Let’s face it: for most of us, a post-workout selfie won’t be our best look.
Sure, we will have the inspiring glow of someone who just triumphed over a challenging workout, but many people say that their face after exercise isn’t usually the one they want to capture for their next profile picture due to the fact their hair is often matted with sweat.
Moreover, oftentimes, people self-consciously shy away from any post-workout photo op because they get a red face after exercise.
A red face after running or working out is extremely common and rarely a cause for concern, even if it does make you feel less than your most attractive self. But just because it isn’t necessarily alarming doesn’t mean it’s not puzzling.
If you’ve found yourself wondering, “Why does my face get red when I work out?” keep reading to learn about the causes of facial flushing during exercise and what you can do about a red face after exercise.
We will cover:
- Why Does My Face Turn Red When I Exercise?
- Is It Normal to Get a Red Face After Exercise?
- Causes of a Red Face From Exercise
- Tips for Preventing a Red Face After Exercise
- How to Reduce the Redness of Your Face After Exercise
Let’s jump in!
Why Does My Face Turn Red When I Exercise?
If your face gets extremely red during exercise or after your workout is over, you are not alone.
You might look around with envy and see many people who don’t look nearly as flushed as you, but the reality is that most people experience at least some amount of facial flushing, if not a beet-red face, after exercising.
A bright red face from exercise can certainly be alarming if you are new to fitness, but in most cases, it is a completely normal and benign response to physical activity.There are quite a few physiological changes that occur in the body during physical activity, including the following:
- Increased respiration rate to take in more oxygen for the muscles and expel excess carbon dioxide that is produced when the muscles generate the energy they need.
- Increased heart rate to circulate more blood to the working muscles.
- A dilation or widening of the small blood vessels throughout the body in order to promote blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles.
- Increased body heat, or core temperature, due to muscle contractions and increased metabolic activity.
Of these normal physiological responses to exercise, the dilation of small blood vessels such as arterioles and capillaries, as well as the increase in body temperature, are particularly responsible for facial flushing during a workout.
As your body temperature increases, thermoreceptors in your body respond by triggering various cooling mechanisms.
For example, the sweating response is initiated, and blood flow to the skin is increased because the further away from the core the blood gets, and the closer to the skin it becomes, the more it will cool down.
Therefore, coupled with the fact that the small blood vessels in the face dilate as you exercise, the increased blood flow to the surface of the skin makes for a flushed face.
This facial flushing may persist for a bit after your workout is over; in fact, many people find that their face gets extremely red after exercise, even if it was only mildly flushed during their workout.
This reaction may seem to be the reverse of what you would expect, but it’s actually common.
Body temperature can continue to rise slightly after your workout, depending on the intensity and type of exercise that you did.
For example, you might notice you have a really red face after running or doing a HIIT workout because the vigorous nature of the exercise results in an elevated metabolic rate even once you’ve stopped the exercise.
Moreover, while you are performing vigorous exercise, the muscles need all of the oxygen and nutrients they get, so circulation to the muscles is prioritized, even if it would be helpful to divert more toward the skin for cooling.
As soon as the intense physical activity is over, blood flow to the skin can be prioritized so that facial blood flow may be even more pronounced.
Is It Normal to Get a Red Face After Exercise?
In most cases, facial flushing during or after working out is completely normal, even if your face is beet red.
However, if you are exercising in extreme heat and are displaying other signs of heat exhaustion, such as profuse sweating, a bright red face during exercise can be an early warning sign of heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion can rapidly turn into more serious heat illnesses such as heat stroke, so if you are experiencing a bright red face running in the heat or performing some other type of vigorous workout in a hot environment, you should heed the warning sign and stop exercising immediately and get to a cooler environment.
Although heat exhaustion is marked by profuse sweating and skin flushing, as well as nausea and lightheadedness, once your heat illness escalates to the point of heat stroke, sweating can cease, and your skin may become cool and clammy.
