How to calm skin redness, according to the experts

By Fiona Embleton
Model poses with red cheeks, snow-brushed brows and a balaclava

Photo: Thomas Cooksey

Sensitivity and persistent flushing is a world away from the soft rosy glow you get with just a few pats of blush. A source of discomfort for many, this is how to treat skin redness and irritation once and for all

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We welcome that pretty wind-whipped flush across our cheeks after a brisk walk at this time of year. But it's a different story when that ruddiness is difficult to dial down due to freezing temperatures, product-induced flare-ups, or year-round sensitivity. Below, experts divulge both the cause and cure for your red face:

Rosacea and its triggers explained

When dealing with a flushed face, we in the Nordics are more prone to rosacea, a condition that presents as tiny broken blood vessels, most prominently on the cheeks. “Rosacea is a skin condition that is defined by chronic inflammation, which leads to facial redness, prominent capillaries, acne-like bumps and coarse skin texture,” says dermatologist Dr Marika Schröder from the Skin and Aesthetics Division at Pihlajalinna Hospital in Helsinki

If you think that you suffer from rosaces, Schröder recommends seeing a professional for a skin consultation. “Triggers are both genetic and environmental, but those with very fair, sensitive skin tend to be more prone to rosacea.” Lest you think rosacea only presents in white skin, up to 40 million people of colour globally struggle with rosacea, where inflammation takes the form of purple or brown patches.

What’s more, certain environmental factors can trigger rosacea such as UV exposure and fluctuations in temperature, including those caused by saunas. You may also want to cut back on wine and spicy meals as both contribute to dilated blood vessels.

Sensitivity vs sensitised skin

Perhaps the most common cause of skin redness is sensitivity. Some people are born with a sensitive skin type; others suffer temporarily from sensitised skin as a result of product overload or irritants hiding in their skincare.

“Using too many products with active ingredients can cause irritation and even product dependency,” says Rebecca Dufour Partanen, founder of RDP Skincare and the do-it-all Slow Face Cream. “Research repeatedly shows that the skin benefits from a less is more approach, especially when it comes to the microbiome. It is hard to reach good levels of beneficial bacteria on the skin when we keep overloading it and being overzealous with stripping ingredients.”

How do you calm skin redness?

No matter which camp you fall in, if your skin is feeling tight, dry or inflamed, keep things simple with a bare bones regime and avoid tricky to tolerate products such as alcohol-based toners, exfoliating acids and creams perfumed by synthetic fragrances and essential oils. Schröder flags that rosacea sufferers should additionally avoid foaming cleansers and the popular detergent sodium lauryl sulphate as they can leave skin feeling stripped. "But ultimately, prescription creams are needed to effectively keep rosacea under control," she says.

When it comes to sensitive skin, soothing inflammation and strengthening a compromised barrier should be the focus. “My advice is to pick a product rich in soothing ingredients such as glycerin and aloe vera, as well as probiotics to help calm and restore the skin's microbiome,” Partanen says. Traditional Nordic remedies include soothing colloidal oats (try Estelle & Thild Soothing Day Cream) and mineral-rich arctic spring water found in Lumene’s Soothing SOS Cleansing Milk, which was developed in co-operation with the Finnish Allergy, Skin and Asthma Federation.

Likewise, niacinamide is excellent at preventing irritants from falling through cracks in the skin barrier. Among the most popular offerings is The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc and Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster, which can be used alone or mixed into your regular serum.

Crucially, regardless of whether you suffer from sensitivity or rosacea, always wear SPF during the day; we like Cicaplast Balm B5+ SPF50 by La Roche-Posay as it also contains skin-calming ceramides.

The best products that take it easy on redness

BioCalm Soothing Day Cream

Estelle & Thild

Soothing Cleansing Milk


10% Niacinamide Booster

Paula's Choice

Redness Neutraliser


Cicaplast Balm B5+ SPF50

La Roche-Posay