Ask Jennifer: I’ve noticed now that I’m getting older I have broken capillaries on my face. What causes this? Can I prevent this from happening and how do I get rid of the ones I have naturally?
Capillaries are small, delicate blood vessels. At any age, but especially as we get older, these small vessels can appear to break, becoming noticeable, most often on the nose, cheeks, and chin (because there are many capillaries just under the skin’s surface on your face). Some resemble small red dots and others branch out like the veins on a leaf.
Sometimes, the tendency to have broken capillaries is genetic, but there are also other reasons this can happen. To answer the question about prevention and reducing broken capillaries, there are natural approaches related to nutrition, such as eating anti-inflammatory foods and taking appropriate supplements.
What causes broken capillaries?
When capillaries become damaged, or widen and narrow suddenly, this dilation (called telangiectasia) may become permanent. You’ll then see the visible red marks we refer to as broken capillaries, even though they’re not truly broken.
Broken capillaries can occur for many reasons, such as poor nutrition and small traumas from everyday actions:
- Popping a pimple
- Hot showers and facial steamers
- Washing your face with hot water
- Blowing your nose
- Rubbing your eyes
- Rubbing vigorously with a towel
- Aggressive exfoliation
A few other common reasons for capillary damage include consumption of alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods. Alcohol, for example, can dilate the blood vessels temporarily; frequent alcohol consumption may lead to vasodilation (longer-lasting broken blood vessels and redness on the face). Caffeine and spicy foods also create this effect.
Capillaries also become more visible when your face is hot (from a shower or exercise) and from sun damage: exposure to ultraviolet rays can weaken blood vessels, making capillaries more visible through the skin’s top layer.
Those with fair skin are at greater risk of broken capillaries, and, unfortunately, you may just have a genetic predisposition. If your parents have broken capillaries, you likely will too.
Can you prevent broken capillaries?
You can minimize the chance of experiencing a broken capillary by avoiding the risk factors above. In addition to being gentler with your face, here are a few more ways you may be able to avoid broken capillaries:
- Wear a good, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 to 50. As always, I suggest consulting Environmental Working Group’s website for safe sunscreen recommendations.
- Wash your face with lukewarm, versus hot water. Take care to keep your face out of steamy water when you shower, too.
- Take a quality vitamin C supplement to reduce inflammation and combat free radical damage. When taken with flavonoid compounds, vitamin C strengthens blood vessels, making you less likely to experience broken capillaries. If your body tolerates it, take 1,000 mg of vitamin C with bioflavonoids twice daily.
- Avoid rough-grit exfoliants, in favor of gentle enzyme-based exfoliants, to dissolve dead skin cells and dirt.
- Add a layer of salve-like facial balm under your makeup. This is especially good protection from the elements if you’re in an environment with extreme temperatures and high winds.
Are there any natural treatment options?
In some cases, a broken capillary may heal on its own within three to six months, but if it has not healed within this timeframe it’s likely permanent.
Keeping the skin fairly cool will make broken capillaries less noticeable (when skin is hot, blood is drawn to the surface and blood vessels expand, becoming more noticeable).
You may want to try rosehip oil: the oil’s high amounts of fatty acids and beneficial vitamins work together to strengthen damaged capillaries, and its natural astringent properties reduce redness.
Additionally, rosehip oil is high in anti-inflammatory vitamin C and, because it’s dry oil, it’s non-greasy. Our Esthetician, Glynda, recommends YAYA Organics Rosehip Beauty Oil.
To apply rosehip oil as a foundation primer, just use a few drops on your face. Allow the oil to set for a minute or two, and follow with foundation and powder for a matte look. For a dewy look, mix a drop or two of rosehip oil with your foundation.
Other than laser treatments, there isn’t a method for removing broken capillaries. Generally, these are harmless and most people don’t notice them much. Occasionally, broken capillaries occur in other parts of the body, however, which may be a sign of a medical issue worth contacting your doctor about.
To determine if nutrition is a source of your broken capillaries, consider scheduling a Nutrition and Functional Health consultation with me or with Carol.
Jennifer Salos, MS, CNC
Jennifer has a Master’s degree in Holistic Nutrition. She is also a nationally Certified Nutritional Consultant and Diplomat of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants.