While blushing might make you feel self-conscious, it’s a very common response to emotional stress.
Facing any kind of threat, including embarrassing situations, can activate your body’s fight-flight-freeze response. When this happens, your nervous system sends signals that result in several physical changes, including increased heart rate and heightened senses.
Another change that happens? The blood vessels in your face widen, allowing for more blood to flow through them. This increased blood flow can make your cheeks look red and feel warm.
While most people find that blushing only adds to their embarrassment, those rosy cheeks may serve an important function.
Older research from 2009 suggested that blushing, particularly after a social mishap, is a display of appeasement, or trying to keep the peace. In a nutshell, blushing might help you save face in uncomfortable situations by subtly signaling to the other person that you mean no harm.
But that doesn’t mean you need to just accept being a blusher. Read on for tips and tricks to prevent blushing or make it less noticeable.
The key to stop your blushing on the spot is to slow down and try to relax your body. If you feel major blushing coming on, try these tips.
Breathe deeply and slowly
Taking slow, deep breaths can help relax the body enough to slow down or stop blushing. Because blushing occurs when the body is stressed, the key to reducing blushing is to decrease the amount of stress you’re experiencing.
Smiling — even if you’re stressed or embarrassed — may trick your body into believing it’s less stressed, according to researchers.
Blushing tends to happen more intensely when you’re warm rather than cool. If you feel a blush coming on, take off some layers of clothing or move to a cooler place.
Make sure you’re hydrated
Drinking lots of water can help keep blushing at bay. Cool or cold water tends to help best. You can even try to prevent blushing by drinking something cool or cold before a stressful event.
When reaching for a drink, you may want to skip the alcohol, which can cause facial redness in some people, particularly those of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean descent or those with rosacea.
Think of something funny
Distracting yourself from the blushing can sometimes make it easier to cope with it. Try to think of something that’ll make you laugh. This will make you smile, which can relax your body and fade the blushing.
Acknowledge the blushing
Many people who blush tend to worry a lot about blushing. Acknowledging that you’re prone to blushing or that you’re actively blushing can sometimes help you feel more prepared to cope with it.
If you can come to peace with blushing, you might even blush less.
Avoid blushing triggers
Some people who blush have specific triggers that make them more prone to blushing. For example, people with rosacea or people going through menopause should try to avoid long exposure to sunlight, caffeine, and spicy foods.
Wearing green color-correcting makeup can hide blushing better than other colors.
It can be helpful to apply a green-colored moisturizer or other makeup product to camouflage the redness on your cheeks if you know you’ll have to experience a stressful situation, such as a presentation or a meeting.
Close your eyes for a minute or two
Pretend, for a moment, that the person or people around you who may be judging you for blushing don’t exist. This can relax you enough to the point that it prevents blushing or helps it fade.
Temporarily avoid eye contact
If you’re feeling like you’re being judged about blushing, avoid making eye contact with the person or people who are making you feel uncomfortable.
Just as with the previous tip, this tip can help you relax enough, so the blushing either never begins or fades away.
In addition to the various ways you can stop blushing in the short term, there are some long-term lifestyle fixes you can make to help keep blushing at bay.
There are no medications for blushing approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, if frequent bouts of anxiety cause your blushing, talk with your doctor about treatment with medication to manage the underlying issue.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
If fear of blushing worsens your blushing, it may be helpful to try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This kind of talk therapy can help change unhelpful and unrealistic thinking about blushing.
If your blushing is so severe that it’s detrimental to your quality of life and other treatments haven’t helped, you may consider getting endoscopic thoracic surgery (ETS).
This surgery involves cutting the nerves that cause the facial blood vessels to dilate or open. This keeps the blood vessels mostly closed, preventing blushing from happening.
Most people are satisfied by the results of ETS. However, in some cases, long-term complications, such as excessive sweating, surgical infections, and eyelid drooping, may occur.
Blushing typically isn’t a cause for a medical concern, but facial redness can sometimes be a symptom of something else, like:
- endocrine disorders, such as Cushing’s syndrome or hyperthyroidism
- carcinoid syndrome
Certain medications may also cause redness on the face or other parts of the body. These include:
- calcium channel blockers
- systemic steroids
- thyroid releasing hormone
- cholinergic medications
- niacin supplements
- cyproterone acetate
- amyl nitrite and butyl nitrite
Talk with a healthcare professional if nothing seems to reduce your blushing, or if you notice additional unexplained symptoms.
Most people experience blushing from time to time. There are a variety of techniques that may help reduce blushing.
If nothing seems to help, or if you’re interested in more long-term fixes, talk with a healthcare professional about your options.