What’s Causing Broken Blood Vessels on My Face?

Medically reviewed by Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN on October 30, 2017Written by Kristeen Cherney on October 30, 2017

Overview

Broken blood vessels — also called “spider veins” — occur when they’re dilated, or enlarged, just beneath your skin’s surface. This results in small, red lines that spread out into a web-shaped form. They can develop anywhere on the body, but they’re more common on the face and legs.

While harmless, broken blood vessels can become a nuisance if they make you self-conscious. The good news is that spider veins are typically treatable. You first need to figure out the underlying cause.

What causes this?

Some people tend to develop spider veins more than others. The fact is that broken blood vessels can happen to anyone at any age, including children. Your risk factors depend on the particular cause.

There are many causes of broken blood vessels on the face. They include:

  • Heredity and genetics. For unknown reasons, spider veins tend to run in families. Individual risk factors also increase with age.
  • Pregnancy. An increase in estrogen hormones during pregnancy can lead to broken blood vessels. Pregnancy-related spider veins heal on their own after delivery. Skin changes are common in pregnancy.
  • Rosacea. This common skin condition leads to excessive redness and flushing. With erythematotelangiectatic rosacea, broken blood vessels are common.
  • Sun exposure. Excessive sun exposure can enlarge your blood vessels. If you get a sunburn, the top layer of skin may peel and temporarily make some of the blood vessels in your face more noticeable.
  • Weather changes. Hot weather increases blood vessel dilation.
  • Environmental or chemical irritants.
  • Alcohol consumption. Moderate or occasional alcohol consumption can cause your skin to flush due to the enlargement of blood vessels. Binge drinking and heavy alcohol use can eventually lead to spider veins.
  • Injuries. Minor to significant injuries can lead to bruising. With bruises on your face, broken blood vessels may also be noticeable.
  • Vomiting or sneezing. Sudden, extreme pressure in your face from a violent sneeze or a vomiting spell can break the blood vessels in the skin.

How are they diagnosed?

You may be able to identify broken blood vessels at home, but you may consider seeing your doctor for confirmation. They can also point you in the right direction in terms of treatment. If you have numerous spider veins, your doctor may recommend prescription medications or outpatient care solutions.

For causes related to underlying health conditions like rosacea, you’ll want to see your doctor. In such cases, the treatment for broken blood vessels is dependent on addressing the underlying causes.

Natural remedies for broken blood vessels

Natural remedies are often the first course of treatment people try for broken blood vessels on the face. Unless you have a sensitivity to any ingredients, natural treatments are usually free of significant risks.

Try these at-home remedies for broken blood vessels:

Apple cider vinegar

This common pantry staple can lessen the appearance of spider veins by reducing redness and other related features. Use the vinegar in place of your daily toner or astringent by applying it with a cotton ball.

Horse chestnut

This herb is used for a variety of skin ailments. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health explains that some people use it for vein health. While available as a supplement, topical forms of horse chestnut may be safer for the treatment of spider veins. Look for preparations made from the bark only, and apply these to your face.

Wash your face with warm water only

Since heat can cause broken blood vessels, you’ll want to make sure you avoid hot water. Take warm — not hot — baths and showers. Make sure you wash your face gently with warm water, too.

Medical treatments for broken blood vessels

When natural remedies don’t work, it may be time to see your doctor for a medical solution for spider veins. Among the options are:

Retinoids

Topical creams, especially those with retinoids, may help reduce the appearance of spider veins. These components are primarily used for acne and rosacea. Retinoids work by removing the outermost layer of skin.

Laser therapy

Using strong laser lights, this therapy works by making spider veins fade completely by destroying the poorly functioning vein.

Intense pulsed light

This treatment uses the same concept as laser therapy, but with light that penetrates down to the second layer of skin without harming the top layer.

Sclerotherapy

This injection-based therapy helps spider veins go away within a few weeks, according to the Mayo Clinic. During the procedure, your doctor injects a solution into broken blood vessels that causes them to close. As a result, your blood will reroute to vessels that aren’t noticeable.

For laser treatments and other outpatient procedures, you should work with a trained license professional only. Side effects can include increased redness, itchiness, and scarring.

Can they be prevented?

While treating broken blood vessels on your face may be a priority, consider preventive measures for future spider veins. If you’re currently undergoing treatment for rosacea, stick with your plan and see your doctor if your skin doesn’t make any improvement.

Overall, you can help prevent spider veins on your face by:

  • Limiting sun exposure. This is especially important during peak hours, which occur between the late morning and early afternoon hours. Wear sunscreen every day for extra protection.
  • Avoiding extreme heat. Extreme heat from weather, spas, and saunas can all increase blood vessel dilation.
  • Only drinking alcohol in moderation. Ask your doctor if you should even drink alcohol, and whether you need assistance quitting.
  • Wearing protective gear. Face gear and helmets for sports, cycling, and other activities can help reduce injuries and related spider veins.

The takeaway

Broken blood vessels on your face may be frustrating, but it’s important to keep in mind that the condition is usually a cosmetic concern only. Preventive measures can help stop spider veins, while various treatments can help get rid of them.

Also, not all cases of broken blood vessels are made equal. If spider veins run in your family, chances are that you might have to address spider veins regularly. On the flip side, if you notice broken blood vessels on your face after getting sick, they’ll likely go away on their own.

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