What causes broken blood vessels in the face?

By | March 5, 2024

Medically reviewed by William Truswell, MD

Broken blood vessels, also called varicose veins, can occur in most parts of the body. When they appear on the face, they usually look like small, red lines that spread in the shape of webbed feet. They also often develop in the legs.

Anyone can experience broken blood vessels in the face. Your risk may be higher if you have certain chronic health conditions, such as rosacea. It is important to see a healthcare provider to determine the cause of broken blood vessels and how to treat them. There are several treatment options available.

This article provides an overview of broken blood vessels in the face, including their causes and treatment options.



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What causes broken blood vessels in the face?

A variety of factors can lead to broken blood vessels in the face. Your risk may be higher if you have experienced any of the following:

  • Genetics: If you have a family member with broken blood vessels or varicose veins, your risk of developing them is higher.

  • Age and sun exposure: Solar purpura is a condition in which blood vessels leak under the skin, especially in older people and in areas of the skin that are frequently exposed to the sun.

  • The weather changes: Spending time in extreme heat causes blood vessels to dilate, making them more visible under the skin.

  • Changes in pressure: A sudden change in air pressure (such as during diving or flying) can cause the blood vessels in the face to break and become more visible.

  • Pregnancy: During pregnancy, elevated estrogen levels increase the risk of broken blood vessels. They usually resolve on their own after delivery.

  • Environmental or chemical irritants: Exposure to environmental or chemical irritants near the face can lead to broken blood vessels.

  • Rosacea: Rosacea is a common skin condition that causes facial redness, flushing, swelling and visible blood vessels.

  • Alcohol use: Drinking alcohol causes the skin to turn red and the blood vessels to dilate. Over time, binge drinking can lead to varicose veins in the body.

  • Head wounds: Any injury to the face can cause bruising and make blood vessels more visible.

  • Vomiting or sneezing: Vomiting or strong sneezing can cause increased pressure in the face. This pressure can cause the blood vessels to break.

How are broken blood vessels on the face diagnosed?

Broken blood vessels or varicose veins in the face are common and usually harmless. You may be able to identify them at home by their appearance. They look like fine red lines that form a web pattern on the skin.

If you are uncomfortable with the appearance of varicose veins on the face, consider seeing a healthcare provider. They will likely refer you to a dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions) or a facial plastic surgeon (a doctor who treats structures of the head and neck).

A dermatologist can diagnose varicose veins with a physical examination. Tests used to evaluate veins in the body include an ultrasound and venogram. In most cases, a dermatologist diagnoses broken blood vessels in the face by examining them.

Related: Petechiae vs. Purpura: What Skin Discoloration Can Tell You About Your Health

Home remedies for broken blood vessels on the face

You may be curious about home remedies to treat your varicose veins. Because most home remedies have not been proven to be effective or safe, you should talk to a healthcare provider first.

Avoid hot water and extreme temperatures

Use warm water in the shower and when washing your face. Hot water can cause broken blood vessels because it causes the blood vessels to dilate and become more noticeable.

Cold compress for immediate relief

Because heat dilates (dilates) blood vessels, you can try a cold compress to constrict (narrow) the blood vessels. This can provide soothing relief and make the blood vessels less visible.

Apple cider vinegar

A 2016 study found that applying apple cider vinegar to the skin can reduce the appearance of varicose veins and improve skin redness. Consider starting with a very small amount of diluted apple cider vinegar to see how your skin reacts to it.

Arnica oil

Arnica is an herb historically used for pain relief, especially in homeopathic medicine. It may contain anti-inflammatory substances that are effective for skin conditions such as varicose veins. Arnica oil is available as a topical treatment. Do not use arnica oil if you are pregnant or have certain plant allergies.

Witch hazel

Witch hazel is a natural remedy made from a plant. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved witch hazel as an ingredient in over-the-counter skin products. Applying witch hazel to the skin can reduce inflammation.

Talk to a healthcare provider about how much witch hazel to use on your skin.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a plant with long, thick leaves that contain a gel that can be applied to the skin. This gel has been used to treat various skin conditions such as sunburn, frostbite and bedsores. Aloe vera is also a common ingredient in facial cleansers and moisturizers. Start with a small amount and go from there.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient that has several benefits for the skin, including reduced inflammation, improved wound healing and increased hydration. It has been found to protect against sun damage, which may reduce the risk of broken blood vessels in the face.

Talk to a dermatologist about adding a skin serum with vitamin C to your skin care routine.

More information: What does vitamin C do for your skin?

Spices

Several types of plants and herbs can be beneficial for skin health. For example, horse chestnut is an herb that can be applied directly to the skin and can treat skin problems such as broken blood vessels. Talk to a dermatologist before using herbs on your skin daily.

Medical treatments for broken blood vessels in the face

If home remedies and lifestyle changes have not improved the appearance of broken blood vessels in your face, you may want to consider seeing a dermatologist for prescribed treatments and procedures.

Retinoids

Retinoids are compounds in vitamin A that have been used to treat skin conditions such as rosacea and acne. They can reduce the appearance of broken blood vessels in the face. They work by removing the outer layer of skin. Ask your dermatologist for retinoid product recommendations.

Laser therapy

Laser therapy uses intense, narrow beams of coherent light (the peaks and troughs of the light waves align) to minimize the appearance of varicose veins on the skin. It can also be used to destroy veins that are not functioning properly. Your dermatologist may recommend several sessions of laser therapy to treat your varicose veins.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy uses light that penetrates the first layer of skin without damaging it. It reaches the second layer of the skin to treat inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, rosacea and psoriasis. Ask your dermatologist or facial plastic surgeon if IPL could be an option for the broken blood vessels in your face.

Related: Types of Cosmetic Laser Procedures

Sclerotherapy

Sclerotherapy is a treatment for varicose veins using injections. A dermatologist injects a solution into the broken blood vessels, causing them to close. Once the blood vessels are closed, the blood is diverted to other blood vessels. This reduces the appearance of varicose veins in the skin.

How to prevent broken blood vessels on your face

Fortunately, it is possible to prevent or lower the risk of developing broken blood vessels in your face. To reduce the risk of varicose veins on your face, consider the following tips:

  • Limit your exposure to sunlight.

  • Always wear sunscreen and a hat when outdoors.

  • Try to limit the amount of time you spend in extreme heat.

  • Drink alcohol only in moderation or avoid it.

  • Wear protective clothing when participating in sports.

  • Follow your dermatologist’s treatment plan.

Resume

Broken blood vessels, also called varicose veins, are common and usually harmless. At first glance, they look like fine, red lines that form a web pattern. Possible causes of broken blood vessels in the face include genetics, skin conditions such as rosacea, and environmental factors such as sunlight exposure.

Consult a dermatologist or facial plastic surgeon if you are interested in treating the broken blood vessels in your face. Treatment options include retinoids, laser therapy, intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy, and sclerotherapy. Natural remedies can be helpful, but require more research. Consult a healthcare provider for next steps.

Read the original article about Verywell Health.

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