Seeing Red! Treating Dilated Facial Veins


Tiny red capillaries on the face, often referred to as dilated capillaries, broken veins, spider veins, or broken blood vessels are a common skin condition leaving the skin looking flushed, or worse, bruised. However, unlike bruises, broken capillaries don’t heal or disappear over time.

As it turns out, it’s not difficult to damage these delicate veins that are just beneath the skin.  Rubbing the face too hard or washing with water that’s too hot can cause damage, so can excessive sun exposure or an injury to the face.

Not all broken capillaries are preventable. They can sometimes accompany Rosacea, due to frequent flushing. Broken capillaries can also be a condition of heredity, and they often appear as you age and your skin gets thinner, making it easier to damage.

On a more serious note, another possible cause is excessive consumption of alcohol.  Over indulgence of alcohol for prolonged periods of time will increase your blood pressure, causing the veins in the face to dilate. Repeated dilation may result in permanent damage, but this usually only occurs after many years of alcohol abuse.

Prevention and Treatment

You can take steps to prevent broken capillaries.  The following practices will not guarantee that broken capillaries will not develop, but they can help minimize the chance that it will happen:

  • Be gentle when you wash your face
  • Use only tepid to warm water
  • Apply sunscreen to the face before going outside, particularly around your nose and mouth
  • Consumer alcohol in moderation

If you do develop broken capillaries, there are several ways to treat the condition – these treatments range from a simple application of green-tinted concealer to hide the veins, surgical procedures to treat the cells surrounding the dilated veins.

Most treatments, however, include options that must be done by a trained Esthetician or Dermatologist. They include electrolysis, IPL (Intense Pulse Light), laser therapy, or cosmetic surgery.

During electrolysis treatment, a very fine needle is inserted in the skin around the damaged capillaries. Then the vessels are cauterized using a high frequency current to prevent excessive bleeding. The blood in the capillaries is eventually absorbed by the body. Dilated capillaries treated in this way will not reappear, but new ones can form.

IPL (intense pulsed light) and laser treatments focus light on each capillary which will absorb the light causing the damaged blood vessel to shrivel and die. Laser or IPL does not affect normal, healthy skin, so it is a safe alternative.

It is possible to clear a simple case of dilated capillaries in just one treatment. But for those with a more serious condition, a series of treatments may be necessary over an extended period of time to remove all the affected capillaries. IPL may require at least five treatments, performed about a month apart for lasting results.  Laser may require two to three treatments over a two month period.

For mild cases, and depending on your age, some topical treatments may deliver results.  Read more about topical creams for any age in our article “Seeing Red – Treating Dilated Veins with Creams”.

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