Flushing in the face is a result of blood rushing to the surface of the skin and this in itself can have many different causes. Often we associate flushing of the face with emotion, and in particular embarrassment which leads to many awkward situations in which we are accused of being embarrassed when we are in fact just cold or experiencing an allergic reaction (and the unfortunate irony is of course that this will then cause embarrassment resulting in a vicious cycle that sees you ever reddening until you resemble a tomato).
Here we will aim to better understand the causes of flushing in the face, and help you to use this knowledge to bring it back under your control.
Causes of Flushing in the Face
Any emotion that is a form of 'excitement' can result in flushing in the face. This includes embarrassment yes, but it also encompasses anger, fear, lust or anything else that gets our 'blood pumping'. That's precisely what our blood is doing in these situations you see – pumping – as a result of the 'fight or flight' response our body secretes adrenaline resulting in a faster and more powerful heartbeat as well as a dilation of the blood vessels. This means that there is more pressure in your veins which are now also carrying more blood. Much of this blood is going up toward the brain and as we have relatively thin skin around our faces this results in our cheeks reddening.
The best way to combat this effect? Of course to simply try to calm down. It's easier said than done, but if you can control your breathing then this should help you to bring your heart rate back under control and this in turn will ensure that blood is pumped less forcefully into your face.
Temperature can cause reddening in the face as the body tried to regulate your temperature. When we get very cold we go blue and that's because blood is rushing to our internal organs to protect them and keep them warm. Conversely though, if we get too hot then our blood will be directed externally to try and cool us back down. While being cool generally turns us blue rather than red though, cold winds against the face can sometimes have the adverse effect bringing the blood to the surface as though you'd been slapped creating a flushed and blotched appearance. Be sure then to take care of your temperature – to remove layers as you get hot and to carry a fan or some cold water, and to wrap up warmly in a scarf when venturing outside into blustery weather.
An allergic reaction to face cream, detergent or even the cold itself can result in flushing in the face. This occurs due to a histamine reaction which rushes blood to the site of the perceived toxin in order to try and flush it out and combat it.
If you have high blood pressure then this can result in chronic flushing in the face. High blood pressure can be caused by various things – such as cholesterol which is fatty deposits clogging our veins and arteries. This essentially thins the space available in the blood vessels thereby increasing blood pressure. Thus the heart pumps harder and blood is forced closer to the surface resulting in us looking redder.
Exercise increases the heart rate and this increases blood pressure. This occurs because the body demands more energy which requires oxygen to be carried to fat stores and glucose to be carried to the muscles where it can be converted into ATP. This means blood needs to circulate faster, but as a result this makes us go red in the face.
A range of hormones can cause flushing in the face. This is associated for instance with pregnancy and menopause where it is often accompanied by intense body heat and is known as a 'hot flush' or 'flash'. This is partly due to high sodium levels, and increased intake of salt may help, as well as the use of hormone replacement therapies.
Obesity is also a cause for chronic flushing. This occurs as a result of increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and poorer circulation. In the short term exercise might cause flushing, but in the long term bouts of exercise coupled with a good diet high in fiber and low in fat will result in a much better skin tone.
Though alcohol is a depressant rather than a stimulant, anyone who has consumed more than their fair share on a night out knows it also causes redness in the face. The reason for this is that alcohol contributes to dilation of the blood vessels, and often this is exacerbated by other ingredients in alcoholic beverages such as congeners.
If you experience flushing in the face often and find it embarrassing then there are various ways to manage it. As we have discovered here, flushing is usually to do with circulation and increased heart rate, and this in turn is controlled by our physical exertion, our fitness and our emotions. By keeping our heart rate low through a healthy lifestyle and relaxation techniques we can prevent excess flushing.
However if you have very pale skin then you might find that even with these measures you are still particularly prone to flushing. Some counter measures that address the symptoms rather than the cause then would be to use some foundation as a girl or fake tan to make the skin appear darker. You should also make sure to keep something to hand to help cool yourself down such as a hand-held fan or a bottle of water with ice in it. By swilling this around the cheeks you can help to cool yourself down and reduce your facial reddening.