Common Face Rash Causes and Treatment

"Rash" is a general term that describes an area of irritated skin. It often causes changes to the color and texture of your skin—for example, it can be red, itchy, bumpy, scaly, warm, and/or painful. It can appear suddenly or develop over several days. A number of different conditions can cause rashes, including allergies and infections; your age and genes may also play a role.

A rash on your face is not only uncomfortable but also embarrassing. This article will discuss the causes of a face rash, symptoms, and treatments you can do at home.

Atopic Skin Concept. Worried Young Woman Looking At Mirror And Touching Face

Prostock-Studio / Getty Images

Causes

Many factors can trigger a facial rash. Here's a look at some of the most common causes.

Infectious Causes

Bacteria, viruses, and fungi can all cause skin infections. Oftentimes, these pathogens enter the skin through a cut, insect bite, or other wound. The resulting infection can cause red bumps and other rash symptoms on your face.

Bacterial skin infections: These are caused by bacteria such as Streptococcus (strep) or Staphylococcus (staph) and often begin as small, red bumps that slowly increase in size. Many bacterial infections are mild and easily treated with topical or oral antibiotics. Bacterial skin infections include:

Viral skin infections: These infections are caused by viruses such as the varicella zoster virus (VZV), and they range from mild to severe. Viral infections that cause skin rashes include:

Fungal infections: One of the most common types of fungal infections, known as a yeast infection, is caused by an overgrowth of naturally occurring fungi called Candida, in particular Candida albicans. A yeast infection most often occurs in moist areas of the body, like the vagina or mouth, but it can also show up on the face, including the forehead, nose, and corners of the mouth.

Allergic Causes

An allergic reaction is a sensitivity to something you’ve eaten, inhaled, or touched. The substance that you’re allergic to is called an allergen. Your body interprets the allergen as foreign or harmful, and your immune system mounts an attack against it.

Allergy symptoms can appear on many parts of the body, including the face. Examples of allergic reactions that can cause a rash on your face include:

Autoimmune, Chronic, and Inflammatory Causes

These skin conditions and autoimmune diseases can cause the appearance of a rash on your face:

  • Rosacea: This common chronic skin condition usually only affects the face, although occasionally, the neck, chest, or other areas may be involved. Characterized by redness, pimple-like bumps, and tiny visible blood vessels, rosacea usually first appears between the ages of 30 and 60. It is more common in fair-skinned people and menopausal people.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: This is an inflammation of the upper layers of skin, characterized by red, itchy, scaly skin. Seborrheic dermatitis can be a hereditary condition. It is often aggravated by hormonal changes and cold weather conditions.
  • Psoriasis: This autoimmune disorder causes your immune system to attack your skin cells, resulting in lesions, inflammation, and scaly patches on the skin.
  • Lupus: Lupus is another autoimmune disorder that triggers inflammation. A common symptom of lupus is a butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks. You may also experience lesions on your skin after sun exposure.
  • Dermatomyositis: This rare disease is thought to be an autoimmune disorder. It causes a reddish, symmetrical rash around the eyes as well as muscle weakness and inflammation.

Life-Threatening Causes

There are potentially life-threatening conditions that can trigger a facial rash, including:

  • Pemphigus: This rare autoimmune disease causes painful blistering. It usually affects the mouth but can show up on the face, scalp, chest, and back, too. Left untreated, pemphigus can progress and cause life-threatening complications such as sepsis.
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome/toxic epidermal necrolysis: (SJS/TEN). This is a severe skin reaction characterized by painful blistering of the skin and mucous membranes. It can cause large portions of the skin to peel off and can also damage the eyes. The most common cause of SJS/TEN is an adverse allergic drug reaction.
  • Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS): This serious skin infection develops in response to toxins produced by a staph infection. Most common in children, SSSS causes large areas of skin all over the body, including the face, to turn red, blister, and peel away.

Symptoms

The exact symptoms you'll experience when you have a facial rash will depend on the underlying cause of your rash. It's common for someone with a facial rash to notice:

  • Redness
  • Scaly skin
  • Itching
  • Dryness
  • Pain
  • Bumps

Complications

While a rash is often not considered a cause for alarm and will usually clear up quickly, it's important to watch out for additional symptoms that could indicate a more serious problem. Call your healthcare provider if you notice any of the following:

  • Fever
  • A rash that spreads quickly and/or covers most of your body
  • Blisters around your eyes or mouth
  • Signs the rash is infected, such as green or yellow fluid, crusting, red streaks, warmth, and pain

Ways to Treat a Face Rash at Home

There are multiple ways that a face rash can be treated at home, including home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

Home Remedies

There are many home remedies that can help treat a rash on your face. These include:

  • Avoid scratching the rash, which can make it worse and could lead to infection.
  • Calamine lotion and oatmeal baths may help relieve the itching and discomfort associated with chicken pox, poison ivy, or poison oak.
  • Applying aloe vera gel may help your skin heal more quickly.

OTC Medications

The most common OTC medications used to treat rashes, including facial rashes are:

  • Oral antihistamines, which can help reduce swelling, redness, and itchiness
  • Corticosteroids, which are available as creams, and sprays and can help to reduce inflammation

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If the rash on your face is painful or infected, see your healthcare provider. You should also contact your provider if you have a fever or if you notice that your rash is spreading quickly and/or covers most of your body.

Go to the emergency room if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
  • Blisters in your eyes, mouth, or genital area

Summary

Rashes are abnormal changes in skin color or texture. They can appear anywhere on your body, including your face, and can be red, itchy, bumpy, scaly, warm, and/or painful.

A wide variety of conditions can trigger a facial rash, including infections, allergies, and autoimmune diseases. You can treat your symptoms at home with oral antihistamines and/or corticosteroids, but if you aren't sure what's causing your rash, see a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis.

Seek medical attention if your rash is spreading quickly or appears to be infected or if you have a fever or blisters in your eyes, mouth, or genital area.

A Word From Verywell

Having a rash on your face can cause embarrassment and discomfort, but they're very common. The quickest way to clear it up is to see a healthcare provider such as a dermatologist who can pinpoint the underlying cause and come up with a treatment plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When should I be worried about a rash on my face?

    If your rash is spreading rapidly, is painful, or is infected, or if you have a fever, you should contact your healthcare provider. Seek immediate medical attention if you have blisters in your eyes, mouth, or genital area; swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat; or if you're having trouble breathing.

  • What does an allergy face rash look like?

    Allergic contact dermatitis on the face is the result of your skin coming in contact with something you're allergic to. The rash will usually be red with bumps or blisters; you may also notice cracking and flaking.

  • What foods can cause a face rash?

    Many foods can cause an allergic reaction which can then lead to a rash on your face, the most common being:

    • Cow's milk
    • Eggs
    • Shellfish
    • Tree nuts
    • Peanuts
    • Seafood
    • Soy
    • Wheat

    Citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, and cinnamon are other potential triggers.

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By Caroline Chirichella
Caroline Chirichella is a freelance writer with a focus on mental health, digestive health, and parenting.