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Your red-hued skin might make you long for the milky, fair skin of Michelle Williams or the warm, olive skin of Kristen Kreuk. You may have more in common with Mariah Carey and Renee Zellweger -- two of the estimated 16 million Americans who suffer from the skin condition rosacea. In the case of rosacea, your blood cells dilate easily, making your skin take on a red hue. Rosacea usually appears in your 30s, so if you've always had a reddish tint to your skin, it may be due to the type of melanin your body produces -- and is of no concern. Other conditions could be responsible for a red-hued complexion that develops over time, so you should consult your dermatologist if the color persists for more than a few days or is accompanied by itching or bumps.
Your skin produces a pigment called melanin that determines the color of your skin. Two types of melanin are possible: brownish-black eumelanin and reddish-yellow pheomelanin. If your skin has always had a red undertone, your body likely produces more pheomelanin. Just like some people have brown hair or green eyes, you have more reddish tone to your skin.
The blood vessels that dilate easily when you have rosacea bring more blood near the surface of the skin -- making you look reddish. A rosacea-induced red hue to your skin might appear as if you are constantly flushing from embarrassment, recovering from a hard workout or have spent too much time in the sun. The redness may be concentrated at the nose, cheeks and forehead but could also include your neck, scalp, ears or chest. Rosacea can vary in severity. Some cases are accompanied by acne-like bumps or a thickening of the skin.
The exact cause of rosacea is unknown. The National Rosacea society lists blood flow and immune abnormalities, skin bacteria, skin mites, follicle irritation, sun damage, heightened inflammatory response or psychological factors as potential causes. Rosacea can be flared up by stress, hot beverages, red wine, spicy foods and extreme temperatures or wind.
You can thank your parents or grandparents for your red-hued complexion. People of Irish, English, Scandinavian, Scottish, Welsh or Eastern European descent tend to have fairer skin and higher concentrations of pheomelanin. These populations also have a higher chance of developing rosacea. If you have a tendency toward blushing or flushing that develops in your teens and early 20s, it could be an indication that you will develop rosacea later in life.
Other Causes of Redness
Other obvious causes of redness in your skin are sunburn or a rash. High concentrations of pheomelanin make you more susceptible to sunburns. Rashes may be due to contact dermatitis -- in which you touched something that irritated you. Some medications may temporarily cause redness in your skin, or also make your skin more vulnerable to burning. If you are running a high fever, you could experience flushing in your face and redness in other parts of your body. If you are of Asian descent, you may experience a red hue after downing a few drinks. Some Asians lack the genetic ability to properly metabolize alcohol -- the flushing is a result of the accumulation of toxins.