Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

How to Banish Broken Capillaries and Stop Them from Coming Back

Posted on: July 28th, 2021 by Kristen Chang

Broken capillaries might be your most unwanted summer accessory. Whether you’re wearing a swimsuit, shorts or a breezy little sundress, that whorl of red lines creating a mini roadmap on your thighs or across your nose and cheeks can be a real buzzkill.

Although they may not be very noticeable to anyone but you, if your broken capillaries negatively affect your self-confidence and cause you to feel unhappy about your appearance, it’s time to take action.

What Are They?

Broken capillaries are just that. A busted blood vessel. Although that sounds scary, they’re not dangerous. Often called spider veins, they’re a harmless common occurrence. And technically, they aren’t really broken, just bent out of shape. That is, dilated.

Broken capillaries typically crop up on the face or legs and could be the result of a range of factors. Sun exposure, heat, rosacea, alcohol consumption, weather changes, pregnancy, genes or even a combination of these can be the cause.

Clinically known as telangiectasias, broken capillaries appear directly below the skin’s surface. This is why they are highly visible as tiny red or purplish lines in a spidery or branch-like pattern. They can also look like multiple pin pricks.

Although the tiny red lines are a literal red flag, you still should get an official diagnosis from a board-certified dermatologist. It’s best to treat broken capillaries sooner rather than later, as the broken blood vessels may become more enlarged. Also, it is important to rule out rosacea which can require prescription medications to manage the condition.

What Really Causes Broken Capillaries?

One of our patients with broken capillaries tried to give herself a home facial. She positioned her face too close over a pot of boiling water she was using to steam her skin. The result was not beautifying. However, broken capillaries often occur from causes we can’t avoid. For example, the weight gained in pregnancy can put a lot of pressure on the blood vessels in the legs and that can result in broken capillaries.

In general, broken capillaries tend to be caused by some kind of skin trauma—like squeezing a pimple with too much force or even sneezing. Or as highlighted above, by excessive dilation of the blood vessels caused by everyday activities such as lying in the hot sun by a pool or on the beach, taking hot showers, eating spicy foods, exercising, or drinking alcohol.

While capillary walls tend to be very elastic, they can lose their ability to contract back into shape if they’re frequently dilated. This causes them to remain enlarged.

Genetics can also play a role in how susceptible you are to broken blood vessels. This can be problematic if you’ve also inherited a tendency for sensitive skin, acne, or rosacea.

How to Banish Broken Capillaries for Good

There’s no way to sugarcoat this—once you’ve got broken capillaries, you’re stuck with them. Unless that is, you get them zapped by laser treatments in a board-certified dermatologist’s office.

Lasers for vascular lesions, like broken capillaries, work by safely and effectively emitting rapid pulses of energy that cause them to dissolve and gradually fade away over the course of 4-6 weeks. Today’s lasers are so sophisticated that they can zero in on a broken capillary in seconds without damaging the surrounding skin tissue. That means minimal to no bruising.

Not all lasers are ideal for every skin type. Your skin’s level of pigment and any conditions that you may be on medication for can affect which laser treatments are best for you. This will be addressed with your California Skin Institute dermatologist as part of an assessment including a review of your medical history, your medications and associated health conditions.

How to Prevent Broken Capillaries from Coming Back

Once you’ve cleared your skin of broken capillaries, of course you want to prevent them from coming back. And keep new ones from happening.

Sunscreen, sun protective clothing and seeking some shade may be your best bets. We suggest exploring California Skin Institute’s clean, mineral-based and reef-safe sunscreens. We even offer one that specifically corrects skin discoloration while providing a protective SPF 50.

You also need to be extra gentle with your face. No hot cloths, forcibly popping pimples or power scrubbing. Wash your face with lukewarm water rather than hot or cold. Using products with gentle, soothing ingredients can also be beneficial. Your board-certified dermatologist can help you choose the right products to avoid triggering broken capillaries and minimize any existing redness.

At California Skin Institute, many of our skin experts specialize in vein treatments and broken capillaries. With over 100 board-certified physicians and advanced practitioners and more than 40 locations, you can make an appointment with the California Skin Institute office most convenient for you.