Sun Exposure and Facial Veins

Picture of a woman's face in the sun developing facial veins

Sun-related skin damage is one of the most widespread, yet preventable health issues in the world today. Mounds of evidence support this line of reasoning. Studies repeatedly show that the sun's emission of ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the main culprit in approximately one million new cases of skin cancer every year. Sun exposure is also linked to numerous other skin concerns, including veins in the face. While not as dangerous as skin cancer, it is becoming an increasingly common concern for millions of people.

Telangiectasia, which is the medical term for spider veins and broken capillaries, can affect nearly any part of the body and may occur for a multitude of reasons. Sun damage tends to be the primary cause of telangiectasia on the facial area. Humans actually have blood vessels everywhere from head to toe, but they are usually not visible. Prolonged sun exposure causes the blood vessels to expand, dilate, and accumulate while damaging vessel walls. This leads to the small, red vessels becoming broader and more apparent. If left untreated, they generally get worse with time. Some people attempt to conceal them by tanning, which only exacerbates the problem. The sun's ultraviolet rays are notorious for destroying collagen. Spider vein walls are composed of collagen so as the walls break down, they become more dispersed and noticeable.

Picture of a reb web-like splotch also known as spider veins on the skin of the face

While telangiectasia is not a life-threatening or dangerous condition, it is a prevalent cosmetic concern. The areas of the face most often affected are those prone to the most sun exposure, hence why people first notice veins on the nose, cheeks, and chin. People may notice a flushed or blotchy appearance to their cheeks. This is actually due to broken veins in cheeks, and frequently results from prolonged or repetitive sun exposure. Veins on the nose tend to concentrate towards the outer edges and are usually bright red in color. However, they may appear on any area of the face.

While anyone can get sun-related spider veins, fair-skinned people with a genetic predisposition to spider or varicose veins are most at risk. Often, rises in certain hormones cause a higher degree of sun sensitivity. Estrogen is one such hormone, which explains why this issue is more common in women. Also, pregnant women are at higher risk due to the cyclical rise of estrogen and progesterone. Older people are also at increased risk, especially for broken veins in cheeks, because the skin is slower to repair sun damage.

Prevention is Far Easier Than Treatment

As with many chronic conditions, prevention of spider veins is far easier and cheaper than treatment. Avoiding direct sunlight during peak sun hours (10 am-2 pm) is a top recommendation for prevention of any sun-related condition. This is the timeframe when ultraviolet radiation is at its maximum potency. Other preventative measures include wearing a wide-brimmed hat and applying a high-SPF sunscreen every couple hours. Certain vitamins may decrease the likelihood of damage to blood vessels, as well. Vitamin K affects the clotting of blood, and vitamin C strengthens the capillary walls. If the veins are already present, a vein specialist may be able to perform a procedure to significantly diminish their appearance.