Quick Tips: Is It Normal for Your Face to Turn Red After Washing?


What happens when washing your face leads to an unwanted complexion consequences?“What happens when washing your face leads to an unwanted complexion consequences?iStockphoto.com/hammondovi

There are times when rosy red cheeks or a flushed forehead are perfectly normal — when your boss calls you out in a meeting and you’re embarrassingly unprepared, when you’re skiing down a mountain into the wind, or when your body temperature is elevated after a hard workout. When you’re crawling into bed at night after washing your face, however, should not be one of those times.

"If your face gets red after you wash it, something needs to be changed in your washing regimen," says Chris Adigun, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. "It’s usually a sign that you’re not being gentle enough: Either your face wash itself is too abrasive, or you’re using some kind of traumatic tool and causing irritation."

But who would willingly use a "traumatic tool" on their faces? Surprise: Many people do, unknowingly, every day. "We’ve been taught by our mothers’ generation to use a wash cloth or a loofah on our faces," says Adigun. "But this causes irritation, and can also traumatize acne — which can cause scarring and pigmentation issues."

Instead, Adigun says, you should wash your face with just a gentle cleanser, water, and your hands. Don’t choose cleansers with a lot of suds or foam (unless they’re made specifically for sensitive skin), since they can dry skin out, making redness and irritation worse. Stick to washing just twice a day (once if your skin is very dry) — unless you get really sweaty or dirty in between — and check the temperature, too: Water that’s too hot can also contribute to a feverish-looking face.

Make sure you rinse your face thoroughly after washing, suggests Diane S. Berson, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City; otherwise, residue from your cleanser can cause irritation. And apply a moisturizer to your skin while it’s still damp, to keep it from drying and cracking. (This is especially important, Berson says, if you’re on acne medication.)

If none of these strategies help to calm your face’s fiery glow, talk to your dermatologist: A bad reaction to even the gentlest cleansing could mean that you have an underlying allergy or skin condition, like rosacea, that needs professional treatment.

Originally Published: Aug 26, 2013

Red Face FAQs

What does it mean if my face is red and burns?

This could be caused by a range of factors, including allergies or using subpar facial products.

Why does my face randomly become red?

You could be in a situation that’s causing you to blush. Or it might be due to working out, feeling hot, or drinking too much alcohol. Certain medications have also been known to cause redness as a side-effect.

Why is my facial skin red and dry?

Rosacea, acne and sun damage are some of the things that cause facial redness. Using harsh chemicals on your face can also cause your skin to react. If your skin is also rough, you might want to visit a dermatologist to find out if there are any underlying issues causing it.

Why does my face have red blotches?

This might be indicative of seborrheic dermatitis, which brings about facial rashes. Skin may look dry, as a result.

Lots More Information


  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Proper skin care lays the foundation for successful acne and rosacea treatment." August 1, 2013. (August 14, 2013) http://www.aad.org/stories-and-news/news-releases/proper-skin-care-lays-the-foundation-for-successful-acne-and-rosacea-treatment-
  • Adigun, Chris, MD. Personal interview. July 10, 2013.
  • Berson, Diane, MD. Personal interview. August 13, 2013.
  • Jourdain, Sarah. "Do Certain Cleansers Cause Redness?" HowStuffWorks. (August 14, 2013) https://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/cleansing/products/cleansers-cause-redness.htm
  • Kaur, Bhupinder, MD. "Red, Burning Cheeks After Washing Face?" MedHelp.org Community. March 18, 2011. (August 13, 2013) http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Dermatology/Red–burning-cheeks-after-washing-face/show/1484467
  • Wu, Jessica, MD. "How to Wash Sensitive Skin." DailyGlow. August 15, 2011. (August 13, 2013) http://www.dailyglow.com/skin-care-tips/how-to-wash-sensitive-skin.html


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