Look closely at your face and you may see them--those thin reddish facial capillaries that typically appear around the chin, nose and cheeks. Facial capillaries that become enlarged or dilated are often called “broken” capillaries, spider veins or telangiectases (the official medical name). They are not dangerous but most of us find them unsightly and look for ways to cover or remove them.
Broken capillaries, or blood vessels, can be caused by a number of different reasons, some which may be preventable. The most common cause is damage to the skin from sun exposure and excess dilation from a source of inflammation or irritation such as rosacea acne. Too vigorous scrubbing of the skin can aggravate already sensitive areas, increasing the development of broken capillaries.
Additionally, other factors may come into play such as age, genetics, hormones, use of birth control pills and conditions that make the facial blood vessels excessively dilate as in alcoholism.
No treatments can make the capillaries shrink, though there are a variety of methods to cover, improve or make them disappear.
• Concealers: Use of a good quality concealer may be enough if your broken capillaries are minimal or in a less obvious place on your face. Use a green-based concealer to counteract redness; it will work better than a skin toned one. Blend your usual foundation over the concealer and follow with loose facial powder to set.
• Tretinoins (vitamin A creams): There are many skin creams on the market that claim to improve broken capillaries but there really is no cream that can make them disappear. “Tretinoin helps reduce the visibility of these capillaries because it builds surface collagen in the dermis, thus minimizing the appearance of these capillaries,” according to dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey. Some women have reported that they feel the use of tretinoin has contributed to additional broken capillaries, though Dr. Bailey feels those appearances are more due to sun exposure and aging.
• Electrocautery: An inexpensive method used to vaporize broken capillaries is the use of electrocautery. A dermatologist will determine whether this would work in your problem area. A fine needle-like tip, set at a very low setting, is carefully touched to the capillary area, vaporizing the dilated vessels so they disappear. The procedure may be a little uncomfortable but is quick.
• Laser or IPL (intense pulsed light): These therapies can treat broken capillaries, however they are more expensive. Laser treatments (there are multiple types) can run $150 to $500 per a session lasting 15 to 20 minutes and one to three sessions may be needed to diminish the facial capillaries. Laser treatments can be a bit painful, often described as a rubber band snapping sensation and sometimes there may be a small amount of bruising afterward.
After having treatment for broken capillaries, it is important to use sunscreen daily to help prevent future appearances of these unwanted blemishes.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s health care and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles