June 18, 2005 10:26 PM   Subscribe

How can I stop blushing?

I am a quite social and extroverted person with a relatively large social circle. I consider myself confident. However, whenever I experience any minimal amount of emotional stress, my face turns red. Usually: Really red, really fast. Especially in situations that would make me feel somewhat self-conscious. Anger, or being offended, also definitely does it.

It seems that in most social contexts, blushing is regarded as a sign of being embarrassed about something. With me, thats not the case. I hardly ever feel embarrased about anything, and if my face turns red, thats not why. Self-conscious? Likely. But not embarrassed. Meaning the only thing that really feels bad, is the fact that I know that I'm blushing.

Now, when I'm with people I know, this isn't that much of a problem, as they know that I'm like this, and they know it's nothing to worry about. But when I'm meeting new people, it is a problem. If I suddendly turn red in the face for apparently no reason, they will think they've made me uncomfortable or said something wrong (or that I'm a weird fool, for that matter), and the whole situation gets awkward.

For me, however, the only problem is the awkward situations the varying color in my face creates, the emotional stress that caused my sudden color change is usually so negligible I hardly even notice.

This whole thing is especially problematic situations like speaking to crowds, job interviews etc. where it seems unavoidable to feel a little conscious about ones self, and me turning red-faced seems predestined.

I'd really like to hear of ways of dealing with this.

I know of a surgical operation where they enter through your armpit and just cut of the nerve that makes you blush. It's supposed to be a quite low-risk and quick operation, and frankly it's something I likely would have already done if I had the money available.

I've heard of other people taking beta-blockers before upcoming potential blushfests, but I wouldn't want do be doing that without at least seeing my doctor about it first. Don't know about the side-effects etc., and unless I'd be able to take it everyday it wouldn't help me in my daily life.

Irritation from cosmetic products? A few years ago I was using some facial cleansing stuff, and that seemed to be making it worse. These day the only chemical stuff that touches my face is some shaving-foam "for sensitive skin", and that actually seems too soothe the skin. Switching to that shaving foam may actually have maybe me blush slightly less than before. FWIW, I'm using regular shampoo, even though my scalp is kind of red-ish.

I'm in my very late teens, and I've been like this probably since the very start of my teenage years. Blushing is said to be something most people grow out it, but I feel that if I was to grow out of this, it would have happened by now. I also know that this is a problem some well-established adults do deal with.

Finally, just to illustrate how extreme it can be sometimes: I don't even need to be around other people for my face to turn red. I can sit alone on a bus, and feel myself blushing, likely because of some minimal and unimportant thought crossing my mind. It really isn't cute anymore, just a pretty large annoyance. All help is largely appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"..compensatory and gustatory sweating were the most frequently stated reasons for dissatisfaction with the surgical outcome.." gustatory= adjective : relating to, affecting, associated with, or being the sense of taste

This is also worth reading just so you can see how normal this phenomenon is and that it actually affects many people.

In that you have a deep awareness about your blushing and that in almost all situations you seem able to cope reasonably, perhaps it would be better to aim towards natural relaxation and destressing techniques rather than seeking a 'cureall' that might have sideaffects that could be worse than the present circumstances. And some significant person may find your blushing to be cute/attractive - you never know. It's a very natural bodily effect. You are not alone. But otherwise, speak to your GP about it.
posted by peacay at 12:06 AM on June 19, 2005

Treatment for this condition runs in parallel with treatments for Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) because both responses are controlled by the autonomic nervous system. Botox can be used to treat both conditions with a high success rate but you will have to receive new treatments every few months. There is the permenat solution of cutting the nerves that control the sweat glands and blushing response (Sympathectomy ) but this procedure often has unpredictable side-effects and really should not be done unless it is absolutely needed.

There are also some people that have luck with hypnosis, which may be worth a try.

