For as long as I can remember, I've been plagued with one of the most annoying skin conditions known to man: redness. Okay, that might be a tad dramatic, but as someone who suffers from mild rosacea, redness is basically my middle name. Spicy food, an intense workout, a relaxing glass of wine, a hint of anxiety, a slight breeze, a Tuesday—basically, you name it, and it irritates my skin.
I always assumed this was a personal problem that I had to deal with. It wasn't until I read a recent Man Repeller Instagram post about an editor's battle with pink cheeks and saw the hundreds of comments that I realized this is a common problem. Being the product junkie that I am (don't judge), I've tested just about every formula on the market that's promoted as redness-reducing, anti-inflammatory, neutralizing, calming, etc., so I figured I should share the knowledge I've acquired.
Below, I'm breaking down the real deal with all of these options and giving my honest reviews about the best redness-reducing skincare products—essentially, which ones helped and which ones are a waste of time (and money). I gave each product a rating on a 5-star scale, and only two earned the honor of 5 stars and I would now consider my holy-grail products. Now, I'm strictly talking skincare here, not makeup to cover up the rosiness. If you'd like another story on that (or would just like to discuss this further because I could truly talk about this all day), feel free to slide into my DMs here.
Here's an example of what my skin typically looks like sans makeup. This was taken post-facial (hence the extraction blemishes), but it's a good baseline for the level of redness I'm referencing when talking about my skin issues.
The price tag on May Lindstrom's beauty balm might be scary, but this stuff is magical. Upon contact with skin, it transforms into a lightweight blue facial oil that melts right in. The Blue Cocoon’s key ingredient is blue tansy, which calms and relieves inflammation on sensitive skin. I apply a pea-size amount at night (before bed is definitely my preference as it's a tad greasy, so I don't typically use it under makeup), and it immediately soothes my skin. I also use it sometimes after a workout if I need to do a quick turnaround to look presentable, as it has an instant calming effect. Now, yes, I agree the price is steep, but a tiny bit of this clean formula goes a long way, so it will definitely last a while. Oh, and it smells divine.
Dr. Jart+ is my holy-grail brand for redness—specifically the Cicapair Tiger Grass collection. The hero ingredient is centella asiatica (also known as tiger grass), which is derived from an herb plant native to the wetlands in Asia. This provides an immediate soothing effect while also enhancing the skin’s structure and yielding a protective barrier. I use both the Re.Pair Serum and the Color Correcting Treatment daily before applying my makeup. The Re.Pair serum soothes skin sensitivity while calming redness and irritation, but if you want immediate results, the Color Correcting Treatment is where it's at. After I apply my serums, I rub this green-to-beige cream all over my face, and voilà. My redness is almost nonexistent. Seriously, it's a game changer. This would be my first recommendation to anyone who suffers from redness because it does an amazing job of neutralizing. One warning, though: I would stick to this for daytime only because the formula does go from green to beige and leaves a slight tint on the surface of the skin (almost like a tinted moisturizer), so the color will transfer onto your pillowcase at night.
Now, out of all the products I've tried, sadly, Clinique's Daily Relief Cream is the one that I didn't notice much of an improvement from. It didn't irritate my skin or make things worse, but it didn't exactly help, either. Truthfully, I didn't detect any real changes from using this product. However, if you're looking for a foundation that covers redness well, Clinique's Redness Solutions Makeup is my go-to! It's a bit of a thicker formula than other foundations I use, but if I'm feeling particularly flushed, it's a lifesaver for neutralizing rosy cheeks.
Drunk Elephant's Virgin Marula Oil is rich in vitamin E and omegas-6 and -9 and is supposed to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, redness, and blotchiness, while also improving skin’s elasticity. I'm not sure all of that is true, but what I do know is that it makes my skin feel phenomenal. I use this one a few nights a week before bed (it's slightly greasy since it's an oil, so nighttime application is key), and my skin feels soft, hydrated, and happy upon waking. However, I'm not sure that it specifically reduces redness for me. I think it's more of a general calming effect. But here's a bonus: It's 100% clean.
