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Published June 13, 2012, 11:30 PM

Mathison: Removing red patches on your skin

Red is a wonderful color associated with love, roses, healthy hearts and passion. Yet seeing red when you look in the mirror can be distressing.

By: Dr. Susan Mathison, Areavoices.com, INFORUM

Red is a wonderful color associated with love, roses, healthy hearts and passion.

Yet seeing red when you look in the mirror can be distressing. Sometimes redness can affect your entire face, or it may manifest as a small, focused roadmap of red vessels called telangectasias on your cheeks and nose.

Excess sun exposure over time can lead to self-inflicted redness. The ultraviolet radiation from the sun breaks down the supportive structure and thickness of the skin, making underlying structures more visible. Sunlight also triggers growth of tiny vessels right at the surface causing diffuse redness.

Another path to a red face is over-exfoliating or scrubbing your skin in an attempt to get clean. This is common among young women with acne. The apricot scrubs and witch hazel toners from our junior high days aren’t much good for pimples, but they certainly can worsen the inflammation.

Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory condition that leads to red, sensitive skin and sometime to pimples on the nose and cheeks, similar to acne. People with rosacea often have sensitive skin that stings when exposed to sun or cold and turns bright red when they eat hot or spicy foods or drink alcohol.

Chemicals and products can cause allergic sensitivity called contact dermatitis. Common sources are sunscreens, preservatives in cosmetics, hair dyes and fragrances. Medical attention is advised if you have a rash around your eyes, significant itching or chronic redness and scaling on your face. Prescription treatments such as anti-inflammatory creams or antihistamines might be needed, and if the problem is chronic, patch testing can help figure out the culprit.

Treatments for facial redness include topical products and laser therapy. Over-the-counter options have been shown to decrease redness, including feverfew (found in Aveeno facial products) and licorice extract (found in Eucerin facial products.)

Other ingredients that have been shown to improve skin elasticity and structure like coenzyme Q10, copper peptides, green tea extract and niacinamide may help diminish the appearance of broken capillaries. Alpha-lipoic acid is also touted as a redness reducer. Metrogel is a prescription antibiotic gel that helps minimize inflammation and pimples for rosacea patients.

A physical defense sunblock such as titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide is important protection for everyone to wear.

My favorite laser for redness and brown sun spots is Intense Pulsed Light, IPL for short. It’s also called Photo-facial, Foto-facial or Photo-rejuvenation. It is basically a broad band laser with multiple wavelengths of light, making it very versatile for improving the appearance of sun-damaged skin, as well as diffuse redness and facial telangiectasias.

IPL treatments may be done every 3 to 4 weeks in a series so that we can build on the energy delivered. Vessels and redness can’t be cured but can be managed. With treatment, the laser energy shuts down the blood vessel (or vessels) in question. But since the body likes to “repair” itself by forming new blood vessels to compensate for those you shut down, treating broken capillaries and facial redness requires maintenance.

In rare cases, redness on the face is the result of an underlying medical condition. Lupus, an autoimmune disease that can affect many organ systems, may manifest with a bright red rash on the cheeks and nose, often called a butterfly rash because of its pattern. If you have the sudden development of this type of facial redness, or if you have redness that is not fazed by laser or topical treatment, then you should see a physician.

Diagnoses of lupus are made by careful exam and blood tests, and treatment helps to minimize flaring of the immune system.

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com.

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