If getting your legs out this summer has made you a little insecure about your thread veins, never fear; while summer is actually the worst time to undergo thread vein treatment (because you need to keep the treated area of out the sun), you can easily get them sorted before jetting off again in future.
Thread veins are those little thin, red wiggly lines that show up on the face and legs. These are simply just capillaries near the surface of the skin that have become enlarged and are totally harmless, but can be understandably annoying, especially if you have pale skin.
There are some very effective treatments for thread veins, and more often than not, they’re really simple to treat. Which treatment is best for you depends on the size, the location, and the colour of your thread veins, so you should consult an expert practitioner for advice on what’s best for you. Plus, your options may also depend on your skin tone, as some laser and IPL (intense pulsed light) aren’t safe for darker skins. Here’s a quick lowdown of the options.
Best if you don’t mind a bit of discomfort: Intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment
IPL is very effective on thread veins. It delivers flashes of intense light to the treatment area, breaking up the red haemoglobin pigment in the thread veins so that your body can disperse it, making the veins gradually disappear over a week or so. Depending on how severe your thread veins are, you may need to have multiple treatments. IPL does deliver some pain along with the gain, though. Each flash is like having your skin flicked lightly with a rubber band – if you’ve had laser hair removal, this feels like that. Don’t let the thought of a little discomfort put you off this treatment; it’s over quickly and it works a treat.
Best for darker leg veins: Laser treatment
Laser for thread veins works in a broadly similar way to IPL treatment except that it uses a different form of light – laser rather than intense pulsed light. ‘Leg veins which tend to be both darker in colour – dark red, blue, or purple – and deeper in the skin, require a longer wavelength, like an Nd:YAG at 1064nm,’ explains Kerry Belba, TTG-listed laser practitioner and executive board member of the British Medical Laser Association (BMLA). Facial veins will start to disappear in around 2-3 weeks, while it takes longer in the legs – about 4-5 weeks. The thread veins gradually vanish as your body gets rid of the coagulated blood – just like when it clears a bruise. Laser can be pretty painful, so ask if numbing cream is an option.
Best for quick results: Microwave treatment
Microwave therapy is sometimes called thermocoagulation. It works by making the veins close up and be reabsorbed by the body using a technique called ‘microcoagulation’. A microwave current is passed through the vein from an insulated needle, delivering heat energy that makes it collapse. The main advantage to microwave treatment is that the thread veins disappear almost immediately rather than taking a week or so to fade and vanish. You still need to avoid sun exposure for a good two weeks though.
Best on a budget: Electrolysis
Electrolysis is best known as a fairly old-school method of hair removal, but it can be helpful for thread veins too. It works by inserting a fine probe into thread veins and sending a pulse of electricity into them, creating heat which cauterises the veins, and it can clear up to 60-80 per cent of red thread veins. When we broke down the cost of thread vein treatment as part of our Price Awareness series, electrolysis came out as the most budget-friendly option, so it’s worth looking into if price is a big factor for you.
Best for varicose veins: Sclerotherapy
If it’s varicose veins (swollen and enlarged veins) on your legs rather than thread veins that are your concern, sclerotherapy is your best bet. During a sclerotherapy procedure a solution (usually salt-based) is injected directly into the vein in question, irritating the lining and causing the vein to collapse and its walls to stick together. Once the blood flow to the vein is closed off, the vein shrinks and eventually disappears over time.
Keeping your thread veins under control during summer
It’s best to wait until after summer to embark on thread vein treatment, but there are a few things you can do to stop them worsening over summer or if you’re on holiday somewhere hot.
Minimise your exposure to ultraviolet light – Ultraviolet light ages your skin, so you should avoid it as much as possible. That means slathering on sunscreen not only before exposing your legs to bright sunlight when you’re sunbathing but also before getting them out on warm but sunless days, because UV comes through the clouds, so it’s there even when the sun isn’t.
Avoid extreme temperatures – If you suffer from thread veins, anything that makes your veins work harder is likely to have unwelcome results. If you find that broiling yourself in the sauna, having a hot bath or shower or lying out in the sun makes your thread veins worse, then keep these activities to a minimum, and make your baths and showers a little cooler. If you do want to catch some rays this summer, at least put a cool, damp cloth over your thread veins to give them some protection. And again, don’t forget that SPF!
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