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 causes of broken capillaries are preventable. They can sometimes accompany Rosacea, a skin condition that causes the face to become red and flushed. 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 over a long time can increase your blood pressure, causing the veins in your 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.  While these measures are not a guarantee that they won’t develop, they can help minimize the chance that you’ll develop them.

  • Be gentle when you wash your face
  • Use only tepid to warm water
  • Apply sunscreen to your face when 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, to surgical treatments to remove 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 energy (Intense Pulse Light), laser, and cosmetic surgery.

With electrolysis, a very fine needle is used to prick the skin around the damaged capillaries. The vessels are then cauterized by a high frequency current to prevent excessive bleeding. The blood in the capillaries will then be absorbed into the body. Dilated capillaries treated by electrolysis do not reappear, but new ones can form.

IPL (intense pulsed light) and laser treatments focus light on each capillary which will absorb the light and result in the damage blood vessel shriveling and dying.  Laser or IPL does not affect normal, healthy skin, so it is a safe alternative.

Depending on the severity of the condition, treatment can be a one-time thing or extended over a 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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