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The Truth Behind Skin Redness

By: Cynthia Price, MD
Posted: June 27, 2014, from the July 2014 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Rosacea. This chronic condition is seen most frequently in women between the ages of 30 and 50, but it affects men much more destructively. According to the National Rosacea Society, the vascular disorder of rosacea affects more than 16 million people annually, and can only be controlled and not cured.1, 2 Those with rosacea tend to get red quite easily and that redness persists throughout long periods of time. Severe dryness is also common in rosacea-sufferers. Rosacea is seen in four distinct subtypes: erythematotelangiectatic, papulopustular, phymatous and ocular. Clients may have multiple subtypes simultaneously, but each subtype involves varying degrees of redness.

Impaired barrier function. In addition to redness, those with impaired barrier function usually suffer from acute moisture loss, irritation and general hypersensitivity. This condition is a result of a disruption of the stratum corneum (SC), leading to a reduction in its ability to retain moisture within the skin, and reduced support of the production and maintenance of the skin’s natural moisturizing factor (NMF) and pliability. The NMF is comprised of a mixture of low-molecular-weight, water-soluble compounds formed within corneocytes, and it is critical to maintaining the moisture and flexibility of human skin. A disruption in the SC also leads to an increase in transepidermal water loss (TEWL), elevating skin dryness.

Impaired barrier function is usually caused by the overuse of aggressive topical products, use of excessive topical perfumes in products and harsh environmental factors. Redness is a key visible indicator of impaired barrier function.

Atopic dermatitis. A personal history of allergies can be a common factor in the development of atopic dermatitis. This condition is characterized by redness, hypersensitivity, irritation, pruritus (itching) and eruptions of rashlike lesions. More than 90% of atopic dermatitis cases have a bacterial presence, and it may leave those affected more prone to viral infections and superficial fungal infections.3

Lifestyle choices affecting redness. Smoking is one of the most avoidable lifestyle choices that cause skin redness, aside from unnecessary UV exposure. Smoking one cigarette constricts capillaries, and robs the skin and vital organs of needed oxygen for up to 90 minutes. If a person smokes more than one cigarette in this time period, or even one every 90 minutes, the skin becomes chronically starved of oxygen. At this point, the body begins angiogenesis, the development of additional capillaries, in an attempt to bring oxygen to the starved skin, leading to a reddened appearance with sporadic broken, visible capillaries.

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