Facial flushing, or a red, hot, burning face, is a symptom many people experience. It may range from being an annoyance to a debilitating experience. There are many causes of a red face, some common and others uncommon.
Facial flushing and Menopause
A common cause of a red, hot, burning face in women is menopause. Hot flashes occur in 80% of women going through menopause. A hot flash is a sensation of intense warmth in the body that lasts from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Most women with hot flashes also experience facial flushing. This is called a vasomotor flush. It is seen as redness starting in the chest and neck area, and then rising to cover the face.
How Menopause Causes Facial Flushing
The red face and overall hot flash is caused by a lowering of the set point of the heat regulating center in the brain, or more accurately, in the hypothalamus. This lowered set point fools the brain into thinking body temperature is too high and must be lowered. Blood flow is increased in the blood vessels in the skin causing redness, and a hot, burning sensation. This action allows body heat to escape and lowers body temperature. Estrogen stabilizes this heat regulating center; therefore, withdrawal from estrogen causes heat regulation instability.
Treatment of Facial Flushing from Menopause
The treatment of hot flashes and facial flushing in menopause is the same. The most effective treatment is estrogen. In women who cannot take estrogen may be able to take progesterone. Progesterone taken once daily has been shown to reduce facial flushing by 87%. Certain blood pressure medications such as clonidine, lofexidine, and methyldopa have been shown to reduce flushing by regulating the same chemicals in the brain that transmit heat-regulating information. Herbal preparations containing soy have been shown to reduce the frequency of flushing. However, studies have not shown any benefit from the herbs dong quai, ginseng, black cohash, or St. John's Wort.