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If you have acne, there are a few diff reasons you might be dealin’ with redness. Here’s the scoop on potential causes and treatments — plus bonus tips for covering up and preventing acne breakouts.
Oh, acne. If it’s not a new painfully swollen zit, it’s discoloration from an old pimple-popping sesh.
About four out of five people ages 12 to 24 have some sort of acne. If you’re one of the many, you might wonder how to get rid of the redness that tags along with acne. Fear not, friends. We’ve got the deets on nixing irritation and covering zits until your skin calms down for good.
So, why exactly does your face have that chronic flush?
Zits = redness
There are different types of acne. The inflammatory kind is characterized by swollen, red papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts.
Inflamed zits are the most common cause of acne redness. The same inflammation that makes a budding pimple feel warm and tender also causes it to look pink, red, or purple — all depending on your skin color.
Rosacea breakouts = redness
Sometimes rosacea masquerades as acne. But though rosacea can trigger acne-like breakouts, the two skin conditions are not the same.
Signs of rosacea:
- chronic flushing that ranges from red to dusky brown, depending on your skin color
- discoloration primarily around the nose and chin (versus forehead, jawline, back, or allll the other places acne loves to pop up)
- visible blood vessels
If you think your redness might be caused by rosacea rather than adult acne, talk with a dermatologist. They can help you pinpoint a diagnosis and treatment options.
Some scarring = redness
As if angry red zits aren’t enough, sometimes breakouts leave a lasting mark. And it’s not always cuz you picked at your zit (please don’t do that)!
Acne scars are common — all skin has texture, after all — but not everyone loves the reddish or purple reminder of The Great Breakout of 2021. If your acne scars are still red after weeks or months, one of the treatments below could help.
Some acne treatments = redness
Unfortunately, some acne treatments can exacerbate skin irritation. We’re talking redness, dryness, and peeling.
Talk with a dermatologist if you think your acne treatment is flaming your cheeks. They can help you dial in on a treatment that’ll strike a healthy balance for your skin.
Wanna put the kibosh on that facial flush? Here are some tips for calming redness from acne.
- Be gentle. That means opting for skin care products designed for sensitive or acne-prone skin. Just say no to that harsh toner or irritating scrub.
- Keep it clean. Get yourself a super-simple, fragrance-free, noncomedogenic cleanser to combat redness-inducing breakouts. Use it to gently wash away dirt, oil, and makeup just twice a day. Over-cleansing can irritate skin and strip nourishing oils (which can actually make acne worse).
- Smooth on the moisturizer. Opt for lightweight, noncomedogenic lotions. Bonus points if it contains gentle, hydrating niacinamide. It might sound counterintuitive, but moisturizing acne-prone skin helps ward off the overproduction of oils and protect your skin barrier.
- Apply ice. Cover an ice pack with a clean cloth, then hold it to the reddened area for up to 10 minutes. This is particularly helpful for active breakouts or rosacea flares. (Note: Ice and extreme cold can trigger rosacea flares for some, so talk with a healthcare pro before trying this one.)
- Use a pimple patch. These handy-dandy stickers mask angry, red zits *and* promote healing with ingredients like nourishing niacinamide and antimicrobial salicylic acid.
- Try salicylic acid. There’s nothing like salicylic acid treatments for active breakouts. This ingredient also promotes peeling, which can help fade red acne scars. (Just make sure to use it sparingly to avoid irritation.)
- Use sunscreen. No one wants sunburn on top of a breakout. Applying sunscreen also helps prevent premature wrinkles and skin cancer.
- Eat soothing foods. Play the long game by nourishing your body with anti-inflammatory foods. This won’t bring quick relief, but it could help your body fight off acne-causing inflammation.
Got severe acne, dark acne scars, or rosacea? You might see results faster with a bit of help from the pros.
If over-the-counter treatments aren’t soothing redness from acne, make an appointment with a board certified dermatologist.
