Plus how to make the spider-like spots disappear.

Lately, every time you look in the mirror, your eyes fix on the tiny tangle of red lines branching out across your cheeks and around your nose. And you wonder, what the heck are these things? More often than not, those red, spider-like clusters are just…broken blood vessels.

Broken blood vessels are overgrowths of capillaries—i.e., small blood vessels, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. They tend to form when capillaries just under your skin weaken and dilate, and they can develop on other parts of the body like the neck, chest, or even the legs (known as spider veins), he adds.

While broken blood vessels can pop up on anyone’s face, they “typically develop in people with more fair skin,” says Dr. Zeichner. In most cases, they’re completely harmless. But if they bother you, you do have options.

Read on to learn what causes broken blood vessels on your face, plus how to prevent and treat them.

Causes of broken blood vessels on your face

Photo: Getty Images/Svetlana Dolgova

Broken blood vessels can affect anyone, but certain factors might make you more likely to develop them on your face, specifically. These include:

1. Genetics

It’s possible you can blame your DNA for the broken blood vessels on your cheeks and nose. As Dr. Zeichner mentioned, people with fair skin are prone to broken capillaries. And those with a history of skin conditions like rosacea (more on this in a sec) are also more likely to develop broken facial capillaries, he adds.

2. Rosacea or other skin conditions

Rosacea might be the reason for your broken blood vessels. This common inflammatory skin condition causes redness on your face, and those who have it tend to develop broken capillaries, too, which look like small, red lines on the skin, says Dr. Zeichner.

Certain things can cause rosacea flares and make the broken blood vessels more visible. “In rosacea, blood vessels are overreactive, which leads to excessive dilation in response to triggers like spicy food, alcohol, hot beverages, and even emotional stress,” he says. “Over time, this leads to permanent facial flushing.”

3. Sun exposure

Yet another way the sun can harm your skin if you don’t wear SPF every day. “UV light exposure causes damage to collagen and elastic fibers and promotes development of new blood vessels,” adds Dr. Zeichner.

4. Alcohol consumption

Sorry to say, but sipping on your favorite cocktail may be causing broken blood vessels on your face. Not only does alcohol cause existing blood vessels to dilate (read: get bigger and appear more noticeable), but it also promotes the development of new capillaries, says Dr. Zeichner.

5. Post-surgery

If you’ve recently noticed broken blood vessels after a surgical procedure, there’s a good reason. “As part of a wound healing response, the skin produces new collagen and blood vessels as the skin repairs itself,” says Dr. Zeichner. This may be why after certain facial procedures, you notice more broken capillaries on your face.

6. Straining

Any time you strain (think: crying, sneezing, vomiting, pushing on the toilet, or even having a seizure), it can put “increased pressure in the face,” says Dr. Zeichner. And “this can cause capillaries to leak.”

While these tiny red, brown, or purplish spots of bleeding under the skin (called petechiae) might resemble broken blood vessels, they’re not quite the same thing. The former are leaky capillaries that form little bruises while the latter are overgrowths of new blood vessels, says Dr. Zeichner.

If you have petechiae along with other symptoms of illness, reach out to your doctor. You may have an underlying condition that needs treatment with antibiotics, supplements, or other medications, per the Cleveland Clinic.

7. Pregnancy and giving birth

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can bring on broken blood vessels on your face. High estrogen levels “encourage the development of broken capillaries,” says Dr. Zeichner. On top of this, if you strain to push during birth (hello, it’s hard work!), you might see a bunch of “popped” blood vessels on your face. Again, these aren’t new capillaries forming but rather the ones you already have bleeding under the skin (causing temporary bruising).

8. Aging

The older you get, the more likely you’ll have broken blood vessels on your face. Usually, you see more broken capillaries with age because environmental exposures (like UV light damage) and other types of chronic low-grade trauma to your skin (think: persistently picking at zits) add up over time, says Dr. Zeichner. In other words, it’s a cumulative effect.

Do broken blood vessels on your face heal?

Hate to break it to you, but “once they develop, new capillaries are usually permanent,” says Dr. Zeichner. On the bright side, if they bother you, there are ways to make them less visible (more on this later).

Unlike broken blood vessels, leaky capillaries that cause facial bruising (i.e., petechiae from activities like crying, puking, or straining on the toilet) are only temporary, says Dr. Zeichner. They usually fade away on their own and don’t require any treatment.

Categories: Heath Fitness


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