What are the Causes of Facial Flushing?

Lainie Petersen

Facial flushing, or redness about the face, can be a normal response to physical or emotional changes; a reaction to certain foods, drinks, or medicines; or even a symptom of a medical disorder. Most people experience facial flushing at some point in their lives, and it is not normally a problem. For those who suffer from chronic facial flushing, cosmetics, medications, or even surgery may offer relief.

Heat exposure may cause facial flushing.
Heat exposure may cause facial flushing.

In some cases, facial redness is a symptom of a more serious condition. A butterfly-shaped facial rash sometimes afflicts those who suffer from lupus, an autoimmune disorder that causes joint pain and fatigue. The first symptoms of rosacea, a skin condition characterized by facial redness, pimples, and visible veins, usually include facial flushing. While lifestyle changes such as avoiding trigger foods and extremes in temperature are suggested to rosacea sufferers to control symptoms, many eventually require the use of prescription drugs or laser surgery to address facial redness.

Spicy foods, like some types of chili, can cause facial flushing in some people.
Spicy foods, like some types of chili, can cause facial flushing in some people.

Many people blush, or turn red, when embarrassed or uncomfortable. Others experience facial flushing when experiencing a range of strong emotions, particularly sexual arousal or anger. The flushing is caused by a release of adrenaline, which triggers facial redness. Likewise, hormonal changes during pregnancy or menopause can cause women to experience facial redness. Some medications and dietary supplements, such as those containing niacin, can cause temporary flushing in those who use them.

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Those with sensitive skin should use mild facial care products to prevent redness.
Those with sensitive skin should use mild facial care products to prevent redness.

Facial flushing is often a symptom of many types of food allergies and sensitivities. It is particularly common in those who are sensitive to monosodium glutamate (MSG), a popular food additive, or spicy foods such as chili peppers. Facial blood vessel dilation can also be caused by exercise, heat exposure, and alcohol consumption. In fact, alcohol can contribute significantly to facial flushing if consumed while a sufferer is eating triggering foods or using certain medications. A facial rash may develop in those who are sensitive to ingredients in skin care products or cosmetics.

Flushing can be caused by side effects of prescription drugs.
Flushing can be caused by side effects of prescription drugs.

Individuals who cannot identify the cause of their facial flushing may want to speak to a doctor about their concerns. A medical examination, including allergy testing, can either confirm or rule out allergies or reactions to medication. If rosacea or lupus is diagnosed, treatment can begin to help alleviate symptoms and address the condition. A doctor can also suggest remedies or ways to manage flushing so that it doesn't cause undue embarrassment or discomfort.

Drinking alcohol can contribute to facial flushing.
Drinking alcohol can contribute to facial flushing.
Sexual arousal can cause facial flushing.
Sexual arousal can cause facial flushing.
Harsh skin care products can cause facial rashes.
Harsh skin care products can cause facial rashes.

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Discussion Comments

anon1000849

I have dealt with this all my life. It's always something my body has done. It is related to food intolerances and an autoimmune condition for me. It is bizarre over the years how side chair "medical" coworkers and teachers while growing up thought it was emotional and then tried to anger, embarrass, or upset me to make me flush. It is quite cruel and not appreciated. So in addition to my actual health challenges, I have had to endure people treating me poorly to try to induce my flushing symptom.

I notice the symptom in people and it's often more from food than people realize, but the rest of the world still thinks it's mood. If it lasts a moment it's a blush related to mood etc. If it occurs during eating and in the window period after, it's food. Most of all don't deliberately try to expose someone to an allergan, or emotionally harm them to create a flush. Just wrong.

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