Exercise is making me hot, but not in the good way.
September 23, 2010 4:16 PM   Subscribe

Lately exercise is making my face very flushed and hot. This is unpleasant. Please hope me!

I have recently, over the past 4-6 weeks, been experiencing facial flushing when I exercise. It is really unpleasant. My face turns very pink and I have the sensation of being very hot, as if I'm standing under bright direct sunlight on a hot day. It's affecting my workout; I feel like I have to stop before I'm fatigued or my muscles give out, because I want to claw my face off or jump into a pool of cold water.
Anyone have experience with this, especially making it better?
Possible relevant facts:
- I have been doing crossfit for 8 months, scaled for my fitness level which until this happened had been improving steadily. I scale my workouts and progress has been good so I don't think I am overdoing it. Prior to crossfit, did water aerobics, weight machines & elliptical with no flushing.
- I live in Atlanta. It's been hot, humid, and the air quality sucks. However, this didn't start when the hot weather started this spring.
- I am nearly 40 and on hormonal birth control. Recent bad experiences with Seasonique led me back to Kariva (around the time of onset).
- Do not have high blood pressure or any other health issues.
- This is just my face, I sweat an average amount but don't feel this hot or get red all over, just my face.
- I do not flush very badly at other times. I do get a bit pink when embarrassed or after red wine but this is much more so.
So - hormonal? Weather? Mystery Illness? And how do I cope? More water? Cool towels? Meds?
Please advise; as I have mentioned here before I made the lifestyle change from couch potato to exercising person and I don't want to stop.
posted by pointystick to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have a damp towel to hand. Dab your face. Continue exercise.
posted by Biru at 4:22 PM on September 23, 2010

Just wondering if you take any supplements with niacin. This does that.
posted by Not Supplied at 4:30 PM on September 23, 2010

Not Supplied - Good question but, no, no supplements.
Biru - Yup, gonna start bringing a chilled damp cloth.
posted by pointystick at 4:40 PM on September 23, 2010

This used to happen to me, too. It will wear off eventually as you keep doing aerobic exercise. (You've stepped up the intensity level, I'd say.)

Meanwhile, chilled damp cloth/cold water thrown on face in restroom should do the trick.
posted by bearwife at 4:47 PM on September 23, 2010

This sounds like it could be the start of rosacea, which often starts showing up in your 30s or 40s. Various things can trigger flushing -- exercise, heat, alcohol, emotional stress, some foods -- but triggers vary from person to person. Red wine may be a mild trigger for you, but exercise sounds like it has just become a big trigger.

Talk to a dermatologist to get an expert opinion and diagnosis. Don't give up exercise -- please don't! -- but do what you can to reduce flushing during activity and help it calm down afterwards. Exercising when it's cooler, maintaining an intake of cold water, and tepid/cool (not icy!) damp cloths applied to your face will help. I have found that a tepid/cool shower after a long session helps bring things back to equilibrium. (Start lukewarm, ease down to cool, don't do cold because it's a big shock to your capillaries).

In general, treat your facial skin gently: no hot showers (even if you keep your face out of the stream), no scrubs, no perfumes, and no alcohol based skin products as these can all provoke the flushing you hate. You may need to switch to the mildest cleanser (Cetaphil is good) and neutral moisturizer you can get.

There's plenty of info on the web, but it's of varying quality. rosacea.org offers a decent overview. AVOID www.rosacea-ltd.com, which has some useful info (which is easily found elsewhere) mixed with dubious claims and marketing bullshit.

On preview: if this is rosacea, really avoid icy cold cloths on your face. If they're coming with you for a long session, they may end up tepid/cool after some time, which is great, but don't store them in ice or anything to keep them as cold as possible. You may get temporary relief from the feeling of heat, but you will stress your capillaries and may get rebound flushing later.

Weird fact: eating a bowl of something cold, like Jello, sometimes drops my flushing in its tracks. YMMV.
posted by maudlin at 4:54 PM on September 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Chiming in to say the same thing happens to me when I exercise when it's warm and humid, and has for most of my life. Twenty minutes after I run, I look like I have a bright sunburn on my face.

I suspect it's rosacea, as maudlin mentions above. The thing I'm trying to figure out is if exercising and getting the red face will make it worse, or if it'll just stay the same.

FWIW, my dad and sister get the same thing, and we've all found it happens regardless of how good of shape we're in.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:00 PM on September 23, 2010

Could it also be an allergic reaction? I know that in the past few weeks here in Atlanta the ragweed pollen count has been particularly high.
posted by Constant Reader at 5:19 PM on September 23, 2010

Are you using some new kind of makeup or face cream? Even if you don't apply it before you work out it could still affect your skin.
posted by mareli at 5:22 PM on September 23, 2010

I say more water (and you too bluedaisy). It sounds like a touch of heat stroke to me. The relevant section: "The skin may become red and hot as blood vessels dilate in an attempt to increase heat dissipation."
posted by chrchr at 5:53 PM on September 23, 2010

Are you still going to that spa you mentioned back in January? If you have spent a lot of time in their steam rooms and/or the under the heat lamps AND if you have a predisposition to rosacea AND you've been much more active AND you've been exercising in heat, this may have been enough to make you flush much more noticeably lately. (If this is rosacea -- and I still say see a doctor for an assessment -- don't kick yourself for using the spa. Other people manage it with no ill effects, but if you are prone to rosacea, this is just your bad luck.)

Some people feel really uncomfortable (physically and psychologically) when they flush hard. I doubt that you're repeatedly getting mild heat stroke with no other symptoms and with the heat and redness being confined to your face. There's such a thing as heat exhaustion, which is possible (but which would keep you pale, not red) and there is heat stroke, which requires medical attention because you've actually stopped sweating and are overheating all over very badly. Your description doesn't fit either diagnosis.
posted by maudlin at 6:13 PM on September 23, 2010

My face used to do that when I did aerobic exercise. The fitter I got, the longer it took to happen, and now it doesn't happen at all. Even when it was bad, it tended to happen when I was cooling down, or when I stopped for the day. I'd be fine WHILE the intensity was high, then I'd slow or stop, and bam! hot flush to the face, bright red. Warming down slowly helped a little until I grew out of it.
posted by lollusc at 7:53 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thank you everyone! I am using a cool cloth & switched back to Cetaphil. Of course, it's cooled off too so I'm not sure what has made it better, but there is improvement!
posted by pointystick at 8:36 AM on September 28, 2010

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