I've Had Perpetual Skin Redness My Whole Life — Here's How I Finally Treated It

This may be the secret to getting rid of redness and stubborn hyperpigmentation for good.

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This Anti-Redness Treatment Vanished the Perpetually Red Undertones
Photo: Getty Images

Ever since I was little I've had red undertones. And every time I complain about my complexion, my mom pulls out the baby books to drive home the point: I've always been rosy.

And to sweeten the deal, high school brought an onset of hormonal acne (which still lingers) causing hyperpigmentation, scarring, and dark spots.

I eventually came to terms with my redness, masking it with concealer and foundation for years. Then when we started working from home thanks to COVID-19, I opted to forego my everyday foundation — no need for a full face of makeup to sit in my bedroom all day. But after nearly two years of catching glimpses of my bright red face in the Zoom camera, I decided to address it — I couldn't just wear makeup 24/7 to fix the problem.

But let me start by noting that everyone's skin varies and reacts differently to treatments. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. I've found after much trial and error, a lot of the hottest products on the market right now don't do squat for me and my crimson coloring. So I opted to go the deeper route by nixing the topicals and cutting to the chase with professional in-office treatments.

Video: Can You Really Shrink Your Pores? Top Dermatologists Have the Answer

What Causes Red Undertones?

According to Saime Demirovic, esthetician and co-founder of Glo Spa in New York City, there's really a multitude of reasons as to why your skin could have perpetual redness. She cites sun damage, acne, and melasma, a hormonally caused condition of dark patches on the skin, for being the biggest culprits of hyperpigmentation. Redness, on the other hand, comes from lifestyle habits and genetics — go figure.

Considering I've had acne since high school, frequently work out, and enjoy social drinking on the weekend, it's probably mostly to do with my lifestyle and DNA (thanks, mom and dad).

My Course of Action

I've been using prescription-grade skincare since I was 14-years-old. Some things have helped for a bit and then stopped working, other products just made things worse. That's why I wanted to go a little deeper than the surface level products I'd been messing around with for years.

Enter IPL and Genesis Laser, two professional-grade light machines designed to produce the glowy skin I've been so desperate for.


Given my skin's deep redness and blotchy spots, Demirovic initially recommended IPL, which stands for Intense Pulsed Light or often referred to as a photo-facial. It uses light energy to target colors in the skin.

When treating redness, heat from the light expands blood-trapping veins at the surface of your skin, improving circulation and blood flow. If you're treating brown spots, the laser heats the cells that later separate from the skin and slough off dead cells after a week or two.

"IPL is a great way to even out blotchy skin caused by sun damage rosacea and melasma," says Demirovic. "It does a wonderful job at targeting excess pigment in our skin.

As for the process, it's fairly quick and easy, only taking 20 to 30 minutes to complete. That said, it's not your average, run-of-the-mill facial. While you can get great results from this treatment, don't expect it to be relaxing. Not to be dramatic, but each "pulse" of light feels like a tiny jolt of electricity. It's a very quick "zing" that was accompanied with breaks and cooling serums for me, so it's certainly manageable, but it does come with a warning.

Genesis Laser

Factor in my ongoing struggle with acne and rosacea, I decided I needed a little extra strength to target leftover acne scarring, enlarged pores, and redness from current breakouts. So we supplemented the IPL treatments with Genesis Laser, which "works by heating up the skin which stimulates collagen production," says Demirovic.

In a similar a manner to IPL, the heat allows your skin's blood vessels to open up, releasing the redness. But IPL is more attracted to browns and dark reds, while Laser Genesis is focused on treating your skin.

"Laser Genesis is amazing at making pores appear smaller," she tells me. "The heat also helps reduce the appearance of acne, as well as help speed up the healing of pigmentation or discoloration caused by acne."

While you can get each treatment individually, Demirovic suggests a combination plan of the two techniques if you have stubborn skin (like me). "Pairing these treatments is something special because now you are working on fixing a problem while helping to create a smoother skin texture," she tells me.

The Cost

So now it comes down to everyone's least favorite part: the price tag.

According to Demirovic, IPL can cost anywhere from $200 to $500 per session, while Laser Genesis rings in at around $300 to $500.

The Results

The results will vary person to person, of course. Patients can expect to see a difference in pigmentation after each visit, says Demirovic. You'll see dark spots, sun spots, and scarring fade, even if just a little, after one treatment.

Treating redness is a little bit more difficult because small veins can be stubborn, says Demirovic. Results can be seen after two to four treatments, depending on the client.

And I'm not going to lie, this treatment won't prevent your skin from future irritation. With the brisk winter wind and dropping temperatures, my skin is dry, flaky, and still a little red currently. I'm still dealing with breakouts, which plays into the red tones, of course. And when I'm warm or embarrassed, my face easily flushes (all things that IPL can't fix).

But that being said, when my skin is not experiencing harsh elements, and is totally calm and relaxed, I can spot a difference in my complexion, even if just a small one.

I started to see results after three treatments of both IPL and Genesis Lasers. On my last session, we went full force doing a double treatment, which gave me almost immediately noticeable results. I could already see an evened out complexion and glow when I looked in the mirror.

Of course, you still have to take care of your skin. I keep up with my strict regimen which consists of products for my sensitive skin. But with the IPL and Genesis Laser treatments in tandem with my skincare routine and making small lifestyle changes, I'm on my way to a clear and calm complexion.

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