Do Spider Vein Creams Work?

Applying a topical spider vein cream may seem like a painless and affordable way to get rid of that network of tiny veins on your legs – but will it work and what is the best spider vein cream to go for?

Overall it’s true that laser therapy is likely to be the most effective way to deal with your vein problems – but that costs money and time.

Applying a spider vein cream may be a good choice to lessen the appearance of spider veins if you don’t want to make that investment just yet.

Of course, buying a cream instead of paying for an in-office treatment is only an economical step if it achieves results. The trick is to know just what you are paying for – what is likely to be in a vein cream and is there any proof that the ingredients work?

Spider vein cream ingredients

The first step if you are considering buying a topical treatment is to find out what the main active ingredient is in the cream – some have a better track record than others.

There are five ingredients that figure in most vein creams which are all naturally derived:

1. Vitamin K – proven to repair veins and capillaries and used extensively by doctors to reduce the appearance of bruises, spider veins and in rosacea skincare.  This ingredient appears in some of the best vein creams.  Vitamin K  – the K comes from “Koagulations Vitamins”  – from the German for coagulation since this group of vitamins were essential to coagulate blood.   Vitamin K1 is the key vitamin used in most creams and it can be found in the ingredient list under its chemical name – phylloquinone, or more commonly phytomenadione (phytonadione).

2. Japanese Pagoda Tree – the extract has been used widely in Europe since the mid-1960s for treatment of various vein conditions including spider veins and has been shown to enhance vein stability, improve circulation and reduce inflammation.

3. Horse chestnut – used for many decades as a herbal preparation for vein problems. It has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve vein wall tone, mend tiny leaks in veins and capillaries, strengthen and improve the elasticity of vein walls.  The extract contains blood-thinning chemicals –  aesculin and aescin which reduce pressure on the vein walls and vein valve so preventing leakage. Horse chestnut cream for spider veins has become one of the most popular topical treatments for this common problem.

4. Butcher’s Broom – Studies in the 1950s on butcher’s broom extract discovered that the steroid-like properties of the plant can strengthen and tone veins, as well as lessen swelling and inflammation and relieve numbness, cramping, and the “heavy” sensation in the leg which is often a symptom of varicose veins.  The original studies were on very few (20) participants so the data is a little underwhelming, to say the least!

5. Grape seed extract – well known for its antioxidant properties, also shown to improve circulation and strengthen connective tissues.  No studies to show any effects in treating vein problems specifically.

The fact that one or more of these ingredients are present in the vein cream isn’t enough.   Spider vein creams that work will have the active ingredient at a sufficiently high level to be effective.  Not only that the active element should be able to penetrate below the surface of the skin to strengthen the vein wall.

Vitamin K creams best for spider veins

Of the ingredients listed above – the best one to go for in my opinion is Vitamin K since it is proven to work as a topical cream to heal bruising.

Vitamin K creams were first used in the 1930s by cosmetic surgeons to speed up recovery times after surgical procedures.  The creams worked on bruising and discoloration of the skin caused by the trauma of the procedure.  A subsequent clinical trial proved that professional strength Vitamin K cream did get rid of bruising faster than just leaving a wound to heal naturally.

Vitamin K is also extensively used in rosacea skincare and as an active ingredient in eye creams for dark circles.

Not only is Vitamin K proven to work as a topical ingredient in getting rid of bruises – cosmetic surgeons continue to use vitamin K creams today to help women recover from surgery.   If it works on bruises – it should also work on spider veins since the causes are so similar.  After all – a bruise is simply damage to blood vessels which causes pooling of blood and discoloration to the skin.

The vitamin K is carried from the epidermis into the capillaries of the skin where it strengthens and repairs the damaged blood vessel allowing the leaked blood to slowly heal and disperse more quickly.

Vitamin K at 5% minimum to be effective

The key thing here is the amount of vitamin K in the cream – the professional creams used by cosmetic surgeons contain 5% vitamin K at least.  There are now several creams available to buy over the counter that contains the same level and one that has 8%.

If the amount of vitamin K is not given on the packaging – the chances are it is not present at a very high level.  You may be better sticking with those that tell you upfront how much is in there.

There are broadly two types of spider vein product on sale – either a rich cream with vitamin K plus other moisturizing ingredients to condition and tone the skin or a simple lightweight serum carrying the active ingredient.

Best Spider Vein Cream

Four vitamin K creams to consider from Amazon:

Dermal K Clarifying Cream – 5% vitamin K in a healing base cream with added basil oil and shea butter. Makers claim that this is the cream used by many dermatologists to heal and diminish bruising after surgery.

Pro-K Cream – from Nutrivea another 5% vitamin K cream with some good reviews

RedAlert (formerly Medik8) – a light serum in an applicator which can cause problems extracting the last drops. The only spider vein cream available at 8% solution currently.

Avon Anew Clinical Spider Vein Therapy – combines a luxurious cream with an SPF 15 sunscreen but doesn’t say what concentration of vitamin K it contains. Unlikely to have as much as 5% as it has other active ingredients as well. Does have good reviews.

How to apply vein cream

All spider vein creams are more effective if applied to warm moistened skin – ideal conditions would be after you emerge from the shower.  The warmth opens your pores and lets the vitamin K penetrate the skin and reach your capillaries.

Smooth the cream all over the area of treatment and then tap lightly with all your fingers on both hands in a light drumming motion. Tapping helps the vitamin K in the cream penetrate your skin.

Remember that you have to follow the instructions for the spider vein cream to the letter.  Many creams need regular twice daily application over a long period – say 6-8 weeks – before you will see results.  You have to be prepared to commit to this completely in order to see any improvement and that could mean buying two packs before you know whether it has worked.

If you do buy a spider vein cream don’t expect miracles – it is unlikely that a topical treatment on its own can completely get rid of the problem. The best you can expect is that the active ingredient will work on the lighter veins and reduce the appearance of the heaviest.

But for a small outlay and a bit of your time – that’s not a bad result!