It's no mystery that flattery from a love interest can turn us red in the face, but blushing itself is a curious phenomenon not quite understood by modern science.
When we get shy or embarrassed, as we often do when Cupid strikes, the same adrenalin hormone that is released by our body's fight-or-flight response to a present danger is activated.
Adrenalin causes blood vessels to dilate in the body to allow more blood flow than usual, but only when you are embarrassed do the veins in your face respond to adrenalin; the rest of the body's veins are not affected by the hormone in this way. Blushing may be written off as an innocent social cue, but for people with skin conditions like rosacea, blushing can aggravate and worsen their complexion.
Rosacea is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that affects more than 16 million Americans and 2 million Canadians. Facial redness is one of the most common symptoms of rosacea and is often triggered by foods we love to romance with: chocolate, spice and yes, red wine. This puts a bit of a damper on token first date rituals like champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries, as they can cause those blushing cheeks to flare up in irritation.
Even for those who don't have a skin condition like rosacea, chocolates can aggravate the skin. This is not because of the cocoa, but because of the added sugar, dairy and hydrogenated oils they often contain. Alcohol of any kind causes the blood vessels to dilate and remain dilated until it is broken down by the liver. Red wines in particular cause redness in the skin because of the chemical compound called tyramine that dilates blood vessels further.
So what can we do to control our blushing when love strikes? Since flushing cheeks and raised body temperatures are hard to control on a date, opting for an activity like ice skating or an evening stroll is a good way to keep both your face and body under control. If you have a skin condition such as rosacea, acne or eczema, get creative and plan a date that breaks away from the ordinary. Try cooking a healthy meal for your love or taking him/her on a snowshoeing adventure in the great outdoors. Regardless of what you do with your new crush always remember that the best medicine for your skin is to love it, and it will love you back.
Dr. Jason Rivers is one of Canada's top dermatologists and the founder of Riversol Skincare Inc. He has published more than 135 articles in various journals. He is the editor-in-chief of The Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery and the associate editor of The Skin Therapy Letter. You can contact him on Twitter.com/Riversol or Facebook.com/Riversol. www.riversol.com