How to Treat Erythema (a.k.a. Skin Redness)
If you visit your dermatologist, there’s a good chance they’ll mention the word “erythema” during the appointment. While it may sound serious, it’s actually just the technical term for skin redness, which is just as common as acne, dry skin or an oily T-zone. But even though it’s common, skin redness can be annoying and sometimes tricky to treat.
To learn what causes erythema and the best ways to address it, we sat down with Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist and Skincare.com consultant. Keep reading for the full breakdown.
What Causes Erythema?
According to Dr Zeichner, the three most common causes of erythema are rosacea, physiological flushing and eczema. Determining what kind of erythema you have can only be done by your dermatologist, so if you have unexplained face redness, you should make an appointment to solve the issue.
How to Treat Erythema
Once your cause of erythema has been diagnosed, your path of treatment relies heavily on the type you have. For example, Dr. Zeichner notes that physiological flushing doesn’t really respond to treatment because it's caused by the dilation of blood vessels from an emotional response. “It often happens when we become embarrassed — and unfortunately, is very difficult to treat,” he adds.
On the other hand, erythema that’s caused by tangible skin conditions, like rosacea or eczema, have very targeted treatments. “If you have rosacea, your skin is extra sensitive to the environment and overly reactive to triggers such as spicy foods, hot weather, emotional stress and red wine,” he says. There are two steps to treating rosacea: first, repairing the skin barrier, and second, reducing inflammation with calming topical agents.
“For erythema caused by eczema, stay away from potentially irritating ingredients like hydroxy acids, and ingredients that may lead to allergies like fragrances,” says Dr. Zeichner. If you have an allergy or irritation from outside sources, the redness will have a distinct pattern that should be easily recognizable.
What to Avoid if You Have Erythema
Like many other skin conditions, there are certain ingredients and products you may want to stay away from if you have erythema of any kind. “Avoid manual and chemical exfoliation,” says Dr. Zeichner. “You also want to avoid any potentially irritating ingredients — from retinol to hydroxy acids — and if you’re very sensitive, vitamin C can even lead to irritation.” Sticking to fragrance-free products is also an excellent idea for those with erythema.
What to Include in Your Erythema Skincare Routine
A regimen for erythema is key, according to Dr. Zeichner. But regardless of what causes your skin redness, he recommends sticking to gentle, hydrating cleansers. “Make sure to moisturize, too,” he says. “And always choose a mineral-based sunscreen that contains ingredients like zinc oxide to help protect the skin.” Both the Thayers pH Balancing Cleanser and the CeraVe Hydrating Sunscreen SPF 30 are great options to incorporate into your routine.
If your redness is not improving, visit your dermatologist for evaluation. “There are some uncommon underlying medical conditions that may be associated with red facial rashes, so you want to make sure that you are properly diagnosed and treated.”
Photo: Chaunte Vaughn