There are few things that are more frustrating and unsightly than patches of red, blotchy skin on your face. Blotchy patches like this are commonly seen as a marker of aging, and they make you look unhealthy and worn out, even if you take good care of your skin otherwise.
But what can you do about blotchy skin besides covering it up with makeup? The good news is, there's quite a lot you can do, from preventing it to treating it.
What Exactly Causes Blotchy Skin?
We first need to cover a bit of background. While you can deal with blotchy skin once it's occurred (more on this in a bit), it's easier and better to prevent it as much as possible.
Here are the most common causes of blotchy skin:
When your skin gets irritated or injured in some way, the area that was inflamed will often stay redder and darker than the skin around for weeks or even months.
Inflammation can be caused by a number of things, including sun exposure, harsh detergents, chemicals in cosmetics, or simply dust and dirt. This is the most common cause of blotchy skin, but it's also easily prevented by limiting your contact with the source of inflammation.
In some people, increased levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone appear to influence the production of melanin, the tanning pigment that's present in our skin. Increases in these hormones can be caused by contraception, pregnancy, or simply natural fluctuations. While hormonal changes might be hard to control, the blotchy skin in this case is ultimately also influenced by sun exposure.
Rosacea is a chronic medical condition that causes redness and dilated blood vessels in the face. There is no simple test for it, and its cause is unknown. However, factors that seem to bring on rosacea include sunburn, extreme temperatures (particularly, changes in temperature), strenuous exercise, stress, and anxiety. Limiting your exposure to such triggers will decrease the chance of a rosacea flareup.
The sun is not your skin's friend
Overall, sun exposure appears to be the number one contributing factor to blotchy skin. Scientists now know that UV radiation causes free radical production in your skin and damages your skin cells’ DNA. Even if you don't get sunburned, chronic sun exposure will eventually lead to wrinkles and red, splotchy areas. What's worse, sun exposure is responsible both for creating new patches of blotchy skin, as well as for making existing patches darker and more noticeable.
So what should you do? The first and obvious answer is to minimize your time in the sun, and to wear a hat to protect your face from direct sun exposure. However, that's not always possible, so the other answer is to protect your skin with sunscreen (or a lotion that provides sun protection).
The important thing to know is that you need a sunscreen that protects you against both UVA and UVB radiation, the two kinds of UV light that we are exposed to. In short, UVB radiation is the kind that causes sunburns, so it's gotten much of the attention for a long time. However, scientists are finding out that UVA radiation seems to be more responsible for skin aging, including causing blotchy skin. To make sure your sunscreen has both UVA and UVB protection, look for the phrase "broad spectrum" on your sunscreen or sun protection lotion.
Skincare items to improve blotchy skin
Even if you avoid skin irritants or try to minimize sun damage, it's still inevitable that your skin will eventually get irritated or inflamed a bit. It's also possible that you already have blotchy skin from previous skin damage. In this case, here is a list of some of the top treatments for blotchy skin:
Retinol is a form of vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant that acts to reduce inflammation and damage in your skin. Because of its anti-aging effects, retinol is commonly added to moisturizers and night creams. While it is quite miraculous, it's important to know that retinol is unstable if it's exposed to sunlight. You should use only it only at night, and you should avoid sunscreens or day creams that contain retinol.
Like retinol, vitamin E is also an antioxidant, and this is the reason that it's included in lots of skin care products. You can also buy vitamin E oil or vitamin E capsules for a fraction of the price, and use this directly on your skin. In case you buy the capsules, simply use a pin to make a hole in the capsule and squeeze out the oil, which you can then apply to discolored and blotchy areas.
Aloe vera gel
Aloe vera has been used for a long time to reduce inflammation, and it also helps skin heal and recover more quickly, removing existing redness. Aloe vera gel is probably the most affordable way to treat red, inflamed skin and to limit the appearance of new blotchy patches.
Chemical peels (Specifically for blotchy skin)
Chemical peels consist of exfoliating chemicals, such as alpha hydroxy acids, that strip away dead, discolored layers of skin. You should talk to your dermatologist if you are interested in getting a chemical peel. There are chemical peels that you can buy and apply yourself, but ultimately, if they are concentrated enough to be effective, you will want a doctor's supervision in order to administer them safely.
Intense pulsed light
This is a modern technique in which powerful broadband light (different from a laser) is used to treat a variety of skin issues, including discolorations due to sun exposure and rosacea. You will need to go to a specialized clinic to get this performed, and the treatments usually need to be repeated once a month, for four to six months. While this kind of treatment can be rather pricey (as high as $500 per session), it is a very effective way for treating existing blotchy skin.
Wrapping it up
You don’t have to live with blotchy skin, and you don’t have to constantly cover it up with foundation and concealer. The number one thing you can do to avoid blotchy skin is to minimize sun exposure and to protect yourself with sunscreen. However, even once you’ve developed some blotchy patches on your face, a number of options exist to get back to an even skin tone, from skincare products containing antioxidants, to safe and effective dermatological treatments.