5 common causes of skin redness

A post-workout glow, or flushed cheeks when you’re embarrassed, is totally normal. But what’s going on when your skin flares up every day? It’s time to turn dermatology detective and discover the cause of your skin redness.

Is it adult acne?

Unlike terrible haircuts, we don’t grow out of everything from our teenage years. Figures show that more than 80% of adults with acne are women1 – hormonal changes during periods, pregnancy and the menopause are most likely to blame.

Spots are caused when hair follicles become blocked with excess sebum: oil produced by the skin. Certain bacteria that live on the skin can then infect the blocked follicles, leading to redness, inflammation and angry spots.

How to tackle it?

Don’t squeeze your spots; this can make them worse or lead to scarring. And make sure you use gentle cleansers – harsh soaps or scrubs can irritate your skin even further.2 Pick a soothing, acne-fighting moisturiser, too.

Look out for products that contain prebiotics, which feed ‘good’ bacteria on the skin; Manuka Doctor’s Anti-Redness Calming Moisturiser contains prebiotics from chicory root and Manuka honey. Manuka has recognised anti-bacterial activities, too.3 This all helps to rebalance the microbiota, the protective layer of microorganisms on the skin, reducing redness.

Why rosacea = redness

Rosacea triggers redness in the nose, cheeks and forehead, and tends to affect women more than men. Apart from flushed, red skin, other symptoms include spots, a burning or stinging sensation, thread veins, and dry, rough or scaly skin.4

Scientists don’t know exactly what causes rosacea but your genes, spicy food, alcohol, and microscopic skin mites could all be responsible. There’s also a theory that bacteria on your skin or in the gut could lead to rosacea.5

How to tackle rosacea

Your doctor can prescribe medicated creams or lotions to soothe red, irritated skin. Antibiotics may be helpful, but you should also avoid triggers, like caffeine or curry, that can set off an episode of flushing.6

Always use a sunscreen – UV light can trigger rosacea – and check that your skincare products contain anti-inflammatory ingredients. The Anti-Redness Gentle Cream Cleanser from Manuka Doctor contains allantoin, a natural anti-inflammatory known to relieve skin redness and cracking.7

Soothe sensitive skin

Sensitive skin isn’t a condition as such, but can be a symptom of others – hello, eczema – or an allergic reaction to certain foods, beauty products, temperature changes or even stress. Your skin can become red, dry, itchy, or break out in hives, technically called uticaria.

How to tackle sensitive skin

Stop using anything that could be causing a reaction, like a new washing powder, and take anti-histamines if needed. A weak or damaged skin barrier could be triggering sensitivity, so look for products that help repair your skin and retain moisture. Research shows beeswax, found in the Manuka Doctor Anti-Redness Gentle Cream Cleanser, can improve the skin’s barrier and boost recovery.8

Too much sunlight?

We know overdoing the sunshine is bad news. Apart from the risk of skin cancer, it can lead to rosacea, premature ageing, hyperpigmentation, and even an allergy to sunlight itself. And despite regularly applying sunscreen with at least SPF 15, occasionally we might end up with a red nose or pink shoulders.

How to tackle too much sun?

Get out of the sun and cool your skin with a damp flannel or cold shower. Then apply a soothing after-sun like aloe vera.9 Studies have found that aloe vera contains a compound called glucomannan, which boosts production of collagen and new skin cells.10 To help repair sunburnt skin, try the Manuka Doctor Anti-Redness Protective Serum, which also contains aloe vera.

Could it be contact dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema caused by an irritant or allergen, such as soap, washing-up liquid or chemicals like hair dye. These strip the skin – most often on the hands and face – of its natural oils, leaving it red, dry and itchy.11

How to tackle contact dermatitis

Stop using the irritant straight away, but if you can’t – you’re a hairdresser, for example – wear gloves to protect your skin. And after you wash your hands or face, use a moisturiser to help replenish the skin. French dermatologists discovered that  blackcurrant seed oil, used in the Manuka Doctor Anti-Redness Calming Moisturiser, can restore oils in the skin’s top layer, improving your skin barrier.12

Still not sure what’s causing your skin redness? See your GP who can arrange an allergy test, or prescribe any medication if necessary.


1 NHS. Acne – Causes. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/acne/causes/

2 British Skin Foundation. Acne. https://www.britishskinfoundation.org.uk/acne

3 Mandal MD, Mandal S. Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2011 Apr;1(2):154-60.

4 British Association of Dermatologists. Rosacea. http://www.bad.org.uk/shared/get-file.ashx?id=229&itemtype=document

5 NHS. Rosacea – Causes. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/rosacea/causes/

6 British Skin Foundation. Rosacea. https://www.britishskinfoundation.org.uk/rosacea

7 Levan P, Sternberg TH, Newcomer VD. The Use of Silicones in Dermatology. Calif Med. 1954 Sep; 81(3): 210–213. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1532133/pdf/califmed00285-0015.pdf

8 Souza C, de Freitas LAP, Maia Campos PMBG. Topical Formulation Containing Beeswax-Based Nanoparticles Improved In Vivo Skin Barrier Function. AAPS PharmSciTech. 2017 Oct;18(7):2505-2516. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1208/s12249-017-0737-x

9 NHS. Sunburn. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sunburn/

10 Hashemi SA, Madani SA, Abediankenari S. The Review on Properties of Aloe Vera in Healing of Cutaneous Wounds. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:714216. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26090436

11 British Skin Foundation. Contact dermatitis. https://www.britishskinfoundation.org.uk/contact-dermatitis

12 Brod J, Traitler H, Studer A, Lacharriere O. Evolution of lipid composition in skin treated with blackcurrant seed oil. Int J Cosmet Sci. 1988 Aug;10(4):149-59. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-2494.1988.tb00014.x