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 the novel “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë, 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 that Brontë referred to is caused by 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, like after you exercise or drink a hot beverage, can also cause flushing.

Nervousness or embarrassment can also turn your cheeks red, in which case it’s called blushing. Some people blush or flush more easily than others.

Although rosy cheeks 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 a doctor.

Woman covering her mouth while blushing.Share on Pinterest
Some people experience emotional flushing, or blushing. Though emotional flushing is harmless, it can cause distress for some people. Tim Robberts/Getty Images

If you’re unsure of the cause of your rosy cheeks and it occurs with other symptoms, it may be best to see a doctor. In some cases, facial redness can be a sign of a health condition.

Red cheeks and facial redness can result from:

Man with rosacea, rhinophymaShare on Pinterest
Skin flushing is caused by increased blood flow to the affected region. Copyright © 2017 Joanna S. Saade et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License.
Person with generalized redness caused by rosacea.Share on Pinterest
Rosacea often resembles face acne with bumps and generalized redness, especially around the cheeks, forehead, nose, and chin. But unlike acne, there are no blackheads or whiteheads. Symptoms can worsen with sun exposure, hot or spicy foods, high temperatures, and alcohol. Lipowski/Getty Images
Person with acne on the face.Share on Pinterest
Blackheads and whiteheads can accompany the irritation and bumps of face acne. ajr_images/Getty Images
Healthcare worker experiencing a hot flash.Share on Pinterest
Hot flashes can cause skin flushing. wanderluster/Getty Images
Hives from an allergic reaction or contact dermatitis.Share on Pinterest
Hives from an allergic reaction or contact dermatitis can cause the skin to appear red and bumpy. Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Allergic reaction on the skin.Share on Pinterest
Allergic reactions to cosmetics or face lotions could cause cheek reddening. They can also cause swelling and itching. Photography courtesy of Abm6868/Wikimedia
Alcohol intoleranceShare on Pinterest
After drinking alcohol, people who do not have the enzyme to break down alcohol can develop reddened cheeks or redness all over the face. Brooks PJ, Enoch M-A, Goldman D, Li T-K, Yokoyama A, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Rosacea may affect as many as 40 million people worldwide. People with this condition may not be diagnosed right away because the symptoms can look like blushing or flushing.

However, it’s a progressive skin condition. This means that it may become worse without proper treatment.

The condition may also be underdiagnosed in People of Color, according to a 2018 review of research.

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
  • thickening of skin on the nose
  • bumpy skin texture

There are four types of rosacea, depending on the symptoms you experience and where you experience them.

What you can do

You may be able to manage 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 also 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 therapy. However, it can be expensive, and insurance may not cover the cost.

Other treatments such as microdermabrasion may help reduce thickening skin caused by rosacea.

If redness or other symptoms persist, it may be best to make an appointment with a dermatologist.

Just about everyone has to deal with at least an occasional pimple, especially during the teenage years.

Acne starts with clogged pores. Dead skin, oil, and dirt can become trapped inside these tiny openings in your skin. This can cause bacteria growth 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. These types can include:

What you can do

To treat mild acne, you can start by trying home remedies that may include the following:

  • Wash your face daily with warm water and a gentle soap. Avoid scrubbing as it can irritate your skin and make the acne worse.
  • Avoid using irritating skin products such as exfoliants, astringents, and toners.
  • Avoid touching your face, or picking, popping, or squeezing acne. This can 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 is not oily and contains the word “noncomedogenic” on the label.
  • Try an over-the-counter acne medication containing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, alpha hydroxy acids, or salicylic acid.

If these treatments do not work, see a doctor or dermatologist. Prescription acne medications work by reducing oil production, killing bacteria, or bringing down inflammation in your skin. These medications can include:

  • topical medications 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, doctors may offer these procedures:

Hot flashes involve a sudden feeling of intense heat that isn’t caused by your surroundings. They’re commonly associated with menopause.

Menopause occurs when the menstrual cycle ends and estrogen production declines. Over 80 percent of women who are in menopause experience hot flashes.

Hot flashes can occur in the face and body and last less than 5 minutes. During a hot flash, your face may flush red.

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes hot flashes, but many 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.

Hot flashes may also happen as a result of low testosterone levels or a prostate cancer therapy called androgen deprivation therapy.

Other symptoms of a hot flash can include:

  • a sudden feeling of warmth in your face and body
  • rapid heart rate
  • 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 can include:

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

According to one 2021 study, eating a plant-based diet can also provide some relief. Breastcancer.org also suggests that exercising regularly may also help reduce the frequency of hot flashes.

And some people find that stress-relieving techniques like deep breathing, yoga, and massage ease their hot flashes.

If your hot flashes don’t let up, see a doctor. Hormone therapy with estrogen, or an estrogen-progesterone combo, can be 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 redness.

Ingredients that have this effect can 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, you may want to avoid that food.

Cook with spices that aren’t as “hot,” such as rosemary or garlic. Then, let your meals cool a bit before you eat them.

Some people become flushed when they drink alcohol, even in small amounts.

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 this condition may not metabolize alcohol as efficiently, and histamine is released during the process. People with ALDH2 deficiency who drink alcohol are also at a greater risk for esophageal and breast cancers.

People with certain types of cancer, including medullary thyroid carcinoma and carcinoid tumors, also experience facial redness when they drink alcohol.

They may also experience the following symptoms:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • rapid breathing
  • rapid heart rate
  • low blood pressure

According to research, 20 to 47 percent of people of East Asian descent (such as those from countries like Japan, China, and Korea) become flushed when they drink even small amounts of alcohol.

What you can do

If you have an ALDH2 deficiency, you may want to avoid alcohol or limit the amount you drink.

Also, you may want ask your doctor about screenings for esophageal cancer and breast cancer.

A small 2020 clinical trial suggested that topical brimonidine may be effective at reducing alcohol-induced flushing.

Some medications cause flushing as a side effect, including:

  • amyl nitrite and butyl nitrite
  • bromocriptine (Parlodel)
  • cholinergic drugs
  • cyclosporine (Neoral)
  • cyproterone acetate (Androcur) (not available in the U.S.)
  • doxorubicin (Adriamycin)
  • morphine and other opiates
  • oral triamcinolone (Aristocort)
  • rifampin (Rifadin)
  • sildenafil citrate (Viagra)
  • tamoxifen (Soltamox)
  • niacin (Vitamin B3)
  • glucocorticoids
  • nitroglycerin (Nitrostat)
  • prostaglandins
  • calcium channel blockers

The flushing can occur on your face, neck, and upper body. In some cases, the redness may be due to histamine. Histamine is a chemical released during 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 a doctor. 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 using allergy shots.

To control redness, follow these skin care tips:

Tips

  • Wash your face daily with a gentle cleanser and pat dry. Avoid scrubbing your face.
  • 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 and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Avoid foods, drinks, or medications that cause this symptom.
  • Foundation or green-tinted makeup may help cover up the redness.

Many skin conditions are treatable at home. However, you should talk with a 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

Allergic reaction

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

  • hives
  • wheezing
  • swelling of your mouth
  • dizziness