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What Causes Small Red Lines on the Face Under the Skin?

author image Alex Burgess
Alex Burgess has been a professional writer since 1990, specializing in travel, herpetology, lifestyle, fashion, health and fitness. Her work has appeared in various British newspapers, magazines and international online publications. Burgess studied design before working as a journalist in England.
What Causes Small Red Lines on the Face Under the Skin?
See your doctor if you suspect spider veins are an indicator of a more serious condition.

Fine red lines just beneath the skin are usually enlarged capillaries or a cluster of blood vessels visible due to their proximity to the skin’s surface. The condition is known as spider veins, thread veins or spider angioma. Causes range from skin conditions, such as rosacea to pregnancy, sun damage, alcoholism and liver disease. An accurate diagnosis by a health expert is important because spider angioma may be a warning sign of an underlying medical condition.

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Many women experience temporary, small red lines or broken veins on various parts of their bodies during the final few weeks of pregnancy. Increased blood flow around the third trimester can lead to spider veins forming on your cheeks when tiny capillaries engorge and become more noticeable. Spider veins usually disappear when your baby is born and your blood flow returns to normal.


Rosacea is a skin condition that presents with a variety of symptoms. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, some rosacea sufferers experience small red veins on the face in addition to other symptoms. Although there is no cure for rosacea, there are topical treatments available to alleviate some of the discomfort associated with the condition.


The American Academy of Dermatology warns that enlarged capillaries are often the result of photoaging, or sun damage. Frequent sessions of unprotected exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun or sunbeds over several years can lead to spider veins forming on your face. The Mayo Clinic notes that numerous or repeated sunburns can also be the cause of fine red veins on your face, ears, cheeks and nose.

Alcoholism and Liver Disease

Spider angiomas are commonly found in patients diagnosed with alcoholism or liver cirrhosis. A study by researchers at the Department of Medicine Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, and Taiwan's National Yang-Ming University School of Medicine found a link between spider angiomas and alcohol-related liver diseases.

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