You know the feeling: While closely inspecting your face in one of those magnifying mirrors to look for blackheads, brewing breakouts, or rogue face hairs, you instead come across a tiny, spider-like vein in the middle of your cheek or around your nose. What gives? First of all, don't freak out. Broken capillaries happen to the best of us. But you might be left wondering why all of a sudden yours have become so visible.
Meet the Expert
- Rachel Nazarian, M.D., FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. She specializes in cosmetic treatments, skin cancer, and dermatologic surgery at Schweiger Dermatology Group.
- Renée Rouleau is a celebrity esthetician based in Austin, Texas. She is also the founder and creator of her eponymous skincare line.
"'Broken' or dilated blood vessels can be found on your face due to several causes," says Nazarian. One reason is from trauma—for example, from rigorous microdermabrasion. Although a great exfoliating treatment for smoothing texture and restoring a glow to dull skin, microdermabrasion can be one cause of the visible red veins on your face. "If you're prone to them, the sucking and pulling during the treatment can easily bring them to the surface," says Rouleau.
"The other two causes are much more common," Nazarian says. "Chronic and long-term sun damage and radiation can cause little blood vessels to form all around the nose and the cheeks over time, and underlying conditions such as rosacea, which can cause repeated flushing (redness) of the face, can also cause broken or dilated blood vessels to form." She continues, "Ultimately what you'll notice is that skin around the nose and cheeks starts to get a little bit redder over time, or you might notice the small little lines of blood vessels around the sides of the nose in the middle of the face."
Rouleau adds, "Broken capillaries are caused when you get a bruise from injury to the skin. The little red blood vessels that are found in different areas of the face (most commonly the nose, cheeks, and chin) are permanently dilated capillaries. These are common in lighter, fairer skin types of Western European descent (Irish, Scottish). If you have visible capillaries around the corners of the nose (little red squiggle marks) and nowhere else, these may not be the same—these can be caused simply from blowing your nose from colds and allergies that put pressure on the capillaries."
So, now that you know what broken capillaries are and why they pop up (evidently, they're not as random as you once thought), you might be interested in finding a fix for yours. Below, Nazarian and Rouleau explain exactly how to prevent and treat broken (or dilated) capillaries.
Always Wear Sunscreen
As discussed before, sun damage could very well be the cause of your broken or dilated blood vessels. If you're a devoted sunbather, you might want to rethink your long days by the pool or, at the very least, be consistent and diligent with your sunscreen application. "Always use a high broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30," Nazarian says. We recommend trying La Roche-Posay's Anthelios Tinted Mineral Ultra-Light Fluid Broad Spectrum SPF 50 ($34) or one of these other impressive formulas.
Don't Pop or Pick
Remember the bit about trauma causing broken or dilated capillaries? Well, rigorous microdermabrasion isn't the only culprit. As you know, not a whole lot of good comes from picking at your face and popping your own zits, and doing so could very well be the driving force behind your redness. "When you try to pop your own pimple, you may break blood vessels in the process from pressing too aggressively," says Nazarian. "Never press or squeeze pimples to avoid breaking vessels." Instead, see a professional about getting your breakouts and blackheads properly extracted.
Apply Anti-Inflammatory Products
As far as skincare goes, it's really important to use products exclusively formulated for keeping the skin calm in order to counteract the redness. Stick with products containing anti-inflammatory and calming ingredients, and it goes without saying, put down the ones known to cause irritation. Rouleau recommends her Redness Care Firming Serum, which uses water lily, sea whip extract, and licorice extract to help naturally cool and comfort the skin.
Derived from the licorice plant, licorice extract is filled with a variety of beneficial compounds, which do everything from delivering antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects to helping fade dark spots.
Drink Cold Water
If you know you get flushed, hot, and red every time you work out at the gym, keep a cold drink with you, and take sips throughout your workout to prevent the repeated breaking of blood vessels over time. Typically, when you drink an ice-cold drink, your blood vessels constrict, preventing dilation and redness. In other words, drink up.
Consult Your Dermatologist
If you feel like your skin is always flushing or turning red from seemingly every little thing, speak to your dermatologist to see if you have rosacea. Since it can lead to long-term visible blood vessel formation, and rosacea can worsen from the use of other skincare products, consult your doctor for the right medication and advice for your specific skincare concerns.