Some other places to look…
Idiopathic craniofacial erythematic

Hyperhidrosis FAQ
posted by 517 at 12:06 AM on June 19, 2005

Trying that agian...
Idiopathic craniofacial erythematic

Hyperhidrosis FAQ
posted by 517 at 12:11 AM on June 19, 2005

Anonymous, the sympathectomy option sounds pretty dangerous (in terms of possible side effects), and not necessarily effective (some people have said they blushed more afterward!). Googling for information turns up tons of sites heavily marketing this surgical treatment, so be wary of information that you find online and make sure it isn't just really thinly disguised advertising. Here's the wiki on Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy; have a look at the external links listed at the bottom.

Also, you really need to look at this rather amazing forum thread to realize how common your problem is, and finally, there is a whole website and community devoted to your problem.
posted by taz at 2:00 AM on June 19, 2005

One last remark from me: If I had your dilemma (and to a degree, I do, because when I become angry my face definitely goes red - which is probably good since I think people deserve that warning!) I would make it a point to address the problem frankly in those situations where it's easy to do so.

If you are speaking before a group, in a job interview, or meeting someone new, you might say "By the way, don't be alarmed/surprised if I go bright red - I have a medical condition (and you can throw in "Idiopathic craniofacial erythematic" to make it sound very official) that is totally harmless, but means that my face turns red a lot. I'm not ill, and I'm not overly embarrassed or shy, it's just something that happens."
posted by taz at 2:22 AM on June 19, 2005

Just a thought, but people can be taught to have some control over involuntary functions. The trick to it seems to be feedback, and you have that, because you know when it's happening. (They used to treat migraines by teaching people to increase the blood flow in their hands, don't know if they still do or not.)
You could try visualizing something cold on your face when you feel it start, to see if it will constrict the blood vessels, or making your hands warm, or something. You could play around with the imagery and see if anything helps. Worst case, no side effects, free, and it just doesn't work for you, all you're out is a bit of time. Best case, it might work well enough you could eventually head the thing off early.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 6:28 AM on June 19, 2005

I remember reading somewhere that you can stop blushing by actively trying to blush. Might be crap.

I used to be a nervous sweat machine. It lasted until I was around 22 years old. In retrospect it was likely due to social awkwardness and hyper self awareness. Give yourself more time before you do anything drastic.
posted by srboisvert at 7:38 AM on June 19, 2005

I would try homeopathy. I had a really bad fever a few months back from a bout with tonsillitis and my doctor prescribed a homeopathic treatment to balance my thermoregulatory system after the fever had broken. It was very effective and it also stopped my blushing. I have been a blusher since I was a child, and it has been uncntrollable since then (I'm now in my mid 30's). The blushing went away completely. If you have a homeopath or naturopath in your area I urge you to see him/her first, before getting surgery.
posted by Lucas822 at 9:09 AM on June 19, 2005

Homeopathy is junk science. Personally I'd go to a faith healer before I went to a "naturopath."
posted by grouse at 1:44 PM on June 19, 2005 [1 favorite]

Even junk science works sometimes.

Its very sad that your blushing causes you problems. I find blushing quite attractive, at least when there's a reason. I second the idea of hypnotherapy or something similar. You know when you blush, and this awareness can help you find the button to turn it off.
posted by Goofyy at 9:21 PM on June 19, 2005

You might have the beginnings of rosacea. Start by going to a dermatologist. ETS surgery is definitely an option, but NOT one to be taken lightly. I think surgeons are somewhat reluctant to perform it for blushing, as opposed to sweating. The incidence of major side effects is low, but some are quite scary. A relative of mine had the surgery (for sweating) and she says it's the best thing she's ever done. She claims to have no side effects other than occasional compensatory sweating.

This site has a lot of valuable information (whether you have rosacea or not). He's a microvascular physiologist and he himself had the ETS surgery. I think he describes it in more detail in his book.

Also, the ETS surgery isn't that expensive IF you can get your insurance to cover it. My relative had to pay approximately $3,000 out of pocket. You will most likely have to exhaust all other possible treatments before any (reputable) surgeon would consent to operate on you. You're going to need to do a lot of research and find some qualified doctors who are willing to work on your behalf. Don't give up. Good luck!
posted by crapulent at 11:27 PM on June 19, 2005

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