How can I stop blushing?
January 24, 2013 8:25 AM   Subscribe

I blush easily, but I'm not aware that it's happening. I used be nervous in social situations, but my mind isn't anymore, though apparently my body still is. For example: the professor mentioned my name in class today as part of a hypothetical. I didn't feel nervous or anxious at all, but he commented about how red I turned. Had he not said anything, I would have been totally unaware that I was blushing.

This has happened in other situations where people make a comment about how uncomfortable I must be because my face has turned red. I don't feel uncomfortable, and I'm not even aware that it's happening. I feel totally at ease, but my face gives people another impression.

So, what can I do to stop myself from blushing? Failing that, what can I say to people in situations where they think I'm nervous or uncomfortable when I really feel fine.
posted by helloimjohnnycash to Human Relations (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
do you have KP? aka harmless small red dots on your arms or legs?

I do and the skin of my face is naturally very red and flushes all of it's own accord without any emotional involvement from me. I recently read that this is all part of having KP.
posted by royalsong at 8:31 AM on January 24, 2013

I joke, "Oh, I'm just getting all the blood up to my brain so I can say something extra-smart!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:54 AM on January 24, 2013

I don't know what causes it, maybe just a lingering feedback loop from your former nervousness? But I have the same thing. The only thing that ever stopped it was Zoloft, and I actually almost stayed on it (in spite of it not really helping my depression) just for that side effect. So, that's one thing to consider.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:10 AM on January 24, 2013

I'm a mega blusher. I blush at everything and I'm not at all a nervous person. I do not have KP. Any strong emotion, good or bad, makes me blush, as does alcohol, exercise, etc. I *am* aware of when I do it because my skin gets hot to the touch and I can feel it sorta like a sunburn. A lot of people in my family do this so I'm guessing it is a family trait.

A doctor has told me that it is largely a histamine release. I joke that I'm allergic to emotions. :) Anyway, a mild anti-histamine before any time when I know I don't want to do it seems to help. May be placebo, but there you go...
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:20 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ask your professor not to comment on your appearance.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:22 AM on January 24, 2013 [14 favorites]

I usually just say something like, "Oh yeah, that happens all the time, whatever." (True!) Don't make a big deal about it and wave it off and others will too. What makes anyone think they should mention it in the first place has been one of the ongoing mysteries of my life.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 9:33 AM on January 24, 2013 [7 favorites]

I'm the same way. I've had so much experience speaking in business settings now - meetings, presentations, one-on-ones, etc - that I'm no longer remotely nervous about it. I'm actually really good at it (I can tell, but also others have pointed it out.) But still, every time I open my mouth to speak at work, I blush.

My gut feeling on this is that even though I'm really confident of my abilities these days, my body still "gears up" for the effort. Maybe I trained it to do that, in all those years of nervousness/insecurity? I don't know. I do think it's a stress reaction, because it fades as soon as the spotlight is off me.

I've read that magnesium supplements calm people down a lot and make edgy moments a little less edgy-feeling, but haven't tried it myself yet. It doesn't really interfere with my ability to do my work, so it's been low priority.
posted by kythuen at 10:24 AM on January 24, 2013

I get this allll the time too. Seconding a quick 'oh, yeah, my skin gets all red for no reason. Anyway, (blahblah blah)"
posted by Fig at 10:27 AM on January 24, 2013

I've found that foundation makeup helps (I'm female). Also helpful for me: wearing clothing that breathes, and drinking cold water.

But really, once you graduate high school, people aren't going to be snickering and pointing and saying, "Ooooo! HelloImJohnnyCash is BLUSHING!" (Oh god, the horrible high-school memories!) People are so wrapped up in what others think of THEM that unless you turn into a blueberry, Violet Beauregard-style, no-one will notice you blushing at all. And if they do it won't affect their impression of you one whit.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:07 AM on January 24, 2013

I was taught / read in my quest to learn how to understand body language that "Fight or Flight" responses can be "read" from outside of the other person.

As I understand it -- Your body responds to the fear function by dumping adrenaline into your system. Not something you can really control or sometimes even be aware of. If you/the body has decided NOT to take action (either way), that adrenal response dumps oxygenated blood (needed for sustained combat or running) and can be read as a "flushing, or blushing, in the face and skin." IF the outside observer can tell (its difficult to see when I blush, but people who know me well can see the effects) if that flush has happened, they can tell what the subject has decided before the subject really knows.

This is a bit of a "page burner" but:
posted by BLuR at 11:12 AM on January 24, 2013

I'm a big ol' blusher. I blush when I tell a joke, if I hear/see/THINK something emotionally charged. It's annoying.

If someone comments on it ("Are you blushing?" "I made you blush!" etc.) I say something like, "Eh, it doesn't take much." I also feel a little annoyed with that person, because that is totally rude. Some people you might want to take aside and ask them not to comment, others you might want to make fun of, depending on your relationship and your conversational skill set.
posted by mskyle at 11:15 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm with Obscure Reference, that was a really inappropriate thing for a professor to point out, and especially grievous if they didn't bring it up in private. In my observation, when people bring this kind of thing up, it's a reflection of their own insecurities. If it's at all relevant to an audience, I sometimes explain that I blush when I'm concentrating or speaking passionately. I'll add "skin condition" my repertoire of ways to deflect busybody comments.
posted by Skwirl at 12:05 PM on January 24, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice so far everyone.

To clarify: I was not bothered that my professor brought it up (the context and mood of the class were such that it really was no big deal). I brought this up as an example because in that moment, I felt perfectly fine, but my body was having a very visible reaction that I was completely unaware of.

I guess I'm more interested in ways to stop blushing (if such a thing is possible) than what to say when it happens.
posted by helloimjohnnycash at 1:12 PM on January 24, 2013

I'm not sure if it's even possible to stop your face from turning red. I mean, if it was an anxiety issue, then maybe dealing with that would help, but if it happens even when you're not feeling nervous, then I don't think there's much you can do about it. Maybe the foundation would help make it less obvious, but I personally think it would be better to just let it be something that just happens randomly. If you just relax, and treat it like it's no big deal, people will take your lead.
posted by Aliera at 1:51 PM on January 24, 2013

I noted above that I find a drink of cold water helps me - to be more specific, carrying a water bottle filled with COLD water and taking a nice big swig when you feel that blush coming on. It's not a 100% guarantee of a blush-free face, but I find it helps.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:02 PM on January 24, 2013

I've asked a couple of doctors and not gotten any help. Looking up, which short-circuits emotional responses in general, may help a little. Other than that, I've got nothing.
posted by wintersweet at 8:47 PM on January 24, 2013

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