Bothered by Broken Capillaries?

The appearance of blood vessels just under the surface of the skin is actually quite common. "It happens to two out of three people over the age of 30," says Howard Sobel, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City. We turned to him for advice on minimizing dilated capillaries (also called telangiectasia).

The basic facts

Telangiectasia are thin red, purple, or blue capillaries that occur when there is an increase in pressure or a weakness in the capillary wall, which causes the vessels to expand and sometimes break. This allows blood to seep out, accentuating the tiny vessels' threadlike appearance.

What to look for

Some reasons you may develop broken capillaries include:

  • Irritated skin Sloughing more than twice a week can exacerbate the problem by causing blood vessels to dilate and even break.
  • A family history If your parents have them, you're prone to getting them too.
  • Extreme heat Sitting in the sun or a steam room for more than half an hour or engaging in overly strenuous activity can make your capillaries expand and possibly burst.
  • Fluctuating hormone levels During your period or pregnancy, for example, more blood flows through your vessels, which stresses them and can lead to tears.

Simple solutions

  • Treat skin with TLC Opt for a gentle exfoliator, like Kiss My Face So Refined Organic Jojoba & Mint Facial Scrub ($15;, with jojoba beads.
  • Minimize sun exposure Steer clear of the rays and always wear an SPF of 30 or higher when you're outdoors to keep capillaries from becoming enlarged.
  • Camouflage with long-lasting cover-up A few dabs of thick, creamy concealer tapped on with a fingertip can build enough color to hide dark capillaries. We like Cover Fx Total Coverage Cream Foundation SPF 30 ($42;
  • Limit alcohol consumption Alcohol can trigger telangiectasia, say some researchers; drink no more than one glass of wine or beer or one cocktail a night.
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