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Treatments for broken capillaries and spider veins

April 3, 2009 Reviewed by Marta 12 Comments

I don't look like Mrs Angry but I do have a small patch of spider veins on each cheek, particularly the left one. Telangiectasia (a.k.a. spider veins and broken capillaries) are dilated small vessels near the surface of the skin. Typically they are caused by sun exposure or inflammatory conditions (such as acne or rosacea). Mine are due to rosacea and I am always on the look out for ways of treating them.

The key weapon in my arsenal is LED (light emitting diodes). There's actually a plausible explanation as to why this should work. Hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying pigment in red blood cells, absorbs light within a specific range of wavelengths (500 - 600 nm). Under high energy light, the dilated vessels heat up and close and eventually fade away. I have a monthly LED facial at my esthetician's salon and a weekly top-up at home with my Baby Quasar.

This isn't a permanent solution and fading veins can reemerge with too much sun exposure or a reaction to something that irritates my skin (my esthetician regularly tsks when I return to see her with blotchy cheeks). So additional help is required. Apart from a protective sunscreen, there are some potions that can help if they have the right ingredients.

Quick, but useful aside: vitamin K is not one of them. I've tried vit K creams and they don't work. The reason is fairly straightforward - vitamin K is a blood clotting agent and is better suited to treating, say, a bruise than a dilated vessel.

One of the ingredients that may work is horse chestnut extract. Horse chestnut trees (particularly the seeds) contain a saponin called escin. This is supposed to strengthen veins and capillaries by blocking an enzyme called hyaluronidase, which can breakdown of proteoglycans (part of the structure of capillary walls).

Derma-E Clear Vein Cream Spider Vein/Bruise Solution ($25) has a good dollop (3%) of horse chestnut extract. It also contains grape skin extract, which is also supposed to strengthen capillaries. Generally Derma-E makes good products for a reasonable price  so this is worth checking out.

Last year, I gave a pot of Osmotics Anti-Radical Age Defense ($111 in the TIA shop) to a friend and she wrote back to tell me it had done wonderful things for her thread veins. After a month or so she said: "I have two other red patches that I always automatically dab with concealer, but the other morning, I realized that one of them had pretty much disappeared. All in all, it does seem terrific.”

Ingredients in Derma-E:
Purified Water, Horse Chestnut Extract (3%), Witch Hazel Extract, Grape Skin Extract, White Oak Extract, Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Rutin, Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C), Bilberry Extract, Jojoba Oil, Green Tea Extract, Caprylic Triglyceride, Polysorbate 20, Dimethicone, Glyceryl Stearate & PEG-100 Stearate, Pycnogenol, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Citricidal, Phenoxyethanol.

Ingredients in Osmotics:
Purified Water, Vegetable Squalane, Cetyl Alcohol, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Xanthan Gum, Tripeptide-1, Glycerin, Citrullus Lanatus Fruit Extract, PEG-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Soybean Sterol, Squalane, Vitamin E Acetate, Ubiquinone 50, Dimethylmethoxy Chromanol, Carnosine, Ceramide, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Linoleic Acid, Allantoin, Stearic Acid, Carbomer, Diazolidinyl Urea/Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Disodium EDTA, Tromethamine.

  • November 9, 2011

    by Marta

    Hi Jacqueline, the green setting is the strongest and might be best avoided on rosacea. The other two (flashing and still) will be fine.

  • November 9, 2011

    by jacqueline

    Can anyone tell me what setting Baby Q should be used on for Rosacea treatment?

  • February 10, 2010

    by James Readman

    Nice information, I plan on looking into the LED treatment in a future blog post myself and it is nice to hear of someone who has used it and can review it.

  • May 20, 2009

    by marta

    Primrose - all VIP members will be sent a questionnaire to evaluate test products.

  • May 19, 2009


    Melbourne Hi Marta im just using this space to advise that I have received you sample of prep .Just a query to you. What do you want me to write about it ?Do I try it out in two following weeks or what .Please advise . Prep reads well so I will be interested to see the result. Back to the dreaded spider veins . I have found that using Kosmea (pure organic rosehip oil helps a bit my spider veins that always come back after treatment .But it also seems to have calmed considerably my roseacnea which I havent had for ages. But it made a come back in summer maybe be due to the heat plus the stress of moving house (hate it but its over !! ) Anyway thats enough from me Kind regards primrose 20/5/09

  • April 17, 2009

    by Trinh

    My routine is cleanse, toner, serum, and moisturizer. If I don't want to replace my moisturizer with the Derma E cream, then where in my routine would I add this Derma E cream? Thanks.

  • April 6, 2009

    by Kathy

    Yep, IPL is more intense, but it works quickly to even the skin (IMO). It gets rid of the red and brown spots. The brown spots do get darker before they flake off in a few days. I have found that maybe one treatment a year is all I need now, for maintenance. But I am going to have my decolletage done in a few weeks. I am seeing sun damage now from my misspent youth in the sun. sigh.

  • April 3, 2009

    by marta

    LED is great for sensitive skin - I am hyper-sensitive. There isn't any down time or recovery time. It usually lasts 20 minutes.

    Cost will depend on where you live. In NYC its about $120.

    LED is gentler that Intense Pulsed Light, which I haven't tried. A friend who has tried IPL just once said that it really does even out skin tone. In her experience, dark spots got darker before they disappeared. Its easy to overdo it - even, in this case, in the hands of a trusted practitioner. "I wasn’t burned," she said, "but a patch of skin went really dark."

  • April 3, 2009

    by Kathy

    Have you ever tried IPL -- Intense Pulsed Light? I have rosacea too, and I get a treatment every now and then. It keeps the tiny red veins at bay.

  • April 3, 2009

    by Trinh

    I am so glad you wrote about this. I consider myself to have pretty healthy skin, except for these red veins that make me self-conscious. The LED treatment, how much is it per treatment? Does it make your skin more sensitive? Recovery time? Would you recommend this for someone with already sensitive skin? Thanks.

  • April 3, 2009

    by marta

    Alright! I am going to look into trying that out.

  • April 3, 2009

    by ctomek

    I make a DIY treatment that includes horse chestnut, resveratrol, and a bunch of other actives. I mix it up with hyaluronic acid and some oils and use it a few times a week before bed. The small broken capillaries on the side of my nose have subsided significantly in the last few months.

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