In almost all cases, the root cause of facial flushing is the same; tiny blood vessels under the skin become dilated allowing more blood to flow, thus making the skin appear redder.
There are, however, many reasons why the capillaries dilate. Exercise, for instance, increases blood flow. Histamine, produced by our immune system, also dilates the blood vessels. Allergies trigger histamine production so it’s no wonder facial flushing is associated with hives and allergic reactions to certain foods such as MSG, sodium nitrate (used in cured meats) and sulphites (used in alcohol). Certain drugs also release histamine and other drugs containing vasoactive peptide or prostaglandin can also cause dilation.
The reduction of estrogen during menopause triggers a reaction commonly known as a “hot flush” which is experienced throughout the body and often results in facial flushing.
In most of these cases, facial flushing is temporary. Once the histamine has done its work or the “hot flush” has passed, the blood vessels return to normal and the facial flush disappears.
Chronic facial flushing may be a symptom of rosacea, a condition also called “adult acne.” The cause of rosacea is unknown but its effects are all too obvious. In its mild form, the skin on the cheeks and forehead reddens and may sting when touched. Spidery red blood vessels stretch across the affected area. In its severe form, it most often affects men by enlarging the nose and damaging the eyes.