Skin Redness: Causes, Photos, and Treatments

Skin redness can be caused by various factors, including underlying medical conditions, environmental triggers, allergies, infections, or skin irritants. It is important to note that while I can provide general information, it’s always advisable to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to your specific situation.

Why does my skin look red?

From sunburn to an allergic reaction, there are many things that can cause your skin to become red or irritated. It may be because extra blood rushes to the skin’s surface to fight off irritants and encourage healing. Your skin can also become red from exertion, such as after a heart-pounding exercise session.

It’s not always a reason for concern, but skin redness can be irritating and uncomfortable. It might also be accompanied by other symptoms. Figuring out its underlying cause can help you treat your skin and keep it from happening again.

Conditions that cause skin redness, with pictures

Many different conditions can skin redness. Here are 21 possible causes.

Warning: Graphic images ahead.

Diaper rash

  • Rash located on areas that have contact with a diaper
  • Skin looks red, wet, and irritated
  • Warm to the touch

First-degree burn

  • The mildest form of burn injury, it affects only the first layer of the skin.
  • Painful, dry, red area turns white with pressure.
  • Skin may peel, but ther is no blistering.
  • Pain and redness will subside after a few days.

Allergic eczema

  • May resemble a burn
  • Often found on hands and forearms
  • Skin is itchy, red, scaly, or raw
  • Blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty

Rosacea

  • Chronic skin disease that goes through cycles of fading and relapse
  • Relapses may be triggered by spicy foods, alcoholic beverages, sunlight, stress, and the intestinal bacteria Helicobacter pylori
  • There are four subtypes of rosacea encompassing a wide variety of symptoms
  • Common symptoms include facial flushing, raised, red bumps, facial redness, skin dryness, and skin sensitivity

Burns

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Burn severity is classified by both depth and size
  • First-degree burns: minor swelling and dry, red, tender skin that turns white when pressure is applied
  • Second-degree burns: very painful, clear, weeping blisters and skin that appears red or has variable, patchy coloration
  • Third-degree burns: white or dark brown/tan in color, with leathery appearance and low or no sensitivity to touch

Contact dermatitis

  • Appears hours to days after contact with an allergen
  • Rash has visible borders and appears where your skin touched the irritating substance
  • Skin is itchy, red, scaly, or raw
  • Blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty

Chemical burn

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • This occurs when your skin, mucous membranes, or eyes come into contact with a chemical irritant, such as a strong acid or a base.
  • The concentration of the chemical, duration of contact, and method of contact will determine severity of symptoms and urgency of treatment.
  • First aid treatments for chemical burns include removing the chemical that caused the burn (including removing any clothing or jewelry that has touched the chemical) and rinsing the skin under lukewarm, slow, running water for 10 to 20 minutes (and at least 20 minutes for chemical eye injuries).

Drug allergy

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Mild, itchy, red rash may occur days to weeks after taking a drug
  • Severe drug allergies can be life-threatening and symptoms include hives, racing heart, swelling, itching, and difficulty breathing
  • Other symptoms include fever, stomach upset, and tiny purple or red dots on the skin

Cellulitis

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Caused by bacteria or fungi entering through a crack or cut in the skin
  • Red, painful, swollen skin with or without oozing that spreads quickly
  • Hot and tender to the touch
  • Fever, chills, and red streaking from the rash might be a sign of serious infection requiring medical attention

Scarlet fever

  • Occurs at the same time as or right after a strep throat infection
  • Red skin rash all over the body (but not the hands and feet)
  • Rash is made up of tiny bumps that make it feel like “sandpaper”
  • Bright red tongue

Angioedema

  • This is a form of severe swelling beneath the skin’s surface.
  • It may be accompanied by hives and itching.
  • It’s caused by an allergic reaction to an allergen like food or medication.
  • Additional symptoms may include stomach cramping and discolored patches or rash on the hands, arms, and feet.

Thrombophlebitis

  • This inflammation of a superficial vein is caused by a blood clot.
  • It typically occurs in the legs.
  • Symptoms include tenderness, warmth, redness, and visible engorgement along the vein.

Bone infection

  • A bone infection, also called osteomyelitis, occurs when bacteria or fungi invade a bone.
  • Bones may get infected by migration of a bacteria or fungus infecting surrounding tissues or the blood stream, or by penetrating injury or surgery that exposes the bone.
  • Symptoms include pain, redness, swelling, stiffness, and warmth in the infected body part.
  • Fever and chills may also occur.

Osteosarcoma

  • This bone cancer typically develops in the shinbone (tibia) near the knee, the thighbone (femur) near the knee, or the upper arm bone (humerus) near the shoulder.
  • It’s the most common type of bone cancer in children.
  • Common signs include bone pain (in motion, at rest, or when lifting objects), bone fractures, swelling, redness, and limping.

Sunburn

  • Superficial burn on the outermost layer of skin
  • Redness, pain, and swelling
  • Dry, peeling skin
  • More severe, blistering burns may occur after extended periods of sun exposure

Skin infection

  • A skin infection is caused by a wide variety of infectious agents including bacteria, fungi, viruses. and parasites.
  • Common symptoms include redness of the skin, tenderness, itching, and a rash.
  • See a doctor if you have fever, chills, pus-filled blisters, skin breakdown, severe pain, or a skin infection that doesn’t improve or gets progressively worse.

Bites and stings

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Redness or swelling at the site of the bite or sting
  • Itching and soreness at the site of the bite
  • Pain in the affected area or in the muscles
  • Heat around the bite or sting

Heat rash

  • This irritating skin rash occurs due to a combination of heat, sweat, and friction.
  • It’s caused by blockage of the sweat glands.
  • Heat rash develops on body parts that rub together, such as between the inner thighs or under the arms.
  • Small clear or white bumps filled with fluid appear on the surface of the skin.
  • Itchy, hot or prickly red bumps on the skin are another symptom.

Psoriasis

  • Scaly, silvery, sharply defined skin patches
  • Commonly located on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back
  • May be itchy or asymptomatic

Ringworm

  • Circular-shaped scaly rashes with raised border
  • Skin in the middle of the ring appears clear and healthy, and the edges of the ring may spread outward
  • Itchy

Shingles

  • Very painful rash that may burn, tingle, or itch, even if there are no blisters present
  • Rash comprising clusters of fluid-filled blisters that break easily and weep fluid
  • Rash emerges in a linear stripe pattern that appears most commonly on the torso, but may occur on other parts of the body, including the face
  • Rash may be accompanied by low fever, chills, headache, or fatigue
What are the symptoms of skin redness?

The main symptom associated with skin redness is varying colors of redness on the skin. The redness can occur on different portions of the body. Here are some examples of symptoms that you may have along with red skin:

  • blistering
  • bumps
  • burning
  • flushing
  • hives
  • itching
  • rash
  • warmth in your skin
  • sores
  • swelling
What are the causes of skin redness?

Causes of skin redness vary drastically and can include irritants, the sun, and insect bites. Examples of skin conditions associated with skin redness include:

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  • bites
    cellulitis
    contact dermatitis
    diaper rash
    eczema
    allergic eczema
    heat rash
    medication allergy
    psoriasis
    ringworm
    rosacea
    scarlet fever
    shingles
    skin burns
    skin infections
    sunburns
    lymph node inflammation
    first-degree burns
    chemical burns
    angioedema
    thromboplebitis
    bone infection
    osteosarcoma

Skin redness can be a temporary, or acute, condition. It can also be a chronic condition that constantly reappears.

When do I seek medical help for skin redness?

You should get immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms associated with skin redness:

  • a burn that’s twice the size of your palm
  • difficulty breathing
  • extreme pain
  • loss of consciousness
  • redness near or on your eyes that is affecting your vision

You should also get medical attention if you have an animal bite, even if you’ve had a tetanus shot.

See a healthcare provider or dermatologist for other symptoms that aren’t considered a medical emergency.

How’s skin redness diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your skin redness. If your symptoms come and go, they’ll listen to your description of them. They’ll ask you a few questions. These could include:

  • What activities were you engaging in before you noticed the skin redness?
  • Are you taking any new medications or using any new skin care or cleaning products?
  • Do you have a family history of any skin conditions?
  • Have you experienced this skin redness before?
  • Were you around others who may have a similar rash?

These and other questions can help your healthcare provider figure out what may have caused your skin redness.

Additional testing may include taking a skin sample or biopsy of the affected area, or allergy testing to determine if your skin reacts to certain irritants.

Ask your healthcare provider if your skin condition may be contagious and what steps you can take to prevent its spread. This can ensure that you don’t pass on the skin redness to someone else.

How’s skin redness treated?

Treatments for skin redness depend on what’s causing it. Examples can include avoiding the irritant or allergen that caused your skin redness in the first place.

Other treatments for skin redness include:

  • cleansing the affected area with soap and water
  • taking medications like antihistamines to minimize irritation
  • applying topical skin care treatments like calamine lotion to reduce skin redness

Keeping the affected area clean and dry can usually help reduce skin redness. If an infection is the cause of your skin redness, your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics to reduce the infection’s symptoms.

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