Capillaries are the smallest of the blood vessels and play an important role in transporting oxygenated blood to the tissues, releasing waste products such as carbon dioxide and cooling the body down. These blood vessels are so fine that they resemble strands of hair. Networks of capillaries are found throughout the body however, for the purpose of this article, we are most concerned with the capillaries that are close to the surface of the skin. The skin on our faces and necks is much more delicate than the skin on the rest of our bodies and it is constantly exposed to the elements. When we are overheated the capillaries dilate as the blood rushes to the surface of our skin in an effort to release the heat and cool the body down and then recedes. When we are cold the blood circulates through the capillaries to maintain optimal temperature so our skin may appear flushed or paler than usual. If we move for instance from a heated room to the cold outdoors the natural circulation of the blood to the skin may be more rapid than usual, causing damage to the capillaries. As the capillaries are very fine, they are fragile and susceptible to bruising or breakage. Damaged capillaries on the face are often described as spider veins because of their ‘angry’, red, web-like appearance.
To prevent broken capillaries, it is important to avoid extremes of temperature that may place excessive strain on these blood vessels. Avoid showering or bathing with water that is too hot or too cold. In particular, avoid a hot shower or bath when your body is cold and avoid a cold shower when your body is overheated. If you subscribe to the European method of alternating your shower temperature from hot to cold to boost circulation, do not use this method on your face or neck. Similarly, if you are feeling hot, do not try to cool down by washing or rinsing your face with cold water. If you are feeling cold, it is not a good idea to warm yourself up by washing or rinsing your face with hot water. Tepid to lukewarm water is always the best for the face and neck area. If you engage in strenuous physical exercise, take time for your body to cool down before having a shower. Be cautious if consuming alcohol, which can cause pronounced heat and flushing on the facial skin. As always, treat the skin on your face and neck gently and this will also help to avoid damage to capillaries close to the skin’s surface.
If damaged capillaries do become visible there are beauty treatments available but these are often expensive and may result in other issues such as scarring or loss of pigmentation. Another option is to lightly cover the area with concealer before applying your foundation. Green tinted concealer is effective for covering and neutralising the red appearance of capillaries as it is the opposite colour on the spectrum. In summer, wear hats and clothing in light breathable fabrics to prevent overheating. In winter, dress warmly and wear hats and scarves. In cooler weather consider changing to a foundation with a higher oil content to further protect the skin from extremes in temperature. It is much more sensible to take measures to protect your skin rather than looking for solutions once damage has occurred.