Broken Capillaries on Your Face: The Expert Guide

What to do about those pesky "spider veins" on your face.

blonde woman with freckles on her face
(Image credit: PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou)

So you've got yourself a spidery-looking red splotch on your face that doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon. Congratulations—you're a perfectly normal human being with a totally normal broken capillary. But as annoying and scary-sounding as broken blood vessels are, they're not the end of the world. (Even if it feels like it.) Broken capillaries are most commonly found on the face or legs, and any number of things might be the culprit. Sun exposure, rosacea, alcohol consumption, weather changes, pregnancy, genes, and more can cause them to pop up.

The good news: You can get rid of broken capillaries. With the right tools and measures, you can not only say goodbye to them for good but also prevent another crop of them from taking hold of your skin in the future. From at-home remedies that reduce redness to laser treatments that zap them forever, read on for everything you need to know about these bad guys.

How do you know if you have a broken capillary?

Not to be a buzzkill, but the internet is not your doctor, and you should definitely make an appointment with a dermatologist for an official diagnosis. But if you're still trying to self-diagnose, we'll make it easier for you: Broken capillaries are enlarged blood vessels just beneath the surface of the skin that look like bright, blood-red marks, usually in a spider- or branch-like pattern (though we've seen them look like tiny, singular pinpricks, too).

What causes broken capillaries?

In general, two things cause broken capillaries. One is skin trauma—like squeezing a pimple with too much force, intense microdermabrasion, or even sneezing. Excessive dilation of the blood vessels is another, from taking hot showers, being in cold, wintery air, eating spicy foods, exercising, or drinking alcohol. "Capillary walls are very elastic, and blood vessels can lose their ability to contract if they're frequently dilated, causing them to remain enlarged," says celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau.

Sadly, genetics play a significant role in your susceptibility to broken blood vessels. However, they're more common in people with sensitive skin, acne, or rosacea, and especially rampant in the winter, thanks to fluctuating hot-and-cold temperatures.

Can you treat broken capillaries at home?

Yes and no—but mostly no. Once you have broken capillaries on your face, they're there for good unless you zap them with a laser at a dermatologist's office (more on that shortly). Still, there's a small silver lining.

"Over-the-counter products containing anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as rosehip oil, can also minimize redness," says dermatologist Arash Akhavan, M.D., founder of Dermatology and Laser Group in New York City. You can also try slathering on a layer of pomegranate oil—another natural anti-inflammatory—every night. However, you should know that there isn't a huge chance they'll make a difference.

"You can also ask your doctor about Rhofade, a prescription topical cream that constricts the blood vessels in your face, thus limiting blood flow and redness to the area," Dr. Akhavan says. Fair warning: you'll have to go to your dermatologist for this. "Know that these are all short-term fixes for the redness and need to be reapplied every day for results," he continues.

How can I get rid of broken capillaries?

If you want to get rid of your splotches for good, you'll need to invest in laser treatment. "Lasers for vascular lesions, like broken capillaries, work by suddenly heating the blood inside of the vessels, leading to inflammation and scarring within the blood vessel that eventually causes them to fade away over four to six weeks," says Dr. Akhavan. It sounds painful, but the treatment itself only takes a few minutes and feels like a rubber band lightly snapping your skin a few times.

"A laser called the Vbeam Laser is the gold standard for treating vascular spots on the face," says Dr. Akhavan. Adding, "IPL—Intense Pulsed Light—treatments are also very effective." However, he notes that if you have darker skin, neither can be safely used without possibly harming your face, so make sure to call ahead to check if your doctor has an Nd:YAG laser, "which is the best option for darker skin tones."

How much do laser treatments cost?

It depends on where you live, who you see, and how big your broken capillary is, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $400 out of pocket per session. So, yes, it's pricey, but it's the only way to get rid of your broken blood vessels legitimately.

How can I stop broken capillaries from coming back?

1. Wear sunscreen. 

We know, we know—this is the ultimate skincare advice until the end of time, but it doesn't make it any less critical. "Capillary walls weaken with UV exposure, so wearing a good sunscreen can potentially prevent the development of some broken capillaries," says Dr. Akhavan. So slather on a gentle sunscreen every morning, like one of these cult-favorites, below.

2. Use gentle exfoliants.

Scrubbing is for pots and pans, not your face, and you're usually doing more harm than good by using a gritty exfoliator on your skin. Instead, opt for a chemical exfoliator, which uses gentle acids to dissolve dead skin cells, oils, and gunk from your pores.

3. Ditch the hot water.

No, you don't need to swear off hot showers for life, but know that you're putting your skin at increased risk the warmer the water is. "Hot water on the face will speed up blood flow and dilate capillaries, which will only increase redness in the skin," says Rouleau. So instead, wash your face with cool or tepid water, and try to keep your face out of the direct blast of the hot shower stream.

Laura Lajiness Kaupke
Laura Lajiness Kaupke

Laura Lajiness Kaupke is a freelance writer and editor covering fashion, accessories, fine jewelry, and lifestyle topics, including beauty, home, fitness, and travel. You can see her work across various outlets, including VOGUE, Harper’s BAZAAR, ELLE, Glamour, Town&Country, InStyle, Esquire, Women’s Health, Brides, Refinery 29, Coveteur, The Zoe Report, Popsugar, Byrdie, WWD, Footwear News, Well+Good, The Editorialist, among other titles and brands. Laura has worked in the fashion industry for over 11 years and held senior fashion editor positions at Popsugar and The Zoe Report, with additional experience as a copywriter and fashion publicist.