Most people have experienced a red nose after a cold, flu, or an allergic reaction. In these cases, the redness is usually due to the dry skin that results from persistent wiping.
The nose can also turn red due to skin and blood vessel issues, chronic inflammation, allergies, and a few other conditions. Although a red nose can be bothersome, it is rarely cause for serious concern.
Common causes of a red nose
A person’s nose can turn red because of changes in the surface of the skin or the blood vessels.
When the skin is irritated or inflamed, the nose can look temporarily red. Blood vessels in the nose can also swell or break open, creating a red or swollen appearance.
The most common causes of a red nose include:
Rosacea may make the skin look irritated and red.
Image credit: M. Sand, D. Sand, C. Thrandorf, V. Paech, P. Altmeyer, F. G. Bechara, Head & face medicine., 2010
Rosacea is a skin condition that causes the skin to look red and irritated. In some people, rosacea begins as a tendency to blush easily.
The redness typically begins on the cheeks, spreading to the nose, ears, chin, and other areas of the face or body.
Rosacea is not well understood. Some doctors believe that it occurs when a person’s blood vessels easily dilate and expand, making the skin look red.
In some people, specific triggers cause a rosacea flare-up, including eating spicy food.
Four types of rosacea can cause the nose to turn red:
Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea, which causes flushing, redness, and noticeable blood vessels.
Ocular rosacea, which irritates the eyes and eyelids but does not typically affect the nose. However, people with this form of rosacea may develop other types of rosacea.
Phymatous rosacea, which causes the skin to thicken and develop a bumpy texture.
Papulopustular rosacea, which causes acne, redness, and swelling.
Rosacea is treatable, 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 of the nose to thicken. This response can change the shape of the nose, making it look bumpy and hard.
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, including testosterone.
Once rhinophyma develops, it is usually permanent. Some cosmetic surgeries may 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 make the nose look red, scaly, or irritated. The redness is normally temporary, but the underlying condition may 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 make the nose to look red and bumpy.
Lupus medications may help reduce the frequency and severity of lupus-related skin problems, including nose reddening.
Allergies can cause the nose to look red in several ways. Hay fever, dust allergies, and pet allergies may cause sneezing and a runny nose.
Frequent nose-wiping can irritate the skin, creating a reddened appearance. Allergies may also cause blood vessels in and around the nose to swell or burst under the skin, making the nose look swollen and red.
Allergies to skin care and cosmetic products may irritate the surface of the skin, leaving it dry, red, flaky, or itchy.
Injuries to the nose can rupture blood vessels under the skin, making the nose look swollen and red. Recent surgery to the nose, being hit on the nose, cystic acne, and skin injuries can all cause redness.
Other potential causes
Some other factors can cause temporary redness. The change is short-lived, and the nose returns to its normal color within a few minutes or hours.
Alcohol, temperature changes, eating spicy food, and blushing cause some people’s noses to temporarily redden. People with thin or pale skin and visible blood vessels are more likely to notice their noses briefly reddening in response to these factors.
Treatment for a red nose depends on the cause of the redness. It is important to understand whether the issue is with the skin or with the blood vessels. If the problem is with the blood vessels or caused by a chronic illness, creams and topical medications applied to the skin will not work.
Treating rosacea and rhinophyma
To prevent rosacea from getting worse, using sun screen may be recommended.
Treating rosacea begins by identifying lifestyle factors that contribute to outbreaks of the condition. Some people develop rosacea in response 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 will not treat the underlying cause.
Drugs containing sulfur and some antibiotics can control symptoms of rosacea. When rosacea makes blood vessels more visible, some cardiovascular medications can help.
Rhinophyma cannot be reversed with traditional treatments, but treating the underlying rosacea can prevent it from getting worse. Cosmetic surgeries may help.
Surgical treatment options include:
Cryotherapy, which freezes and removes affected skin.
Dermabrasion, which scrapes the skin’s surface to even 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 a reddened nose. People with seasonal or respiratory allergies may benefit from allergy medications or from regularly cleaning the nose with a saline spray.
Gently blotting the nose with a soft cloth can help prevent irritation and redness. Moisturizing creams can also help, especially if the skin looks scaly and dry.
Addressing dry skin
Treatments for dry skin may include oatmeal products, steroid creams, and eczema moisturizers such as E45.
Dry skin requires additional moisture, so using a thick moisturizing cream may 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 work include:
- steroid creams, especially if the nose is red and itchy
- oatmeal products to soothe the skin
- phototherapy, using light to treat eczema
- special eczema moisturizers, such as E45
- medications to treat the eczema cause, including inflammation or an overactive immune system
Treating the symptoms of lupus can prevent lupus from attacking the skin. Some treatments that may reduce the effects lupus has on the skin include:
- lifestyle changes, such as managing stress and avoiding sun
- creams applied directly to the skin, including steroids, retinoids, antibiotics, and some others
- systemic medications to control the symptoms
Preventing temporary redness
Sometimes a red nose is just a temporary annoyance. When alcohol, spicy foods, or other environmental irritants leave the nose red, some simple strategies can help.
Alternating cold and hot packs may reduce swelling and irritation. This can also help reduce the swelling and redness of an injury.
Avoiding triggers for nose reddening, such as alcohol and spicy foods, can also help.
If a person has allergies or a frequently runny nose, they can use soft tissues and moisturize their skin often to avoid dryness and irritation.
A red nose is not a medical condition but can be a symptom of another problem.
When the nose is frequently red for no clear reason, a person should consult a doctor. Treatment is often relatively simple. Even when it is not, early treatment of lupus and other illnesses can prevent symptoms from worsening.