A Guide to Skin Redness

Medically Reviewed By Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI

Many factors, including injuries, infections, and underlying conditions like rosacea or eczema, can cause skin redness. Depending on the underlying cause, you may also experience itching, pain, or burning. Though your doctor may be able to determine the cause of skin redness from a physical examination and an assessment of your medical history, they may also need additional testing. Your treatment plan will vary depending on the underlying cause.

This article discusses possible causes of skin redness. It also covers the diagnostic process and potential treatments.

Skin redness may be difficult to see on dark skin tones. Instead, it may look darker red, brown, or purple. This article uses “skin redness” and “skin discoloration” interchangeably to account for different skin tones.

Injuries

A person with facial redness looking in a mirror
blackCAT/Getty Images

Skin redness may develop as a result of an injury. For example, a common cause of skin redness is sunburn, which is an inflammatory skin reaction to UV radiation from the sun or devices like sun lamps.

Other injuries can contribute to skin redness, including:

  • other burns, such as a chemical burn or a burn from touching a flame
  • heat rash
  • stings or bites from insects or animals
  • scrapes or cuts

Depending on the cause, you may experience other signs or symptoms and skin discoloration. For example, if you were stung by an insect, you may also notice a raised bump and itchiness.

Other signs and symptoms may include:

  • pain
  • blistering
  • burning
  • broken skin
  • bleeding

Learn more about skin sores and lesions.

Infections

Infections may also cause skin redness. These infections may be:

Depending on the cause, you may also experience signs or symptoms such as:

Learn more about skin infections.

Allergies

An allergic reaction to factors such as plants, medications, or food may cause your skin to become red and irritated, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

For example, some people develop an itchy, discolored rash when they come into contact with poison ivy or oak. If you’re allergic to a component in a medication, such as penicillin, you may also notice skin discoloration.

Allergic reactions may be severe Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , leading to a condition called anaphylaxis that may cause signs and symptoms like:

Learn more about the difference between sensitive skin and an allergic reaction.

Underlying skin conditions

Numerous underlying skin conditions may also cause skin discoloration alongside other signs and symptoms. These conditions include:

Depending on the condition you have, you may also notice:

  • raised plaques of skin
  • flaking
  • dryness
  • cracking
  • itching
  • bleeding
  • burning
  • pain
  • skin thickening

Learn more about skin symptoms to never ignore.

Pictures

View the slideshow below to see a few pictures of common causes of skin redness.

1-389576-gettyimages-482265367-crop-sunburn-300x169.jpg

Sunburns are a common cause of skin redness. Your skin may also feel warm and painful.

Photography by PeterTG/Getty Images

2-389576-cellulitis-body6-300x169.jpg

Cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection, may cause warmth and swelling in addition to discoloration.

Photography by Shutterstock

3-389576-shutterstock-2301474399-300x169.jpg

Allergic reactions can cause skin redness and itching.

Photography by Shutterstock

4-389576-rosacea-rhinophyma-body3-300x169.jpg

In addition to facial redness, rosacea may cause skin thickening or bumps.

Copyright © 2017 Joanna S. Saade et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License

How do doctors diagnose the cause of skin redness?

Your doctor may be able to diagnose the cause of skin redness with a physical exam and an evaluation of your symptoms and medical history. For example, if your skin’s symptoms started after exposure to chemicals, your doctor may provide a chemical burn diagnosis without further testing.

If the cause is unclear, your doctor may order tests to narrow down a diagnosis, including:

  • skin biopsy, which involves taking a small skin sample for analysis
  • blood tests
  • allergy tests

What are the treatments for skin redness?

Treatments for skin redness can vary widely depending on the underlying cause. For example, minor injuries may heal on their own. For people with allergies, it may be enough to avoid allergens to manage and prevent skin rashes.

For other conditions, medical treatment may be necessary. For example, bacterial infections may require antibiotics. You may need Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source  topical or systemic medications to manage your symptoms for chronic skin conditions like psoriasis.

Your doctor will create a treatment plan for your situation.

What is the outlook for people with skin redness?

The outlook for people with skin redness depends on the cause. Some conditions, like sunburns or insect stings, are temporary. Other conditions, like scabies, will resolve with medical treatment.

However, some conditions may be chronic, such as eczema or psoriasis. Though their symptoms may go away for a time, these conditions have no cure and can require long-term management.

When should you see a doctor about skin redness?

Contact your doctor if you have skin redness that is severe, persistent, or worsening. Also, seek immediate medical care if you have other concerning symptoms like severe pain or difficulty breathing.

A prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment is the best way to manage skin redness.

Learn more about 7 other health conditions that affect the skin.

Summary

Many factors, including infections, allergies, and chronic skin conditions, can cause skin redness. Your doctor can confirm a diagnosis and provide the appropriate treatment.

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Medical Reviewer: Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI
Last Review Date: 2023 Sep 18
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.