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The Truth Behind Skin Redness

Cynthia Price, MD July 2014 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
The Truth Behind Skin Redness

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The technical explanation for the redness seen in the skin of many clients is simply a heightened intolerance to topical products or external factors. This can be driven by a number of conditions—primarily rosacea, impaired barrier function, atopic dermatitis and poor lifestyle choices. Although there are still mysteries behind the causes of some of these challenges, there are also solid treatment guidelines available to alleviate them. The many myths and misconceptions that exist around skin sensitivity and redness make successful treatment difficult. Each condition will be reviewed in this article, as well as the gold standard for its treatment, and the myths that can cause confusion and improper treatment of redness will be dispelled.

What causes skin redness?

Erythema is characterized by redness of the skin or mucous membranes, caused by hyperemia of the superficial capillaries. Erythema is typically a result of the aforementioned skin conditions, skin injury, infection or inflammation. Sensitive skin conditions often present with some degree of visible redness and inflammation, which can cause clients some discomfort. Integrating topical anti-inflammatory ingredients to help combat redness will often also improve microcapillary function by suppressing the proinflammatory mediators, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), and inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines. Persistent erythema is usually a result of one or several of the following:

  • VEGF, which encourages microcapillary hyperpermeability (leakiness);
  • PGE2, which induces microcapillary dilation (capillary enlargement); and
  • Proinflammatory cytokines, the immune-activated cells involved in the amplification of inflammatory reactions.

Ingredients with higher levels of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids act as potent anti-inflammatory agents. Specific support ingredients assist in calming and soothing the skin. These anti-inflammatory and calming ingredients include:

  • Bisabolol, which is the active component in chamomile that provides anti-inflammatory benefits;
  • Evening primrose oil as a source of omega-3 gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which provides both redness-reducing and anti-inflammatory benefits;
  • Menthyl lactate to soothe and cool irritated skin; and
  • Willow bark extract, a natural analgesic related to aspirin that also acts as a soothing and calming agent.

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Types of Rosacea

Types of rosacea

Treatment How-to: Redness-prone Sensitive Skin Facial

This protocol is designed to soothe sensitive skin conditions and to alleviate persistent redness.

Cost: $75–150

Duration: 30–40 minutes

Contraindications: Check for any allergies to ingredients in this treatment during client consultation.




Equipment and supplies needed:

Cotton pads

Warm water


Products needed:

Cleanser (lactic acid, gluconolactone and aloe vera)

Cleansing bar (resorcinol, pumpkin seed oil, honey and vitamin E)

Toner (lactic acid and pumpkin wine extracts)

Hydrating mask (oat kernel extract, Arnica montana and cucumber fruit extracts)

Hydrating serum (glycerin, sodium PCA and niacinamide)

Corrective product (red and brown algae, caper bud extract and bisabolol)

Antioxidant-based massage medium (vitamins and essential fatty acids)

Calming product (allantoin, aloe vera and mushroom extracts)

Moisturizer (jojoba seed oil, hydrolyzed silk, squalane and vitamin E)

Broad-spectrum sunscreen (siybin and caffeine)

Step 1: Cleanse the area of treatment thoroughly with cleanser. Rinse and pat dry.

Step 2: Using the cleansing bar, cleanse the skin a second time. Allow the lather to remain on the skin for approximately two minutes. Remove with cotton pads dampened with warm water.

Step 3: Using a cotton pad, prep (degrease) the skin with the toner. Allow the skin to dry. Evaluate the client’s sensitivity by asking, “On a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being extremely active, how do you rate this sensation?”

Step 4: Using gloved hands, massage the hydrating mask into the skin to address impaired conditions of all kinds. For increased moisture retention, allow the mask to remain on the skin for up to 10 minutes before removing thoroughly with dampened cotton pads.

Step 5: Apply the hydrating serum to encourage ceramides, essential fatty acid and moisture retention.

Step 6: Soothe red and irritated skin by applying the corrective product.

Step 7: Perform a circulation-enhancing massage using the massage medium.

Step 8: Enhance the treatment by applying the calming product

Step 9: Seal in moisture using the moisturizer.

Step 10: Protect delicate skin from UV rays by applying the sunscreen.

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