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Get The Red Out! Smart Ways To Stop Spotchiness & Even Out Skin Tone

Updated on July 9, 2011

A red nose and rosy cheeks look adorable on Santa, but it is not a great look for you. Before you go shopping for a new cover-up, you should learn why you are getting red. You may actually need more than makeup. You might have rosacea, dermatitis, or acne. If that is the case, you should see a dermatologist before forking over money on drugstore and beauty-counter remedies that promise to banish red, splotchy skin. "Most over-the-counter products overstate their ability to help," Hellman says. To get to the bottom of your skin issues and find out what can help, read on...


What it is: A chronic skin disease that causes facial redness and is estimated to affect more than 14 million people. People with fair skin are especially prone to it. "Rosacea is a result of blood-vessel abnormality in the facial vessels, which can dilate but not contract back to their normal size," Hellman says. "Hence, the increasing red color and often outright capillaries small and large." Dermatologists are still unsure of what causes it, but "what we do know about people with rosacea is that they have a lot of free radicals in their skin," says dermatologist Ted Lain, M.D., of Austin, Texas. Research from the University of California at San Diego school of medicine shows that it could be the overproduction of two interactive inflammatory proteins that results in excess levels of a third protein that causes rosacea symptoms.

Symptoms: Flushing and warming in the cheeks, nose and chin that comes and goes and varies in severity. Symptoms also include patchy dryness and broken capillaries. Also, thick skin and pustules can crop up, especially around the nose.

Triggers: "Everyone is different, New York City dermatologist Amy Wechsler, M.D., says, but sun exposure, extreme weather, stress, harsh products or scrubs, saunas and steam rooms, , exercise, spicy food, hot or alcoholic beverages, and nitrates in products such as cured meats are the most common triggers, causing blood vessels to swell and turn your face red.

M.D. Treatments: Rosacea is incurable, but can be controlled with oral or topical antibiotics such as Oracea, (doxycycline) Metro Gel, (metronnidnidazae) or Finacea. (azeliac acid topical) "Beyond that, the only way to alleviate redness is by intervention with lasers like the Pulsed Dye Laser and Fotofacial," Hellman says. Lain explains that laser treatment works "very well because it focuses on the blood vessels and makes them go away so they can't fill with any blood." Lasers can also resurface skin. Also try to identify and avoid triggers that cause redness to flare, darken, and become more persistent. 

What to look for at the drugstore: "Antioxidants mop up the free radicals and act as natural anti-inflammatories,"  Lain says.  It is essential to use gentle products.  Wechsler says, "you don't have to spend a lot of money on a cleanser.  It's not on the skin long enough to do anything, but it can do something bad if your sensitive."  Purpose and Cetaphil are gentle cleansers with a ph similar to the skin, according to some dermatologists.  Look for moisturizers with calming-ingredients such as feverfew.  "It is very soothing to skin and works in reactive skin," says dermatologist Jeannete Graf, M.D., of Great Neck, New York.


What it is: Pimples and redness.

Symptoms: Active outbreaks, excess oil, and blackheads or whiteheads.

Triggers: Hormone fluctuations, bacteria, or blocked oil glands.

M.D. Treatments: Antibiotic gels and creams get rid of bacteria, which can make pimples and skin red and inflamed. (An oral drug may be needed.) Retinoid prescription products like Retin-A (or generic tretinoin) are another good option.

What to look for at the drugstore: Over-the-counter gels, creams, and face washes with antibacterial benzoyl peroxide are also very likely to help. Dermatologists also recommend looking for salicylic acid in over-the-counter products to combat oil and clear up acne.

How to prevent and treat acne scarring


What it is: Basic irritation or allergic reaction to a substance. It can occur more easily after the long-term breakdown of the skin's moisture barrier due to harsh weather or contact with harsh ingredients or materials.

Symptoms: Localized, painful, or itchy red or pink patches; rash or dry flaking skin.

Triggers: Detergents, rough fabrics, metals, perfumes, and chemicals in topical creams. "Fluoride can cause contact dermatitis in the mouth and chin," Hellman says. Figure out your triggers and try to avoid them.

M.D. Treatments: Topical steroid creams are likely to help. Prescription medications like Tacroliums (Protopic) and Pimecromlimus (Eidel) are also proven to help cl ear up patches and prevent flare-ups. Doctors usually prescribe those medications only if other treatments don't work. Side effects of these prescriptions may include skin irritation and a burning sensation.

What to look for at the drugstore: A mild hydro-cortisone cream or ointment like Cortaid can often help calm down the inflammation and itching. Instead of buffing away dead skin cells with gritty scrubs, keep your moisture barrier intact by using a cleanser or moisturizer that gently exfoliates with lactic acid or urea, Graf says. Always use the gentlest formulas or skin-care products, and look for fragrance-free laundry detergents and cleansers to help prevent outbreaks.


What it is: Temporary, situational redness that might also be considered sensitive skin.

Symptoms: Hot or stinging short-lived redness that radiates onto cheeks and sometimes to  the neck and chest.

Triggers: Extreme weather, hot showers, overexertion, or emotions like anger or embarrassment.

M.D. Treatments: "We've been using lasers for years to reduce redness, with new technologies coming out all the time,"  Hellman says.

What to look for at the drugstore: Cooling ingredients like aloe or cucumber or a redness reducer in the licorice family.  Graf notes that a good choice may be Eucerin's Redness Relief Daily Perfecting Skin Lotion SPF 15, which contains licochalcone, and extract of licorice root.  If your skin redness is weather related, try a protective moisturizing lotion to soothe skin and create a barrier between it and the elements, Hellman says.  He likes Cera Ve Moisturizing Cream.  Be sure to stick with fragrance-free and soap-free formulas.


There are 2 main makeup approaches to redness coverup: First you can try green-tinted foundations and concealers. Red and green are optical opposites, so they neutralize each other when mixed in the right proportions, explains makeup artist Carol Wagener of Houston. A bit of green concealer or powder can counteract the red in your skin. "Any makeup with a green hue will cover red to some extent," Hellman says. She likes Dermablend concealers for severe redness. "It's a thicker and more sticky makeup that can be matched to your actual skin color and has a green-tinted version as well." Just be aware that skin can appear gray or ashy if you get too heavy-handed with green, so build your application gradually. Use your pinky finger or a small brush. Top it with whatever foundation you usually use. Consider using an allergy-tested, fragrance-free version to prevent skin reactions and more redness. Second, you can try mineral-based foundations or concealers, many of which can even out skin tone and may provide sun protection, Lain says. They don't completely cover redness, but they might prevent flare-ups in the sun and reduce inflammation. "Minerals are inert and don't cause any allergy or sensitivity, so it can't hurt to try it," Wechsler says. But products with certain ingredients, like those with high concentrations of the preservative paraben, can irritate sensitive skin. So read the labels. Small amounts of those ingredients are less likely to irritate skin; if the product has them, make sure they are far down on the list.

Bottom Line Green-tinted concealers and mineral makeup can help, but you might need to try a few different ones to find what works best for you. Be sure to check the store's return policies before you buy!



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    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 7 years ago from London, UK

      I laughed when I read the start of the Hub - Santa. lol

      I think our world is so polluted now. (especially the air in the cities) and our skin breathes more of it in. You have given a lot of useful Tips in this Hub.

      Best Wishes. :)