Keep Your Skin Moisturized
Moisturization is the answer to many skin concerns, and broken capillaries are no different. "Remember to moisturize and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption," Rouleau says. "When your skin becomes dry, it becomes irritated. By simply keeping moisture in the skin, you can keep the skin's moisture barrier strong to prevent the skin from getting easily sensitized and irritated." If your skin's barrier layer is compromised, try a moisturizer specifically designed to repair and restore it, like Dermalogica's Barrier Repair. This formula uses oat to calm inflammation and vitamins C and E to protect the skin against free radicals, which lead to irritation.
Store Your Skincare in the Fridge
You might have heard about how storing products in your refrigerator can preserve and prolong the life of your products, but it turns out chilling them also has great benefits for the skin. Rouleau says to refrigerate your toners, serums, and moisturizers to boost the cooling sensation. The cool temperature can soothe redness on the skin and calm inflammation. Additionally, steer clear of hot showers and other activities that can increase overheating or a rush of blood to the face, which can trigger redness.
Wash your face with cool or tepid water, as hot water will speed up blood flow, which will only increase redness in the skin.
Use Vitamin C Serum
While we're on the topic of vitamin C, incorporating a serum into your routine could be very beneficial if you're worried about broken or dilated blood vessels, according to Rouleau. "A vitamin C serum is great for strengthening capillaries and soothing redness as long as you use a formula that is stable and doesn't sting or irritate the skin," she says. "My favorite type of topical vitamin C is magnesium ascorbyl phosphate found in [my] Vitamin C&E Treatment, which not only helps reduce redness and keep capillaries strong, but also builds collagen, fades brown spots, and evens out discoloration. (Another great option is SkinCeuticals' C E Ferulic ($166). Then, take 1000 milligrams of vitamin C with bioflavonoids daily. This may help prevent the capillary walls from being so fragile, as well as prevent bruising."
Get a Laser Treatment
As far as getting rid of a broken capillary, an in-office laser treatment is your best option. "Laser treatments are the best and most efficient way to get rid of little blood vessels on the face," says Nazarian. "Intense pulsed light, or IPL, can also decrease redness over time—both procedures are available at your dermatologist's office. I typically recommend a vitamin K serum to use twice daily under sunscreen to help minimize the redness. There is some evidence to support that it decreases blood vessel formation."
However, Rouleau says, "Generally, once you have them, they don't go away. You need to seek professional treatment, as skincare products cannot make these vanish completely. There are laser procedures that can be very beneficial, as well as the older tried-and-true technology of using an electric needle to cauterize surface capillaries. Either way, consult with a skincare professional to determine which option is best for you, based on the severity of the condition."
How do you conceal spider veins on your face?
Use a color-correcting concealer in yellow or peach to hide the green or purple tones of the spider veins. Apply your normal foundation over the concealer, and finish off with a face powder to set it.
Can broken capillaries on the face really go away?
Home treatments can help prevent or minimize the appearance of broken capillaries, but laser therapy is the best way to make them disappear. Most people will initially need three to four treatment sessions, as well as touch-ups every six months to a year, as the results often aren't permanent.
Does retinol help broken capillaries?
Yes, a topical retinol can help reduce the appearance of broken capillaries on your face. This vitamin A-based cream, which is often used for acne, can help fade spider veins, as it promotes cell turnover and increases the production of collagen.
Does alcohol cause broken capillaries on your face?
The short answer—yes. Drinking too much alters your body's vascular control and causes enlarged blood vessels, which results in broken capillaries and a red or flushed face.
Can LED light help broken capillaries?
LED light is a recommended treatment for broken capillaries. Results are often seen in one to four treatments, depending on the size of the treatment area. You may need additional treatments once a year to remove new veins that appear.
American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. Spider veins.
HSS. Telangiectasia and autoimmune disease. Updated July 19, 2019.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. How to ease brain freeze.
NHS Inform. Symptoms of rosacea. Updated February 14, 2020.
Addor FAS. Antioxidants in dermatology. An Bras Dermatol. 2017;92(3):356-362. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20175697
Johns Hopkins Medicine. When blood sugar is too low.
Cleveland Clinic. How Can I Get Rid of the Spider Veins on My Face? September, 2020.
Harvard Health Publishing. Do Retinoids Really Reduce Wrinkles? October, 2019.
DermNet NZ. Cutaneous Adverse Affects of Alcohol. 2011.