Why Does My Face Get Red When I Work Out?

Girl doing a plank

Have you ever wondered that after a workout, some people get a rosy glow and seem to look fresh, while some people turn a bright red?

Turns out, that it is not exactly something to be embarrassed or stressed about.

The answer, for most people, is fairly simple. It is, more often than not, our body trying to reduce the extra heat produced while working out, exercising, or running.

So what exactly happens while you work out? Your body experiences certain changes while exercising. For example, you start breathing faster to pump more oxygen into the blood. Your heart starts beating faster to increase the blood flow to your muscles.

Your small capillaries i.e. blood vessels become wider to send more oxygen to the muscles. They also carry away waste products that build up.

This process is called vasodilation, or widening of the capillaries. It causes our skin to flush, especially our facial skin as that’s where the vasodilation shows the most.

It also causes the vascular system to supply more blood to the muscles involved in the workout. Most of which is carried towards the surface of our skin. Since our face also gets a significant amount of exposure, this may result in the flushed rosy face we end up with.

The temperature of your body may rise, making you sweat more than normal. This results in the body trying to deal with the heat by putting mechanisms in place to cool itself.

Exhausted Runner

When you work-out, capillaries in your facial area and throughout your body tend to dilate. Then blood flows through them to move out the heat that your body is generating at the skin’s surface, by simply radiating it off. This effort helps to keep you cool while you work out, but it can also face looking flushed.

Facial redness increases after a workout due to an increase in blood circulation and body heat that further dilates the facial blood vessels.

There is nothing to worry about here, as the redness on your face is a sure-shot sign that is only going to show your body has started benefitting from your workout.

While a lot of people long for the post-workout glow, when sweat seems like shimmer and the redness makes one stand out, some people tend to find the redness embarrassing or jarring.

Worrying about facial redness due to blushing, acne or rashes is understandable. But face redness due to a workout isn’t something to frown about but a thing to be enjoyed.

Your red face indicates that your vascular system is directing fairly large amounts of blood through your skin which is not just bringing happy hormones and cytokines, but also good nutrition to your skin.

In parallel, it is also removing toxins through your skin, giving your skin a healthy and youthful glow.

While there is no cure for the redness on the face, you can take some precautions to minimize heat exposure. Some effective tips to reduce redness on your face:

  • Stretching: Gentle stretching after a strenuous fitness regime helps in bringing down the heart rate, normalizing it, causing your blood vessels to constrict back to the normal size which eventually will reduce the bodily heat.
  • Exercise in a cooler environment: whenever possible, choose a cooler indoor environment to work out. This will help your body getting less heated.
  • Outdoor exercise: If you prefer the outdoors for your running, jogging, and fitness routines choose a cooler time. So early in the morning or late afternoon and evenings are to be preferred over a sunny afternoon. This will also prevent you from getting a heatstroke.
  • Water: Splashing water on your face after you are done with stretching and then taking a cool shower, will help not only in getting a lesser red face, but also make you feel cool, calm, and fresh.
  • Staying hydrated: keep yourself properly hydrated before, during, and after your workout.
  • Wearing proper clothes: Wearing light-colored and loose-fitting clothes will also help in retaining a lesser amount of heat in the body.

Morning jog of a couple

Using cool compress or washcloth: Use of wet towels during and after the workout will help to freshen and cool the face. You can gently moisturize your face after using a cold washcloth as well.

Some people prefer to make wet towels by soaking them in cold milk instead of water. Applying cold milk towels helps not only cool the face, but pH levels and proteins in the milk help reduce facial redness too.

How much redder one gets, depends a lot on the cooling capabilities of your body, as well your skin complexion. People with paler and fairer skin tone will look much redder than people with darker skin.

Typically, women are more prone to a red face as they tend to sweat less than men. The harder you are exercising and the warmer the environment, can make your face redder than usual. So the severity and duration of redness differ from skin to skin.

When Can a Red Face Be a Cause of Concern?

A red face is usually a normal occurrence during and after exercise. However, in extreme heat, it can also be a sign of exhaustion and sometimes a heat stroke.

Heatstroke is generally accompanied by few other symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, and that of excessive sweating followed by dryness due to no water in the system.

That is why you must keep yourself properly hydrated and avoid extreme heat conditions while working out. You should seek immediate medical assistance if you have a headache, or feeling dizzy, clamminess, or have stopped sweating.

The condition of a red itchy face, long after an exercise, can be a sign of a skin-related issue. It is best recommended to consult a certified dermatologist or a skin specialist in this scenario.

You may need to worry about facial redness if you are too hot and are at risk of hyperthermia. This condition is extremely risky and one of the symptoms is an elevated body temperature that can be deadly.

About Gaurav Dhir

Gaurav Dhir, B. Tech, PGDCM is an engineer and MBA by training. A fitness aficionado, Gaurav follows a strict diet and exercise regimen to keep himself vigorously active. He loves playing sports and being outdoors. Gaurav is responsible for the health and wellness of 4 generations including his son, elderly parents and very elderly grandparents.