This is a life-threatening condition marked by a core temperature above 104°F. Immediate medical attention is necessary because the body is unable to effectively compensate for the excess buildup of heat.
Causes of a Red Face From Exercise
As mentioned, post-workout facial flushing is essentially a normal response to the body heating up, but let’s look more closely at the causes of a red face after exercise:
The primary reason your face gets red during exercise is because of vasodilation of the superficial blood vessels in your face, which are the ones that are close to the surface of the skin.
This is a normal cooling response in the body.
#2: High Capillary Density
If you feel self-conscious that your face is redder than anyone else’s in your exercise class, it’s not necessarily an indication that you’re less fit.
Rather, you probably have more superficial capillaries in your face or have less body fat in your cheeks surrounding the blood vessels.
Your blood vessel arrangement and density are largely due to your genetics, so there’s nothing you can do about it, and it’s not a cause for concern.
#3: Fair Skin Tone
If you have fair skin, any amount of reddening of the face during or after exercise can be quite noticeable, although plenty of people with darker skin tones also experience facial flushing from exercise.
Tips for Preventing a Red Face After Exercise
Because most facial flushing from exercise is a completely normal physiological response to physical activity, there is little you can do to prevent it.
With that said, keeping your body temperature as low as possible will minimize the degree to which the blood flow to your face increases.
Here are some of our best tips to help prevent a red face after exercise:
- If you’re going to be working out indoors, use fans or an air conditioner to promote airflow and a cooler ambient temperature.
- If you’re going to be running outside or doing some other type of workout, exercise during the cooler parts of the day (morning or night), or stick to shady trails or roads away from direct sunlight.
- Wear loose, cool clothing that wicks moisture and promotes airflow. Tight-fitting compression garments can trap body heat, and being overdressed can cause your temperature to increase rapidly once you start moving.
- If you are exercising outdoors, the colors of the fabric can also play a role in how much heat builds up in your body. Dark colors absorb heat from the sunlight, so stick with white or light-colored fabrics.
- During your workout, you can apply cool water mist to your face to constrict the blood vessels and keep your face from overheating.
- Before your workout, avoid things that inflame or irritate the skin or lead to facial flushing independent of exercise. Examples include alcohol (which also dilates the superficial capillaries on the face), caffeine, chocolate, and spicy foods.
- Sun exposure and harsh skin care products, such as Accutane or retinol, can also irritate the skin and predispose you to even more prominent facial flushing during exercise.
- Staying well hydrated will not only keep your body cooler and lead to milder facial flushing, but it’s also critical for preventing heat illnesses.
How to Reduce the Redness of Your Face After Exercise
With time, any facial flushing from exercise should resolve within an hour or two, depending on how hot you are and how quickly and effectively you can cool down your body.
If you would like to get rid of your post-workout red face as quickly as possible, you can expedite the process by trying to cool your face directly.
Here are a few tips to reduce the redness of your face after working out:
#1: Splash Your Face With Cold Water
Running cold water on your face or using a cold compress on your flushed cheeks can cause the capillaries to constrict so that the blood flow to your face decreases.
#2: Apply Cold Aloe
Chilled aloe vera gel can soothe and nourish your skin and may reduce the redness of your face.
#3: Use Tinted Makeup
If you have to rush off to an important presentation or date after a vigorous spin class, you can apply green-tinted makeup to your face to counteract the redness.
#4: See a Dermatologist
If your face is beet red after exercise every single time you work out and you experience facial flushing at other times of the day, you might have rosacea or some other skin condition.
A dermatologist can help you identify an effective skincare routine.
Overall, having a red face after exercise should just be seen as evidence of your hard work. Think of it as your post-workout flow, and feel proud of yourself for moving your body.
There are other potential after-effects of exercise that may be cause for concern, such as an elevated heart rate. For our guide on an elevated heart rate after running or exercising, click here.