Many of us are afflicted with patchy skin. And sometimes even red skin. We try and try to cover it up, to cure it, to make it go away. But often it just keeps coming back. So that begs the question…what actually causes skin redness?

There are many answers to this question. It depends on the person, and what the person is using topically. It depends on the skin sensitivity, any genetic factors, and exposures. So let’s go through the possible reasons why skin is red for some clients.

Technically, the main explanation for redness is an intolerance to topical products or external factors such as sun, heat, or cold. It is usually caused by an underlying condition, most commonly rosacea, atopic dermatitis, or bad habits.

“Erythema is characterized by redness of the skin or mucous membranes, caused by hyperemia of the superficial capillaries. Erythema is typically a result of the aforementioned skin conditions, skin injury, infection or inflammation. Sensitive skin conditions often present with some degree of visible redness and inflammation, which can cause clients some discomfort. Integrating topical anti-inflammatory ingredients to help combat redness will often also improve microcapillary function by suppressing the proinflammatory mediators, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), and inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines. Persistent erythema is usually a result of one or several of the following:

  • VEGF, which encourages microcapillary hyperpermeability (leakiness);
  • PGE2, which induces microcapillary dilation (capillary enlargement); and
  • Proinflammatory cytokines, the immune-activated cells involved in the amplification of inflammatory reactions.

“Ingredients with higher levels of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids act as potent anti-inflammatory agents. Specific support ingredients assist in calming and soothing the skin. These anti-inflammatory and calming ingredients include:

  • Bisabolol, which is the active component in chamomile that provides anti-inflammatory benefits;
  • Evening primrose oil as a source of omega-3 gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which provides both redness-reducing and anti-inflammatory benefits;
  • Menthyl lactate to soothe and cool irritated skin; and
  • Willow bark extract, a natural analgesic related to aspirin that also acts as a soothing and calming agent.

“Because barrier function can be greatly reduced in those suffering with a sensitive skin condition, maintaining adequate epidermal moisture is imperative. To effectively hydrate the skin, a moisturizing product must contain humectant and occlusive ingredients,” (Skin INC).