What causes a red face?

A red face caused by strong emotions, such as anger, anxiety or embarrassment, is called blushing. Some people tend to blush more easily than others.

A red face can also be caused by a variety of diseases, disorders and conditions that include skin conditions, allergies, inflammation, infections, and dietary habits.

Skin conditions that can cause a red face

A red face may be caused by skin conditions including:

  • Acne (bumps formed by clogged oil glands)

  • Eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis; a common, chronic skin condition marked by itching, inflammation, redness and swelling of the skin

  • Rosacea (chronic inflammatory skin disorder)

Allergic and inflammatory causes of a red face

A red face may be caused by allergic reactions and inflammatory conditions including:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis, such as an allergy to a face cream or face wash

  • Allergy to an oral medication, food, or insect bite

  • Burns

  • Hypersensitivity vasculitis or allergic vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels often caused by an allergy to a medication)

  • Irritant contact dermatitis, which can be caused by poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac

  • Respiratory allergies

  • Sunburn

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues, causing inflammation)

  • Toxic epidermal necrolysis (skin and mucosal loss due to a severe medication reaction)

Infectious causes of a red face

A red face may be caused by infections including:

  • Cellulitis (invasive bacterial infection of the skin and surrounding tissues)

  • Fifth disease (viral disease that causes a slapped cheek appearance)

  • Impetigo (bacterial skin infection)

  • Scarlet fever (infection caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria causing a red rash on the body and face)

Other causes of a red face

A red face may be caused by other diseases, disorders and conditions that include:

  • Alcohol consumption or alcoholism

  • Carcinoid tumor

  • Chapping from wind, cold or heat

  • Consumption of spicy or hot foods

  • Coughing or choking

  • Emotions, such as embarrassment, anxiety and anger

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • Menopause and hot flashes

  • Stress

  • Use of certain medications, such as vitamin B3 and certain drugs used to treat cardiovascular disease and diabetes

Questions for diagnosing the cause of a red face

To diagnose the underlying cause of a red face, your doctor or licensed health care provider will ask you questions about your symptoms. You can best help your health care provider in diagnosing the underlying cause of a red face by providing complete answers to these questions:

  • How long have you had a red face?

  • Do you have other symptoms, such as fever or pain?

  • Before or while you experienced a red face, was the temperature hot?

  • Have you recently begun eating a new type of food or using a new type of cosmetic item on your skin?

  • How much alcohol do you drink? What medications are you taking and how long have you been taking them?

  • What other symptoms do you have?

What are the potential complications of a red face?

A red face can be caused by a serious underlying disease, disorder or condition, such as anaphylactic shock, alcoholism, and infection. Complications of untreated or poorly managed diseases, disorders or conditions can be serious and life threatening. In addition, appearance has significant importance in our society; a red face can greatly impact self-image and self-esteem. Follow the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce your risk of complications including:

  • Coma

  • Complications of alcoholism or alcohol abuse, including cirrhosis of the liver, cardiovascular disease, neurological disease, and cancer

  • Embarrassment, stress or anxiety

  • Low self-image and self-esteem

  • Permanent scarring or skin discoloration

  • Respiratory arrest from anaphylactic shock

  • Septicemia (blood infection) and sepsis (life-threatening, body-wide inflammatory reaction to infection)

  • Shock and coma

  • Spread of infection


  1. Allergic vasculitis. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001877/.
  2. Allergies. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001815#adam_000812.disease.treatment. Accessed May 3, 2011Skin blushing/flushing. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003241.htm.
  3. How does lupus affect the skin? Lupus Foundation of America. http://www.lupus.org/webmodules/webarticlesnet/templates/new_empty.aspx?articleid=453&zoneid=76.
  4. Skin Rashes and Other Changes. FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/tools/symptom/545.html
  5. What is Fifth Disease? Fifthdisease.org. http://www.fifthdisease.org/.

What is a red face?

A red face is a condition in which you have redness, blushing or flushing of the face. It can be temporary and last just a few moments, or it can be present for days, weeks or months at a time.

... Read more about red faceintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with a red face?

A red face can occur with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that may occur with a red face include:

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 8, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases

Popular Infections and Contagious Diseases Slide Shows