Bluish shimmering veins that are visible just below the surface of the skin - this is how spider veins can be described in simple terms. Most of the time, those 'mini varicose veins' appear on the legs, but they can also occur in an area that cannot be easily covered: your face. Although they are generally harmless, these veins on the face can be a nuisance for those dreaming of a "flawless skin".
And here comes the most significant question: Are there any methods that can prevent the appearance of spider veins on the face?
The Development of Spider Veins on the Face
The blood capillaries of the face ensure the connection between the oxygenated blood, coming from the lungs, and the deoxygenated blood, which returns to the heart. These small venules or capillaries are about 0.1mm in diameter, and normally, they are not visible to the naked eye. The capillaries of the face play a role in regulating the valve, essential in blood flow: they can hold back the flow and the pass of blood. Therefore, they constitute a real barrier, making it possible to regulate the temperature of the epidermis.
When it is too hot or cold, the capillaries adapt, and the skin reddens. This process can be damaged over time or due to genetic dysfunction. As a result, the valves no longer close and allow blood flow to pass constantly, determining the facial capillaries to dilate and become visible on the skin's surface.
Women and, in particular, people with fair skin are more noticeably affected. The phenomenon generally reflects chronic venous insufficiency, but this is not its only cause.
What Causes Spider Veins on the Face?
Even if both show up as twisted blood vessels that are visible through the skin: varicose veins on face and spider veins on the legs are not the same, which is why they both have different causes.
Telangiectasia, also known as spider veins, are superficial veins that usually appear in a reddish, pink, blue or even purple color. These are most commonly found on the cheeks, chin, around the nostril, not just the nose and above the cheekbones. They arise less from a backlog of blood like the spider veins on the legs than from genetically determined (congenital) weak connective tissue or age-related vasodilatation (decreasing vascular elasticity).
Telangiectasia on the face is a common alteration in fair skin and consists of the proliferation of capillaries, which are reddish blood vessels present in more visible and sensitive areas of the face.
Although the causes of spider veins on the face are not yet known, in most cases, it is a benign problem aggravated by sun exposure that does not pose any health risk.
Other factors that increase the chances of spider veins on the face are:
- The natural aging process
- Environmental pollutants
- Prolonged exposure to excessive heat or cold
- The use of contraceptives
- Continuous use of steroids
- Smoking and alcohol consumption
- Frequent use of retinoid-based dermatological products
Pregnant women or people with severe acne and surgical wounds on the face may also develop varicose veins on the face because their skin is more sensitive. In addition, lighter skin is also more predisposed. In very rare situations, this could be a symptom of dermatological or systemic disease. When this is the case, it may be associated with rosacea, scleroderma, lupus, dermatomyositis, the Sturge-Weber disease, liver disease, or hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia.
In addition to spider veins, another recurrent vascular condition on the face is the appearance of bluish and dilated veins below the eyes, in the temporal region, and on the forehead. Most of the time, these are normal veins, but they can cause aesthetic discomfort and can be treated.
Because it is impossible to know in advance if spider veins will appear on your face, the best practice is to prevent them. For this, it is worth avoiding the following:
- prolonged and unprotected sun exposure;
- alcoholic beverages in excess;
- the use of medications without medical advice;
- undergoing aggressive aesthetic procedures that may cause an intense inflammatory process;
- extreme temperatures and sudden temperature changes;
- sources of heat, such as saunas or hot baths;
- scratching your face as a constant habit;
- washing your face with extremely hot water.
In addition, to help prevent those veins on your face, you should:
✓ use sunscreen with at least 30 SPF;
✓ add some Vitamin C & E to your nightly skincare routine to help with redness and inflammation;
✓ have good facial hygiene: use a facial cleanser twice a day, in the morning and before bed, followed by a hydrating moisturizer;
✓ use mostly water-based creams in your skincare routine;
✓ apply the right products for your skin type (approved by your doctor) and avoid products that can cause irritation and lead to excessive dryness.
However, if there is a genetic predisposition or if you have rosacea, or other connective tissue diseases like scleroderma, dermatomyositis or lupus, varicose veins on the face may still occur, even if your face is properly protected from the sun and all the other methods of prevention are strictly followed.
If you already have spider veins, don't panic. According to the US Department of Health, they are rarely a health problem and are quite treatable. However, your body cannot heal them on its own once you have them. If your spider veins are bothering you, we can treat them. Dr. Sidhu is a vascular doctor and we have the technology (the ND:Yag laser 1064) to treat spider veins.
Prevention is proving to be the best treatment for many diseases. However, there are situations in which no prevention method can delay the appearance of purple veins on the face, such as genetic causes, which is why the only solution to get rid of these is applying the right treatment.
Currently, several options can be used to treat spider veins on the face. The best choice depends on the type of vessel (including size and depth). The most popular face vein treatments are:
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) – Emitted by a high-performance device, the intense pulsed light produces heat in the deepest layers of the skin. Thus, it can reach the small spider veins in the nose, chin, and cheeks. When the dermis is heated, the blood vessels narrow, and blood flow in them is reduced. IPL has minimal downtime and can aid in treating a range of vascularity problems such as rosacea, redness from acne, and telangiectasia.
Sclerotherapy - Spider veins can be effectively removed with injection therapy (sclerotherapy), which is done by injecting salt substances such as hypertonic saline or sodium tetradecyl sulfate into each vein to irritate them and form a blood clot that determines their closing. Therefore, liquid sclerotherapy and foam sclerotherapy have established themselves as safe and effective therapies for varicose veins, including telangiectasias.
Laser treatment - the heat from laser causes the walls of the superficial veins to collapse. And we recommend at least two treatments for spider veins, and I wouldn’t say anything is permanent. The most common laser to treat veins is the Nd:YAG laser, but there are others that also act on the vessels, such as the KTP laser. One or two sessions are usually very effective. The laser resolves those veins permanently, but nothing prevents others from appearing over time.
Phlebectomy - this is the surgical approach used to remove spider veins. Also called the hook method, the procedure consists of gripping the diseased veins with a hook through small incisions and pulled out. This method is only used for smaller varicose veins and is often combined with vein stripping. However, the procedure involves a lot of accuracy and should only be done by someone with a lot of experience.
To prevent spider veins on the face, the most important thing you can do is use enough sun protection on a daily basis and avoid certain products or aggressive procedures that may irritate your skin. However, there are circumstances when prevention won't help in stopping the appearance of purple veins on the face, which is why applying an effective treatment may be your only chance to get rid of them. If you have more questions about this subject, you can contact us to discuss them.
Can retinoic acid worsen spider veins on the face?
Sadly yes. Retinoic acid is one of the best ingredients in cosmetics to treat acne and aging (wrinkles, blemishes, and even sagging), but it stimulates the proliferation of vessels so that it can increase the size and quantity of these veins.
Can spider veins on the face go away by themselves?
No. This condition develops when the connective tissue of the vein wall loses tension. Therefore, this process cannot be reversed, and the visible veins can only disappear with appropriate medical treatment.
Can you treat spider veins on your face at home?
Natural substances such as apple cider vinegar, garlic, lemon or mountain pine oil, spruce extract, arnica or ring flower ointment are also supposed to promote blood circulation. Applied several times a day for a few weeks on the affected areas, they are intended to promote the outflow of blood from the spider veins. However, these DIY treatments (if they work at all) are not a permanent solution.