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Why is My Face Red After Washing It?

Woman celebrating a clear face

Are red cheeks and a flushed forehead a common occurrence for you after washing your face? If so, you might need to switch something up (or down) in your cleansing regime. 

While there are times when a flushed face is normal – after a heavy workout, for example – your morning cleansing routine doesn't need to be one of them. If you've tried to reduce or eliminate the problem only to find your redness gets worse, here's some expert advice to help you to turn down the color and spare your blushes. 

What is Skin Redness? 

Lots of things can turn your skin red, including an allergic reaction or acne. Skin redness can also be caused by extra blood rushing to the skin's surface to encourage healing and fight off irritants or when your boss asked you to produce that report you've forgotten in the middle of a packed meeting room. 

Allergic reactions and embarrassment aside, when skin redness occurs after you've washed your face, it's time to look into the products or cleansing techniques you’re using. Whether you suffer from a skin condition already, and it's being made worse after cleansing, or your redness seemingly appears out of nowhere, making changes to your cleansing regime is the easiest first step to calm and balance skin.  

Washing Your Face with Hot Water

Washing your face in water that’s too hot is a common cause of skin redness. You want a refreshed, clean face, why not go hot? 

First off, too much heat can cause damage to your skin and strip it of its natural moisture barrier. When the hot water hits your skin, whether directly or via a facecloth, tiny blood vessels under the skin's surface dilate and give the skin a flushed and red appearance. If you suffer from rosacea, the problem could be made even worse. 

Remedy: Use lukewarm to warm water on your skin. While hot water may feel great and like it’s doing your skin some good, it has no better cleansing powers than lukewarm water and could leave your skin red for a while. Either turn your hot showers down a notch or wash your face over the sink using cooler water. A splash of cold water at the end of your cleansing routine can also be great for the skin and is known to close pores. 

Exfoliating Too Frequently 

Exfoliating your skin is a great way to keep it clean, clear, and smooth. However, when you exfoliate too frequently you might be doing more harm than good. Exfoliating products by their very nature and the ingredients in them are designed to remove dead skin cells from the top layer of your skin. Over-exfoliation can be harsh on the newer skin revealed beneath and cause redness and irritation. Some exfoliating products also contain harsh (but effective) ingredients, such as AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) or BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids) that could cause redness in some people. 

Remedy: Dermatologists recommend that you only exfoliate two to three times a week max. If your skin is still red, reduce this frequency to once a week. Try products that contain natural exfoliators such as apricot or walnut kernels. Some toners also have exfoliating properties and will mention this on the label. And above all, make sure to be gentle.

Acne-Related Redness

If you suffer from acne, your face redness could come down to a condition known as post-inflammatory erythema (PIE). And yes, it's all about to those pesky dilated blood vessels again. Your skin can also become red if you use an acne treatment or cleanser that’s too harsh. Aggressively picking at breakouts can also cause redness that stays long after the infection has gone. 

Remedy: Use a gentle cleansing milk or cleanser specially designed for acne-prone skin. Follow with a post-breakout fading gel or spot treatment. These actively lighten and brighten the skin, fading red or purple scars and lifting discoloration overall. Interestingly, products that contain white tea extract can be effective. 

Harsh Ingredients in Your Skincare Regime

If you have sensitive skin or a skin condition that already leaves your skin vulnerable to redness, it's time to check your medicine cabinet. The products you use in your skincare regime could be making your redness worse due to their ingredients. Alcohol, for example, is common in skincare products but can damage the skin's protective barrier and dry out the skin.

Remedy: Cleansers and toners that contain alcohol as one of the main ingredients should be avoided. Look out for cleansing products that contain natural ingredients that are soothing to the skin and which won't cause further aggravation and irritation. Moisturizing with a cleansing milk and following with a gentle toner should help to keep redness at bay. 

You're Overusing Makeup Wipes

While pre-moistened makeup wipes are a great quick fix and makeup remover, they can leave behind a residue that can lead to breakouts and redness. Even wipes that say they are gentle can contain alcohol and other ingredients that can inflame and irritate the skin. If you're using these wipes often and experiencing skin redness every time, it could be time to wipe these products from your cleansing routine. 

Remedy: Okay, the beauty world once again has you covered with a product designed just for you. No-residue cleansing cloths are designed to lather with water and infuse your skin with essential hydrating oils. They cleanse, close pores and moisturize in one, and are super gentle on your skin. 

Your Skin is Squeaky Clean

We're often told that squeaky clean skin is ultra-clean skin, but it could be the source of your redness. When skin is too clean, it can be stripped of all of its natural oils. This causes the complexion to become dry, irritated, and flushed. Once the skin's barrier is compromised like this, your skin could start to feel scaly and itchy, too. If you're cleansing your skin using lots of different products, harsh abrasive cloths, or you're cleansing too many times a day, you could be doing more harm than good. 

Remedy: Stick with a face wash that is packed with hydrating ingredients that you can use often without stripping the natural oils from your face. Look out for ingredients like shea butter, glycerin, water essences, and grape seed extract. Hydrating cleansers are great at removing makeup, dirt, and pollutants and moisturizing the skin in one.

You're Ignoring Your Sensitive Skin

If your skin flares up at the slightest thing or without warning, you could just have sensitive skin. The best thing to do? Embrace it and care for it. You may also be suffering from skin conditions that cause redness such as rosacea. Recognizing that you have a skin condition can help you to seek out the products that have been specially formulated to help you. Here's where the beauty world may let you down a little. According to research, 50 percent of women say they have sensitive skin and yet only 11 percent of cleansers purport to address this concern. 

Remedy: Avoid products that make the problem worse, such as abrasive exfoliators or cleansers that contain alcohol. Also, look out for pH-neutral products that will help to balance your skin's pH levels. 

Don't Let Redness Spoil Your Day

If you've lived with facial redness for years, the good news is that there are solutions. From choosing gentle products and exfoliating less to using lukewarm water and choosing skincare products to suit specific skin types and conditions, show your skin who's boss and step out with a balanced and radiant complexion. 

Personalized guidance is a must for people with tough-to-beat skin conditions, and a dermatologist can help. At Nava MD, we specialize in dermatology done online, with formulations specific to your situation prescribed virtually and delivered to your doorstep if approved. 

It’s easy and affordable. Click here to learn more.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency