From a 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.

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

Warning: Graphic images ahead.

Diaper rash

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

First-degree burn

Image by: Bejinhan [CC BY-SA 3.0 (<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0</a>) or GFDL (<a href="http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)]" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)]</a>, from Wikimedia Commons

  • 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.
Read full article on first-degree burns.

Allergic eczema

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
Read full article on allergic eczema.

Rosacea

Rosacea

By M. Sand, D. Sand, C. Thrandorf, V. Paech, P. Altmeyer, F. G. Bechara [CC BY 2.0 (<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0" target="_blank">http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0</a>)], via Wikimedia Commons

  • 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
Read full article on rosacea.

Burns

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
Read full article on burns.

Contact dermatitis

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
Read full article on contact dermatitis.

Chemical burn

Image by: Blazius (Own work) [GFDL (<a href="http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html</a>) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]</a>, via Wikimedia Commons

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).
Read full article on chemical burns.

Drug allergy

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
Read full article on drug allergies.

Cellulitis

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
Read full article on cellulitis.

Scarlet fever

scarlet fever

Image by: <a href="http://www.badobadop.co.uk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">badobadop.co.uk</a> (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]</a>, via Wikimedia Commons

  • 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
Read full article on scarlet fever.

Angioedema

Angioedema

Image by: James Heilman, MD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0">https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0</a>) or GFDL (<a href="http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html">http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html</a>)], via Wikimedia Commons

  • 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.
Read full article on angioedema.

Thrombophlebitis

Image by: James Heilman, MD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0</a>) or GFDL (<a href="http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)]" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)]</a>, via Wikimedia Commons

  • 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.
Read full article on thrombophlebitis.

Bone infection

Image by: Rotch, Thomas Morgan [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

  • 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.
Read full article on bone infection.

Osteosarcoma

Image at: Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 4.0 (<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]</a>

  • 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.
Read full article on osteosarcoma.

Sunburn

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
Read full article on sunburns.

Skin infection

Image by <a href="http://phil.cdc.gov/Phil/home.asp">Public Health Image Library (PHIL)</a>

  • 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.
Read full article on skin infections.

Bites and stings

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
Read full article on bites and stings.

Heat rash

Image by: Sentient Planet [CC BY-SA 3.0 (<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]</a>, from Wikimedia Commons

  • 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.
Read full article on heat rash.

Psoriasis

psoriasis

MediaJet/Wikimedia Commons

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

Ringworm

ringworm

James Heilman/Wikimedia Commons

  • 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
Read full article on ringworm.

Shingles

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
Read full article on shingles.

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:

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

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

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.

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.

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.