Most people have had a red nose after a cold, the flu, or an allergic reaction. In these cases, the redness is usually due to the dryness of the skin that results from constant wiping. The nose can also turn red due to skin and blood vessel problems, chronic inflammation, allergies, and a few other conditions. Although a red nose can be bothersome, it is rarely a cause for serious concern.
A person’s nose may turn red due to changes in the surface of the skin or blood vessels. When the skin is irritated or inflamed, the nose may be temporarily red. Blood vessels in the nose can also swell or rupture, giving a red or swollen appearance.
The most common causes of a red nose are:
Rosacea is a skin condition that causes the skin to look red and irritated. In some people, rosacea begins with a tendency to blush easily. The redness usually starts on the cheeks and then spreads to the nose, ears, chin, and other areas of the face or body. Rosacea is not well understood. Some doctors believe it occurs when a person’s blood vessels dilate easily, causing the skin to look red. In some people, specific triggers cause rosacea to flare up, including eating spicy food.
Four types of rosacea can cause redness in the nose:
Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea, which causes flushing, redness and visible blood vessels.
Ocular rosacea, which irritates the eyes and eyelids but usually does not affect the nose. However, people with this form of rosacea can develop other types of rosacea.
Phymatous rosacea, which results in thickening of the skin and the appearance of a bumpy texture.
Papulo-pustular rosacea, which causes acne, redness and swelling.
Rosacea can be treated, but some people with rosacea develop permanent redness on their skin.
Rhinophyma is a side effect of untreated rosacea that causes the oil-producing glands in the nose to thicken. This reaction can change the shape of the nose, giving it a bumpy and hard appearance. People with rhinophyma may develop visible blood vessels that are either thin and red or thick and purple. Rhinophyma is much more common in men than in women. This may be due to the influence of male hormones, especially testosterone. Once rhinophyma develops, it is usually permanent. Some cosmetic surgeries can improve the appearance of the nose.
Very dry skin can make the nose look red and irritated. Some people develop this dryness and irritation from frequently wiping their nose. Dry skin conditions, such as eczema, can also cause the nose to look red, scaly, or irritated. The redness is normally temporary, but the underlying condition can cause frequent flare-ups.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack healthy cells. Many people with lupus develop a butterfly-shaped rash on their nose and cheeks. This rash, called a malar rash, can cause the nose to look red and bumpy. Lupus medications can help reduce the frequency and severity of lupus-related skin problems, including redness in the nose.
Allergies can make the nose look red in several ways. Hay fever, dust allergies, and pet allergies can cause sneezing and a runny nose. Frequently wiping your nose can irritate the skin and create redness. Allergies can also cause blood vessels in and around the nose, under the skin, to swell or burst, making the nose look swollen and red. Allergies to skincare products and cosmetics can irritate the surface of the skin, making it dry, red, scaly, or itchy.
Injuries to the nose can cause blood vessels under the skin to rupture, causing the nose to look swollen and red. Recent surgery on the nose, a blow to the nose, cystic acne, and skin injuries can all cause redness.
Other potential causes
Other factors can cause temporary redness. The change is short-lived, and the nose returns to its normal color within minutes or hours. Alcohol, temperature changes, eating spicy foods, and blushing cause some people’s noses to temporarily turn red. People with thin or pale skin and visible blood vessels are more likely to notice their nose turning red briefly in response to these factors.
Treatment for a red nose depends on the cause of the redness. It is important to understand if the problem is related to the skin or the blood vessels. If the problem is related to blood vessels or caused by a chronic disease, topical creams and medications applied to the skin will not work.
Treatment of rosacea and rhinophyma
Treating rosacea begins with identifying lifestyle factors that contribute to flare-ups of the condition. Some people develop rosacea as a reaction to stress, certain foods, or skin creams. Eliminating these triggers can reduce the severity and frequency of redness.
Using sunscreen can prevent rosacea from getting worse but does not treat the underlying cause. Medicines containing sulfur and some antibiotics can control rosacea symptoms. When rosacea makes blood vessels more visible, certain cardiovascular medications may help.
Rhinophyma cannot be reversed by traditional treatments, but treating the underlying rosacea can prevent it from getting worse. Cosmetic surgeries can be helpful.
Surgical treatment options include:
Cryotherapy, which freezes and removes affected skin.
Dermabrasion, which involves scraping the surface of the skin to even out its appearance.
Dermaplaning, which removes affected skin.
Laser resurfacing, which uses a laser to reshape the skin.
Avoiding cosmetics and skin products that cause allergic reactions can prevent nose redness. People with seasonal or respiratory allergies may benefit from over-the-counter or online products, such as allergy medications or saline nasal sprays. Gently blotting the nose with a soft cloth can help prevent irritation and redness. Moisturizers can also be helpful, especially if the skin looks flaky and dry.
Treatment of dry skin
Treatments for dry skin can include oatmeal products, steroid creams, and moisturizers. Dry skin requires extra hydration, so using a heavy moisturizer can help. People with eczema may need to experiment with various remedies, as some people find that foods, allergens, or stress can trigger eczema flare-ups.
Other treatments that may be effective include:
steroid creams, especially if the nose is red and itchy
oatmeal products to soothe the skin.
phototherapy, which uses light to treat eczema
medicines to treat the cause of the eczema, including inflammation or an overactive immune system.
Treating lupus symptoms can prevent lupus from attacking the skin. Some treatments that may reduce the effects of lupus on the skin include the following:
lifestyle changes, such as managing stress and avoiding the sun
creams applied directly to the skin, including steroids, retinoids, antibiotics, and others
systemic medications to control symptoms
Prevent temporary redness
Sometimes a red nose is just a temporary annoyance. When alcohol, spicy foods, or other environmental irritants leave a red nose, some simple strategies can help.
Alternating cold and hot compresses can reduce swelling and irritation. It can also help reduce swelling and redness from an injury. Avoiding triggers for nose redness, such as alcohol and spicy foods, can also help. If a person has allergies or a frequent runny nose, they can use tissues and moisturize their skin often to avoid dryness and irritation.
A red nose is not a medical problem but can be a symptom of another problem. When the nose is frequently red for no clear reason, a person should see a doctor. Treatment is often relatively simple. Even when it isn’t, early treatment for lupus and other illnesses can keep symptoms from getting worse.