Here's Why Your Cheeks Go Red In The Winter

Not everyone experiences facial flushing, but for those that do it can occur in a variety of different circumstances. The most common occurrence is a direct result of feeling anxious or embarrassment, which is "triggered by the sympathetic nervous system" — which is where that "fight or flight" feeling comes into play, according to Medical News Today. When you blush, "the blood vessels in the face get wider and increase blood flow," which becomes visible under the skin. 

But it's not just psychological factors that can cause this to happen. Some may experience blushing after eating or drinking something hot, or even after consuming alcohol, Healthline notes — this can especially occur with people who have a "faulty" ALDH2 gene.

Rosy cheeks can come on as a direct result of the weather, too. Whether you're in a hot or cold climate, the temperature can affect a variety of different parts of your body — especially in winter. But why do some people experience red cheeks more than others in the colder months?

Frosty winds and chilly temperatures are the main culprits of rosy cheeks

Similar to your body blushing as a result of psychological trigger, physical sensations can cause your cheeks to go red. According to the Ottawa Skin Clinic, there are four common reasons why we experience facial redness during the most wonderful time of the year. The most common is your skin reacting to a cold wind, as a bitter chill directly to the face can strip the natural oils away from your face and leave you with windburn. 

While it may sound similar to sunburn, it's "completely different," Adam Friedman, a dermatology professor at George Washington School of Medicine Health and Sciences, told Allure. Instead, it's actually a type of "irritant dermatitis" which is caused by the wind pulling out water from the top layer of the epidermis. "Windburn is essentially severe skin dryness with disruption of the skin barrier, leading to inflammation," Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, added. Considering that skin dryness is one of the reasons your face gets red in the winter, per Ottawa Skin Clinic, this makes perfect sense.

Rosy cheeks can also be a direct result of the colder temperature. As your body attempts to warm itself up, the blood vessels in your cheeks expand "to allow more blood to flow into the face," Healthline notes. It's exactly what happens when you blush from embarrassment, it's just the trigger that is different. 

And lastly, while rosacea is a skin condition that people have all year round, Ottawa Skin Clinic notes that cold weather could increase the amount of "flare-ups" someone with rosacea might have.