Pro-level treatments include:
- prescription gels, creams, or serums
- chemical peels
- laser therapy
- anti-inflammatory drugs or topicals for rosacea
Sometimes makeup irritates acne. But you can cover up acne-induced redness if you opt for high quality products with noncomedogenic ingredients.
Here’s how to apply makeup to an active breakout or red acne scars:
- Use a gentle toner and/or cleanser to sweep away excess oils or dirt. (Note: You can skip toner if you have sensitive skin — it can be drying or irritating for some.)
- Moisturize the skin with a lightweight, noncomedogenic face moisturizer or water-based primer. This helps create a smooth canvas for the rest of your makeup.
- Dab a green color corrector (for pinkness or redness) or yellow color corrector (for a blue or purple tint) to the top of the pimple or scar. Gently tap to blend the color corrector around the discoloration.
- Apply a teensy amount of full coverage liquid foundation to a makeup sponge or stippling brush. Dab the foundation on gently to avoid smearing the color corrector.
- If the discoloration is still noticeable, add a tiny bit of liquid concealer where necessary.
- Lightly blot your face with a tissue to remove excess makeup.
- Apply a light dusting of powder foundation or setting powder.
- Mist your face with a finishing spray to set the lewk.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to preventing zits for life. That’s especially true if your acne is caused by internal factors (hormones, anyone?) rather than external irritants.
But peeps with acne-prone skin can prevent some breakouts with these tips:
- Hands off the acne. Avoid picking or popping pimples. It’ll introduce bacteria to an already-irritated environment.
- Clean the stuff that touches your face. Regularly swipe your phone screen with an alcohol wipe. And be sure to clean headphones, face masks, and pillowcases.
- Vet your hair and skin care products. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you should opt for oil-free and noncomedogenic products.
- Stay hydrated. Not only will this help you feel better and more energetic, but drinking up can help encourage wound healing.
- Squash stress. Science says stress and acne are linked. Here’s a solid reason to take a bubble bath, try meditation, or pick up yoga!
- Develop a solid skin care routine. Start with a gentle cleanser (morning and night!), daily sunscreen, an oil-free moisturizer, and a weekly chemical exfoliant (skip anything granular or abrasive — and skip if you have sensitive skin). It’s all about that TLC, baby.
It doesn’t sound sexy or glam, but good old-fashioned skin care is the best way to protect your skin from environmental damage. Proper skin care sets you up for success when it comes to acne, aging, and major probs like skin cancer.
- Protect yourself from UV rays. Come rain or shine, you should pamper your skin with a quality broad-spectrum sunscreen. For the best results, go for a mineral sunscreen with SPF 30+.
- Nourish your skin from the inside out. Nosh on skin-loving foods like salmon (omega-3s!), nuts (healthy fat!), kale (good ol’ vitamin A), and colorful fruits and veggies (hello, antioxidants!).
- Stay hydrated. Drinking water is only the first step. You should also avoid drying your skin with tanning beds, extended sun exposure, harsh products, and long hot showers.
How do you get rid of acne redness fast?
The fastest way to get rid of acne redness is to cover it up with makeup. Use green color corrector for pink or red skin and yellow concealer for purple skin.
Aside from masking the redness, you can try cooling inflamed skin with an ice pack or using a gentle cleanser, cooling toner, and noncomedogenic moisturizer.
How long does it take for redness to go away from acne?
This depends on the reason for the redness.
- Redness from an active acne breakout should fade as the pimples heal (within a week or two).
- Redness from acne scarring might take several weeks to fade.
- Redness from rosacea might require treatment from a dermatologist.
- Redness triggered by an acne treatment could disappear within days if the treatment is stopped.
What products are best for reducing redness from acne?
There are many products designed to target redness from acne. What works best for you depends on the cause of your acne, skin type, and more.
A few great products:
- Peach & Lily Peach Slices Acne Spot Dots (best for inflamed pimples)
- EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 (best for red acne scars)
- BIODERMA Sensibio AR Visible Redness Reducing Care (best for rosacea redness)
- SkinBetter Science AlphaRet Overnight Cream (best soothing cream for reaction-based redness)