How to Get Rid of Those Tiny Broken Capillaries on Your Face

Maybe you've noticed a smattering of tiny red dots across your face and wondered what they are. If you've ruled out acne or acne scars, chances are those red marks are actually tiny broken capillaries.

If you're unfamiliar, broken capillaries are small, dilated blood vessels that are visible on the surface of the skin and appear red in color, although they tend to be harmless. They occur when the walls of the blood vessels beneath the surface of the skin are damaged and become dilated (aka enlarged). They can look like webbed spider veins, red splotches, or more enlarged singular veins. They usually pop up around your chin, cheeks, and nose, but can really show up anywhere on the face.

To better understand why they happen — and perhaps more importantly,how to treat them — we asked Jennifer Herrmann, MD, FAAD, a board-certified, fellowship-trained dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon, to break down everything you'd want to know about broken capillaries.

What Causes Broken Capillaries?

The reality is that anyone can get broken capillaries, but they just tend to show up more on people with lighter skin tones. People with rosacea are particularly prone to broken capillaries — both rosacea and broken capillaries are aggravated by heat. Other things that can cause broken capillaries are pregnancy hormones, birth control, sun damage, drinking alcohol, a violent sneeze or vomiting spell, or even just simple genetics.

How Can You Prevent Broken Capillaries?

Dr. Herrmann says that lifestyle-wise, you can reduce your sun exposure, limit alcohol intake, and treat rosacea through a combination of dietary modifications and potential prescriptions.

"Anything that causes too much chronic redness or inflammation should be avoided," she says, so you should also watch out for any harsh exfoliants — this includes microdermabrasion in your next facial.

Since heat and UV rays are the main things that will keep those broken capillaries coming back (and existing areas enlarging), you want to apply generous amounts of broad-spectrum UVA and UVB sunscreen every day (even if it's cloudy out).

POPSUGAR Photography | Tori Crowther

How to Treat Broken Capillaries

If you actually want to treat broken capillaries, Dr. Herrmann says, "The workhorse laser is the Pulsed Dye Laser, or PDL."

"The laser light targets hemoglobin, a protein which is in red blood cells. It heats it up, and this heat collaterally damages the blood vessel walls surrounding it, which causes them to collapse and disappear. Because we have so many extra vessels in the skin, removing a few doesn't have any negative health consequence," Dr. Herrmann says.

"Sometimes one treatment effectively zaps capillaries, but often a series is needed to knock down more diffuse redness, especially in the setting of rosacea.

Here's an example of the before-and-after results from one of our editors, who got a laser treatment for her broken capillaries at Debbie Thomas's Clinic in Chelsea, London.

Additional reporting by Tori Crowther