Seeing Red: The Cause and Treatment of Broken Capillaries

Seeing Red: The Cause and Treatment of Broken Capillaries


A typical skin analysis during a facial service includes looking for blackheads, acne lesions, dryness, and wrinkles. As you likely know, the other small, red or purple-ish markings that you may notice mostly around the chin, nose, and cheeks are facial capillaries. Capillaries are small blood vessels that connect arteries and veins and are responsible for the blood circulation in the face.

How do broken capillaries happen?

When the capillary walls widen and narrow too quickly they can cause the vessel walls to tear or “break” and the blood to leak out.  There are two types of broken blood vessels. The first and most common type is a form of bruising or purplish skin swelling. It is caused by skin trauma and will disappear in a couple of weeks.  The second type is a blood spot and looks like a red-colored spreading of cells just below the skins surface.  This can be caused by a number of factors that traumatize the skin and immune system. Some of these ruptured blood vessels cannot repair themselves or go back to their normal thickness.

The Causes

There are several causes of broken capillaries or telangiectasia (the medical name). The primary causes are aging and sun damage but there are other factors such as:

  • Genetic Factors – If your parents or grandparents had the condition, your chances of developing broken capillaries are much higher.
  • Skin Type and Conditions – People with fair skin are more prone to having telangiectasia because their skin is thin and sensitive. Excessive facial scrubbing can create skin sensitivity as well.  Also people with dry and dehydrated skin are prone to broken capillaries because they have thinner and less protected layers of tissue. Those who suffer from Rosacea or severe acne tend to suffer from broken capillaries on the face.  
  • Environment – Because capillaries break from contracting quickly, extreme hot or cold weather conditions can make the skin vulnerable to broken capillaries.
  • Sun Exposure – Leaving the skin unprotected from ultraviolet rays causes it to become thinner and lose collagen. Since collagen is a protein in the body that helps the skin stay firm and elastic, its loss makes the capillaries more visible.
  • Hormones - People who are going through hormonal changes such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause may experience broken capillaries as their body tries to adjust. This is the reason why broken capillaries on the face and arms are more common in women than in men.

The Treatments

There are several ways to treat broken capillaries, depending on the cause and extent of the condition.

  • Concealer – If your broken capillaries are minimal, a green-based concealer can counteract redness and will provide better coverage than a skin-toned based concealer.
  • Vitamin A (Tretinoins) - Vitamin A builds surface collagen in the dermis that helps reduce the visibility of capillaries.
  • Laser (IPL) Treatment – Laser is an effective way to diminish broken capillaries but it is more expensive, requires one to three sessions, and can be a bit painful.
  • Sunscreen – The everyday use of a broad spectrum sunscreen can protect your skin from further capillary damage.






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