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How to Control Facial Flushing

By Eric Mohrman ; Updated July 18, 2017

Facial flushing has a wide variety of causes, and successfully controlling the phenomenon requires identifying your personal triggers or underlying causes. Flushing looks like blushing, but the term is more all-encompassing of the different causes. Redness sometimes extends beyond the facial skin to the ears, neck, shoulders and chest. In most instances, facial flushing is embarrassing but not dangerous or symptomatic of anything serious. The possible treatments for facial flushing range from the very simple to a surgical procedure. The cause and severity of your flushing largely determine appropriate measures.

  1. Eat foods that are mild, not spicy, if you experience facial flushing in response to spicy foods. Wait for food and beverages to cool off before eating or drinking them if your skin turns red after consuming hot items.

  2. Keep a food diary if you suspect your facial flushing is food-related, but you can't pinpoint the triggers. A particular food, food additive or ingredient is responsible in some instances. Record what you eat when you experience flushing. Look for commonalities, such as alcohol consumption, sulphites, MSG or sodium nitrite and nitrates in cured meats.

  3. Read the possible side effects of any prescription or over-the-counter medications, herbs or supplements you take. Vasodilators, calcium channel blockers, morphine, nicotinic acid, cholinergics, amyl nitrite, butyl nitrite and others can prompt facial flushing. Talk to your doctor about different dosing or alternatives if you experience this side effect severely enough to outweigh the benefits of the treatment.

  4. Learn and practice techniques for instant relaxation if your face reddens in response to anger, embarrassment or other emotions experienced on-the-spot. Try straightening your back and inhaling deeply, counting to five and exhaling while relaxing all your muscles. Deep breathing while picturing serene imagery can also help. Progressively tense and relax muscles, starting down at your toes and working your way up your body, for another option.

  5. Practice relaxation techniques if you develop facial flushing from stress or emotional difficulties that affect your mood on an ongoing basis. Try yoga, meditation, tai chi, deep breathing, massage therapy or other options to calm your overall mood and daily life.

  6. Consult a psychiatrist for counseling and possibly medications, including anti-anxiety treatments, beta-blockers or clonidine, to help you control emotionally prompted facial flushing.

  7. Have your primary care physician look into possible medical conditions, such as rosacea, orthostatic hypotension, Parkinson's disease, carcinoid syndrome, tumors, spinal cord lesions and others, if you cannot determine a trigger for facial flushing. Treat any responsible condition as per your doctor's instructions.

  8. See a surgeon about the possibility of an endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy. Discuss whether this surgical removal of overactive sympathetic nerves might reasonably be used to eliminate your facial flushing.

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