How to reduce acne redness
Reviewed by our clinical team
When we think of acne, we tend to think of spots and oily skin. However, as anyone who has acne will know, another big factor is redness.
If you have moderate to severe acne on your face, and you’re experiencing facial redness, you might find this just as uncomfortable to deal with as your spots.
What causes acne redness?
The main reason for acne redness is that individual spots are often red in colour. The most minor types of spot – whiteheads and blackheads – aren’t characterised by redness, but papules, pustules, nodules and cysts usually are.
The reason for this is that these types of spot form when plugged follicles become infected with bacteria. Infected spots are inflamed and tender, which is why they take on a reddish appearance.
In addition to spots, skin redness can be caused by acne scarring. Permanent scarring is more likely to happen in people who have cysts, the most severe type of spot. This type of scarring primarily gives the skin an uneven, bumpy appearance. However, sometimes it can cause discolouration called hyperpigmentation – this is more common in people with darker skin.
Many people with acne also experience a more temporary type of scarring, where dark patches appear on the skin in the place of healed spots. Depending on your skin tone, these patches can be pink, red, purple, black or brown – usually they will fade within a few months or years, although sometimes they can be persistent.
Topical treatments for acne can be quite harsh on the skin, and can sometimes cause irritation and redness, as well as dryness and peeling. The good news is, not everyone will experience these side effects – and those who do should find that they resolve after treatment has finished.
How can I reduce acne redness?
There are a few different ways to tackle acne redness. One is to start using treatments that kill bacteria on the skin and reduce inflammation. Prescription treatments you can get from your GP to fight infection and inflammation include:
- Azelaic acid – this is a particularly good option for sensitive skin
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Topical retinoids
- Topical antibiotics
- Oral antibiotics
Isotretinoin (Roaccutane) is also a good treatment for reducing bacteria on the skin and soothing inflammation. However, it’s associated with strong side effects and can only be prescribed by a specialist for people with very severe acne.
Other than that, your home skincare routine can make a difference, so try to always do the following:
- Don’t over-wash your skin as this can cause irritation – instead, aim to wash affected skin twice a day
- Use mild soaps or cleansers and lukewarm, rather than hot, water
- Avoid scratching, squeezing or picking your spots
You can also try soothing redness and inflammation by applying ice or a cold compress to your skin. If you’re going to do this, gently cleanse the skin first, then apply the ice or ice pack in a clean cloth – don’t put it directly onto your skin.
How can I reduce the redness of acne scars?
Certain types of acne scar will be permanent, and can only be treated with cosmetic procedures, laser treatment or surgery.
Other types of marking on the skin left by acne spots might be a sign of post-inflammatory erythema (PIE) or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). In both cases, the spots may fade naturally over time, however if you’re bothered by the discolouration you can speak to your GP or pharmacist for advice.
How can I reduce redness from acne treatment?
As we’ve seen, acne treatments can cause skin redness, irritation and sensitivity in some people. If you experience these kinds of side effects, speak to your prescribing doctor for advice – if the effect is only mild and the treatment course is short, they might advise you to continue.
Otherwise, they might reduce your dosage or recommend an alternative treatment that’s less irritating.
Taking care of your skin in the sun
Acne-prone skin can be more sensitive to the sun and easily damaged, largely because of the medications used to treat it.
Benzoyl peroxide, topical retinoids, antibiotics and isotretinoin can all make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. If you’re using any of these treatments, try to avoid excessive UV light and make sure you use sunscreen.
For people with very sensitive skin, a mineral sunscreen is usually less irritating than a chemical sunscreen.
Find out more about looking after you skin in the sunshine here.
Help for your acne from Online Doctor
Struggling to manage your acne symptoms? Online Doctor may be able to help. Visit our acne service to browse available treatments and make an order through our secure system.