there is a rash that doesn’t fade when you press a glass against the skin.
Self-care for red skin
Self-care can include avoiding triggers, using emollients daily to manage dry skin and taking care with your lifestyle choices.