Red in the Face

Are clients wondering why their faces are peppered with tiny red lines? These broken blood vessels affect millions—especially as age creeps up—and don't typically disappear on their own but can be treated quickly and effectively by a dermatologist, according to Joshua Fox, M.D., medical director of Advanced Dermatology P.C. and the Center for Laser & Cosmetic Surgery (New York City).

Known as telangiectasias, the tiny spider or thread-like blood vessels can develop anywhere on the body but are especially prevalent on the face. The vessels involved can be veins or capillaries and tend to cluster around the nose, cheeks, and chin, creating unsightly areas that can make it hard to face the world with confidence. "Spider veins on the face don't hurt, and they aren't dangerous or life-threatening, but they certainly affect appearance and self-esteem," says Meryl Becker Joerg, M.D., also with Advanced Dermatology. "They can make the face appear slightly bruised and cause you to look older than you are. On top of that, these broken blood vessels are likely to get worse over time if left untreated."


What causes broken blood vessels?

Some telangiectasias are prompted by uncontrollable factors, while others appear because of lifestyle choices. The numerous causes of broken facial blood vessels include:

•   Aging

•   Prolonged sun exposure

•   Pregnancy

•   Childbirth

•   Oral contraceptive use

•   Estrogen replacement therapy

•   Excessive alcohol consumption

•   Heredity

•   Rosacea

It may not be possible to completely avoid broken facial blood vessels, but Fox notes that there are several ways for clients to minimize their risk. Recommend that they gently wash their face with warm—not hot—water, since hot water forces capillaries to expand. "Everyone who comes to us with broken blood vessels on their face seems to have acquired them in a different way," says Fox. "But one thing unites all of them: The desire to be rid of these embarrassing red lines. Luckily, we have a clear-cut solution to offer."  


Best treatment option virtually painless

The most effective treatment option for broken blood vessels happens to also be quick, virtually painless, and highly effective. Laser light treatment uses gentle light pulses to heat the affected blood vessels, causing them to collapse and leaving surrounding skin undamaged. Afterward, the tissue from destroyed blood vessels simply dissolves, restoring the skin's natural appearance within days.

While some laser light treatment patients describe the laser sensation as similar to that of a snapping rubber band, topical anesthesia or ice can be applied before treatment to maximize comfort. Larger veins may require multiple laser treatments spaced weeks apart, while small vessels can usually be taken care of with a single, 10- to 15-minute treatment. Bruising, crusting or redness of the skin may occur in some cases, but typically clears within a few days.

For optimal results, Fox recommends laser or intense light treatment and that patients use sunscreen on the treated area to ward away unnecessary redness or discoloration. Daily sunscreen use on the face is a good idea regardless, he notes. Makeup or self-tanning lotion can be used to try to conceal or camouflage broken blood vessels, but don't remove the problem blood vessels. "It's gratifying to have such a safe, effective treatment for a skin problem that impacts so many people," says Fox. "When I show prospective laser treatment patients before-and-after photos from others we've treated for broken blood vessels, they can't believe the difference and are thrilled for the chance to regain their natural beauty. The patients are impressed to see the instant improvement in their condition after a single short treatment."