Ren's Evercalm range is specifically formulated for sensitive skin, using milk polypeptides, rice protein, and hyaluronic acids to relieve discomfort while also reducing visible redness and irritation. This is another one that I think works best over time. I don't see a major change in color immediately, but I typically use it at night and wake up with much calmer skin than normal. It wouldn't be my top recommendation for redness, but if you're looking for a clean solution, this is definitely a good option.
For years, I heard every dermatologist and celebrity esthetician rave about IS Clinical, and once I finally gave in to trying it, my only regret was that I waited so long to do so. Its products really are worth the hype. For redness, I specifically like the Pro-Heal Serum Advance+, which combines vitamin C, vitamin E, and olive leaf extract to protect the skin against UV rays and environmental aggressors. This is definitely a product that works over time (rather than some others that deliver immediate redness relief), but after using a few drops daily in the morning for a week, I noticed my skin was significantly less irritated overall. Similar to the May Lindstrom balm, a small amount of this goes a long way, so the bottle will last you months. The Hydra-Cool Serum is also a nice addition at night to soothe skin before bed.
If you're looking for a lightweight serum that neutralizes redness and can be worn underneath makeup seamlessly, SkinCeuticals Phyto Corrective Gel is your answer. Applied morning or evening (or both!), this green gel decreases the rosiness in my cheeks while also making my entire face feel calmer. If you flush easily (which, if you've gotten this far down the page, I assume you do), you know the hot feeling underneath the surface of your skin that comes along with the superficial redness. Well, this product actually lessens that feeling for me as well. I combine it with the B5 Gel for extra hydration, and my skin feels significantly more neutral.
This moisture-enhancing gel contains hyaluronic acid, the body’s natural hydrator, to bind moisture to the skin. I use it underneath my moisturizer to keep my skin calm.
Here comes another one of my holy-grail products: Sonya Dakar's Organic Omega Booster. Made of a blend of organic flaxseed oil rich in omega-3, -6, and -9 fatty acids and essential oils, the Omega Booster soothes skin while reducing redness and inflammation. I've been applying it at night and waking up with the calmest skin. I also use her Sensi Wash, which is specifically formulated for people with extremely sensitive skin and conditions like rosacea. Her entire line is clean, which is also beneficial for delicate skin as it's free from synthetic fragrances and chemical ingredients. I only use the Omega Booster at night, as it is a bit too oily on my skin to be worn under makeup during the day, but I know people who use it both a.m. and p.m. and love it. I think it just depends on your skin and how quickly it absorbs in. Ten out of 10 would recommend.
I had been hearing rave reviews about Renée Rouleau's line for years from beauty editors and skin gurus alike, so I finally decided to give it a try. Her website has a skin analysis quiz that takes about 10 minutes to fill out and returns with the exact routine you should be following and products you should be using. Upon completing mine, it identified my skin as type five: normal/sensitive/red/anti-aging. One of the recommended products was the Redness Care Firming Serum, so obviously I had to put it to the test. This is another product that works better over time rather than delivering immediate redness and inflammatory relief. Upon contact with skin, I didn't detect any noticeable changes, but after using it at night for a few weeks, my skin was calmer overall, and it helped reduce residual redness from the day.
The Phyto-C Superheal O-Live Gel was actually recommended to me by a friend, and I found it super effective at immediately relieving irritated skin. Using the antioxidant power of olive leaf extract, this thick green gel is a lifesaver when my skin is particularly irritated. It absorbs into skin surprisingly fast for a heavier-looking formula and delivers an instant soothing feeling. I can easily wear this under makeup during the day and moisturizer at night.
Last but not least, let me introduce you to a brand I just recently discovered and am already obsessed with. O'o Hawaii is a 100% clean line out of the North Shore of Oahu, and each product is enriched with superfoods like red algae and elderberry extract. I particularly like the Beauty Balm for redness woes, as the thick pink formula melts right into your skin upon contact and makes you feel instantly refreshed. I've been using it at night, but it absorbs well enough into your skin that it can easily be applied during the day.