There are lots of things that can make your cheeks hot or flushed, and if your face gets red, you may want to know why and what you can do about it.
Most of the time, you don’t need to be concerned about your face getting hot or flushed. Shaun Brancheau, DO, a family medicine doctor with Banner Health, said that facial flushing usually falls into two broad categories: an involuntary reaction from your nervous system or a widening of the blood vessels in your face.
Here are some of the things that can trigger temporary reddening in your face:
- Emotional triggers. You can become flushed when you’re embarrassed, excited, angry or stressed. If you have social anxiety disorder or generalized anxiety disorder, you may notice flushing as a symptom. Generally, when an emotional factor causes a red face, it’s called blushing. In these cases, you may notice sweating as well.
- Hormonal changes. You might notice flushing as part of the hot flashes that can come with menopause. Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy or due to hormone therapies can also lead to flushing.
- Fever. The increased body temperature you experience with a fever can make your face flushed.
- Drinking a hot drink. Your face can flush when you drink hot liquid.
- Exposure. Your face can become red when your skin is exposed to heat, sun, wind, cold or sudden temperature changes.
- Rosacea. This skin condition can make your face and cheeks flushed and red. Rosacea is more common in middle-aged women with fair skin.
- Eczema. This skin condition is common in babies. Eczema can look like flushing, but it’s actually a rash.
- Alcohol and spicy foods. When you drink alcohol or eat spicy foods like red peppers, the blood flow to your face increases. Some people are genetically more likely to get a red face, neck and chest when they drink alcohol.
- Medication. Blood pressure medicines, medications for erectile dysfunction (ED), niacin (vitamin B3), chemotherapy drugs and some antibiotics can cause flushing. Some medications will cause your face to get red if it’s exposed to the sun.
- Skincare products. Applying harsh cleansers, exfoliators or products that contain retinol could redden the skin on your face, especially if you have sensitive skin.
- Medical conditions. You may notice facial flushing if you have lupus, dermatomyositis, certain hormonal disorders, carcinoid syndrome, mastocytosis, Cushing syndrome or certain tumors.
- Allergic reactions. Contact dermatitis, where something touches your skin and irritates it, can make your face red, warm and sometimes itchy. Soaps, hair dyes, cosmetics, detergents, fragrances and latex can cause contact dermatitis.
What should you do if you have a hot, flushed face?
Treatment for flushing varies depending on what’s causing your face to feel warm and look red. “Someone in menopause would certainly be treated differently than someone having a medication side effect or a reaction to alcohol,” Dr. Brancheau said. “Some medications can treat flushing, but the most effective remedy is usually to find the underlying cause and treat it directly.”
Here are some options that can help:
- Manage your emotions. If blushing is causing your facial redness, you can learn stress management techniques and coping strategies that reduce emotional triggers. You can also try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
- Avoid temperature extremes. Protect the skin on your face from sun, wind and cold.
- Sip a cool drink or dress in layers. These steps can help if menopause or heat exposure is causing your flushing.
- Avoid alcohol, spicy food and hot drinks if you find the flushing bothersome as they will trigger it.
- Be gentle to your skin. Test and choose skincare products that aren’t harsh or irritating. Keep strong detergents and cleaners away from the skin on your face.
- Balance the redness. Cosmetic products designed to reduce redness can help.
When should you seek medical care?
A hot, flushed face usually isn’t a cause for concern. But in some situations, you should talk to your doctor. Seek care if flushing is:
- Happening, and you can’t figure out why. “Many different conditions can cause flushing and it’s not always a straightforward or easy diagnosis,” Dr. Brancheau said.
- A new symptom for you.
- Persistent, severe or interfering with your daily life.
- Frequently occurring along with anxiety.
- Associated with hot flashes, and your menopause symptoms are bothersome.
- Occurring alongside other changes. “Anytime you have flushing with other systemic symptoms such as diarrhea, weight loss, hormonal changes, rash or pain you should seek medical advice,” Dr. Brancheau said.
A health care professional can perform a physical examination, review your medical history and possibly recommend additional tests. That information can help them diagnose the cause of your facial flushing and provide appropriate treatment options.
The bottom line
From hot flashes to hot drinks, a lot of different things can make your face flushed and red. If you know what’s causing your flushing, you can take steps to avoid the triggers. If not, or if your flushing is new or is occurring alongside other symptoms, talk to your doctor. If you would like to connect with a health care professional who can help diagnose and treat facial flushing, reach out to Banner Health.