How to Get Rid of Broken Capillaries on Your Face, According to Experts

Plus, how to prevent them in the first place.

Side view of person inspecting their face
Photo: Getty Images

Broken capillaries are those thin, ribbon-like lines that populate the lower half of your face, such as around your nose, cheeks, and mouth. Although there is nothing wrong with having broken capillaries, if you prefer a complexion sans red blotches, there are ways to diminish their appearance.

Using some concealer or foundation on broken capillaries is one way to cover them up, albeit temporarily. However, if you're looking for a more permanent fix, we turned to experts Sameer Bashey, M.D., and Brian Hibler, M.D. to get their best tips for banishing broken capillaries for good.

Keep reading for your complete guide to getting rid of broken capillaries on your face, plus discover what causes them in the first place.

What are broken capillaries?

"Broken capillaries are enlarged blood vessels just below the skin surface. They are most common on the face and lower legs," says Dr. Hibler, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City.

"Broken capillaries on the face and around the nose can be caused by a variety of conditions. Most commonly, the cause is sun damage," says Dr. Bashey, a cosmetic dermatologist at Obagi Skin Health Institute in Beverly Hills. However, they can also result from genetics, aging (thinning skin), and trauma, among other factors, adds Dr. Hibler.

Over time, the sun's rays thin out the dermis of the skin, which causes a decrease in collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid. "As this occurs, blood vessels become slightly more obvious and emerge close to the junction between the epidermis and the dermis," explains Dr. Bashey. Usually, these slightly spidery enlarged veins are actually small dysfunctional capillaries.

Anyone who exposes themselves to the sun without proper SPF protection is putting themselves at risk of developing broken capillaries. And while they can occur in any skin type, they are most common in fair-skinned individuals with thin or sensitive skin and those with skin conditions, such as rosacea and scleroderma, notes Dr. Hibler.

How to Prevent Broken Capillaries

Proper sun protection is the best way to prevent broken capillaries from forming. On top of wearing sunscreen and following a skincare routine that targets your personal skin concerns like aging or acne, Dr. Bashey suggests making a few lifestyle changes. For starters, wear a hat outdoors and avoid tanning or laying out in the sun when it's strongest (between the hours of 10 am to 3 pm). These precautions are especially important for those with rosacea because they're typically more sensitive to heat and sunlight.

"By avoiding heat, limiting sun exposure (wearing. a hat, using sunscreen, walking in the shade, etc.), and avoiding other triggers that cause flushing in susceptible individuals (hot or spicy foods, alcohol consumption, etc.), you may be able to prevent formation of broken capillaries or slow their appearance," adds Dr. Hibler. "However, once they are present, only an in-office laser or light treatment will get rid of them."

How to Get Rid of Broken Capillaries

Although we love a good DIY treatment, according to Dr. Hibler, "There are no safe, effective at-home remedies for broken capillaries." An in-office treatment by a dermatologist is the only way to permanently get rid of broken capillaries. Lasers are one option, and there are a few different ones your dermatologist may use.

Try laser therapy.

"The best, long-term solution to reduce redness and eliminate broken capillaries is to treat with a laser or light device," says Dr. Hibler. "These treatments use specific wavelengths of light which are absorbed by hemoglobin in the blood vessels to seal them off."

One type to try? Pulse lasers, which "target anything on the face that is red and spares surrounding tissue that does not have its target, which is hemoglobin," explains Dr. Bashey. There are two settings to this laser: one that bruises and one that doesn't. "The non-bruising (non-purpuric) setting is less effective and will require more treatments, but essentially does not have much downtime at all," he adds.

Another option to ask your derm about is the 1064 Nd:YAG laser. "This laser is often used for capillary formation around the nose," says Dr. Bashey. "It is often the laser to go to when the pulse dye laser fails. It works through a similar mechanism, but acts deeper in the skin due to its long wave."

Consider a light treatment.

As an alternative to laser treatments, you can opt for a light treatment with an IPL (intense pulse light) device, notes Dr. Hibler. This minimizes the redness caused by capillaries forming, as well as pigmentation from sun damage through the use of intense, broad-spectrum pulses of light.

Apply a topical treatment.

"There are some topical treatments, such as oxymetolazine (Rhofade), which acts as a vasoconstrictor to temporarily reduce redness on the face due to broken capillaries," Dr. Hibler tells us. "Studies have shown that consistent usage of this topical medication can reduce background redness."

Conceal with makeup.

"For those not ready to undergo an in-office procedure, green-tinted cosmetic products can be used to help camouflage redness and broken blood vessels on the face," says Dr. Hibler. We suggest something like Morphe Fluidity Color Correcting Concealer ($12).

When to See a Professional

"Broken capillaries typically do not result in any symptoms or harm to a patient and do not require treatment. However, if you are bothered cosmetically by broken capillaries, they can be safely and effectively treated with a laser with little to no downtime," says Dr. Hibler. "To safely achieve the best results with the fewest treatments, I would recommend seeing a board-certified dermatologist," he tells us.

While all forms of treatment may irritate and cause tenderness during the procedure, the only side effect you may experience is some post-procedure bruising depending on the laser setting your dermatologist used. However, Dr. Bashey warns that deeper skin tones may experience hyperpigmentation from the heat-based devices used for treatment. Aftercare should include applying sunscreen immediately and avoiding the sun for a few hours, he says. Then, you can go back to your usual skincare routine and lifestyle.

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