Rosy cheeks have long been perceived as a sign of good health and vigor. Years ago, a rosy glow was a much-coveted physical trait. In Jane Eyre, the title character lamented, “I sometimes regret that I was not handsomer; I sometimes wished to have rosy cheeks, a straight nose, and small cherry mouth.”

The rosiness Charlotte Brontë was referring to is a result of blood vessels widening to allow more blood to flow into the face. This can happen when you’re outside in the cold, as your body attempts to warm your skin. Overheating, after you exercise or drink a hot beverage, can also cause flushing. Nervousness or embarrassment, in which case it’s called blushing, can also turn your cheeks red. Some people blush or flush more easily than others.

Although a ruddy complexion isn’t necessarily a sign that you’re healthy, it’s generally nothing to worry about, either. That said, sometimes red cheeks can be a warning sign of an underlying medical condition.

Keep reading to learn more about why your cheeks are rosy, other symptoms to watch for, and when to see your doctor.

Rosacea affects more than 16 million Americans. Many of them don’t realize they have this skin condition because its symptoms look like blushing or flushing.

In rosacea, blood vessels in your face enlarge, allowing more blood to flow into your cheeks.

In addition to redness, you may also have:

  • visible blood vessels
  • red, pus-filled bumps that look like acne
  • warm skin
  • swollen, red eyelids
  • a bulbous nose

What you can do

You may be able to control rosacea redness at home by following these tips:

  • Avoid triggers like extreme temperatures, alcohol, or spicy foods.
  • Before you go outside, apply a broad-spectrum 30 SPF or higher sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Wash your face with a mild cleanser daily, rinse with lukewarm water, and gently pat your skin dry.

If the redness bothers you, you may consider applying a green-tinted foundation to cancel out the redness.

Brimonidine gel (Mirvaso) and oxymetazoline cream (Rhofade) have both been approved to treat rosacea. They work for about 12 hours, but you’ll have to apply them daily to get lasting results.

The only way to get more permanent clearing is with laser treatment. However, laser therapy can be expensive, and your insurance may not cover the cost.

Acne is the most common skin affliction. Just about everyone has to deal with at least an occasional pimple, especially during teenage years.

Acne starts with clogged pores. Dead skin, oil, and dirt become trapped inside these tiny openings in your skin. The trapped detritus provides the perfect home for bacteria, which multiply rapidly and make the pores swell up. If you have enough pimples, the redness can extend across your cheeks.

There are several types of acne, each with a different appearance:

  • small dark bumps (blackheads)
  • white-topped bumps (whiteheads)
  • red bumps (papules)
  • red bumps with white spots at the top (pustules or pimples)
  • large painful lumps (nodules)

What you can do

To treat mild acne, you can start by trying home remedies like these:

  • Wash your face daily with warm water and a gentle soap. Don’t scrub, you’ll irritate your skin and make the acne worse.
  • Avoid using irritating skin products such as exfoliants, astringents, and toners.
  • Don’t touch your face, or pick, pop, or squeeze your acne. You could create scars.
  • Wash your hair every day if you have oily skin.
  • Sun exposure can make acne worse. Wear sunscreen when you go outside. Choose a sunscreen brand that isn’t oily. Look for the word “noncomedogenic” on the label.
  • Try an over-the-counter acne medicine containing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, alpha hydroxy acids, or salicylic acid.

If these treatments don’t work, see your healthcare provider. Prescription acne medicines work by reducing oil production, killing bacteria, or bringing down inflammation in your skin. These medicines include:

  • topical medicines such as retinoids, antibiotics, or salicylic acid
  • oral drugs such as antibiotics, oral contraceptives, antiandrogen drugs, and isotretinoin (Accutane)

For more stubborn or widespread acne, healthcare providers may offer these procedures:

Menopause occurs when a woman’s menstrual cycle ends and her estrogen production declines. About 80 percent of women who are in menopause experience hot flashes. Hot flashes are a sudden sensation of intense heat in the face and body that lasts for one to five minutes. During a hot flash, your face may flush red.

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes hot flashes. They believe that a drop in estrogen may affect the hypothalamus, the body’s internal thermostat.

Your hypothalamus misreads your body temperature as being too hot, and it sends out a signal to dilate blood vessels and release sweat to cool you down. The flush is due to those widened blood vessels.

Other symptoms of a hot flash include:

  • a sudden feeling of warmth in your face and body
  • fast heartbeat
  • sweating
  • a chill as the hot flash ends

What you can do

One way to prevent hot flashes is to avoid anything that you know triggers them.

Common triggers include:

  • hot weather
  • hot baths or showers
  • smoking
  • spicy or hot food
  • alcohol
  • caffeine
  • smoking

Eating a plant-based diet and exercising regularly can also provide some relief. And some women find that stress-relieving techniques like deep breathing, yoga, and massage ease their hot flashes.

If your hot flashes don’t let up, see your doctor. Hormone therapy with estrogen, or an estrogen-progesterone combo, is an effective treatment. Antidepressants like paroxetine (Brisdelle) and venlafaxine (Effexor XR) are also used to treat hot flashes.

Eating a super-spicy dish filled with hot peppers can turn your face bright red. Spicy and sour foods act on the nervous system, which widens your blood vessels and creates the redness.

Ingredients that have this effect include:

  • red pepper
  • other spices
  • hot (heat-wise) foods

Sweating is another physical effect of eating spicy foods.

What you can do

If a food makes you flush and the symptom bothers you, avoid that food. Cook with spices that aren’t as “hot,” such as rosemary or garlic. And let your meals cool before you eat them.

More than a third of people from eastern Asian countries like Japan, China, and Korea become flushed when they drink even small amounts of alcohol.

They may also experience the following symptoms:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • rapid breathing
  • fast heartbeat
  • low blood pressure

This condition is called alcohol intolerance. It’s caused by an inherited deficiency of the aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2) enzyme. This enzyme is needed to break down alcohol. People with ALDH2 deficiency are also at greater risk for esophageal cancer.

People with certain types of cancer, including medullary thyroid carcinoma and carcinoid tumors, also get red faced when they drink alcohol.

What you can do

If you have an ALDH2 deficiency, you’ll need to avoid alcohol or limit the amount you drink. Also, ask your doctor about getting screened for esophageal cancer.

Some medicines cause flushing as a side effect, including:

The flushing can be on your face, neck, and upper body. In some cases, the redness may be due to histamine. Histamine is a chemical released as an immune system reaction to the drug.

Other symptoms may include:

  • skin rash
  • itching
  • wheezing
  • hives
  • dizziness

What you can do

If the flushing bothers you, or you also have other symptoms of a drug reaction, see your healthcare provider. You may need to avoid the drug in the future.

Sometimes an allergist can desensitize you to a particular drug by gradually exposing you to increasing amounts of the medication.

To control redness, follow these skin care tips:

Tips

  • Wash your face daily with a gentle cleanser and pat dry, never scrub.
  • Try a calming face mask that’s designed to treat rosacea.
  • Stay out of the sun when possible. Sun exposure can aggravate reddened skin. If you do have to go outside, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF.
  • Avoid foods, drinks, or medications that cause this symptom.
  • Use foundation or green-tinted makeup to cover up the redness.

Many skin conditions are treatable at home. However, you should see your doctor if:

  • your skin doesn’t clear up after a few weeks
  • the redness bothers you
  • you have a lot of acne
  • you have other symptoms, such as sweating or nausea

You should seek immediate medical attention if you have symptoms of an allergic reaction. This includes:

  • hives
  • wheezing
  • swelling of your mouth
  • dizziness