A hickey is also known as a love bite or kiss mark. It is essentially a round purple-red bruise caused by sucking, aggressively kissing, or biting another person’s skin. They are a mark of passion often done in the heat of the moment during sexual intimacy. Even though they are called love bites, there often no biting involved in giving or getting a hickey. A hickey is initially red in color, due to broken blood vessels beneath the skin. It will later turn purple or dark brown as it heals. It is possible to get a hickey anywhere on the body, however, softer areas of skin like the neck which is the commonest place to get a hickey bruise more significantly and takes less force to show a mark. They neck is also a popular place for hickeys because this is an erogenous part of the body (i.e. an area sensitive to sexual stimulation). Although hickeys are usually more common amongst teenagers, it is not uncommon for adults to also have hickeys.
It is difficult for a hickey to show on a dark-skinned person’s skin (except they are really light skinned) because it is thicker, tougher and less easily bruised and dark pigmentation would make it less likely for a hickey to show up as readily on black skin.
What happens in a hickey?
Medically, a hickey is referred to as a type of mechanical purpura. Underneath the skin are very tiny, easily ruptured blood vessels known as capillaries. These capillaries can rupture when someone aggressively sucks or bites the softer areas of the skin during sexual intimacy. This causes blood to seep out into the surrounding tissues, causing the discoloration and some pain associated with a hickey. These tiny spots of blood are called petechiae, they collect to form larger dark spots called purpura which is technically a bruise. When blood first collects to clot and repair ruptured capillaries, it is generally red in color, however, with time as the blood begins to dry out and gets reabsorbed by the body, it will turn to a darker purple or brown color to yellow.
How long does a hickey last?
The time frame for a hickey to disappear depends on the size and depth of the hickey. However, as a bruise, it usually takes between one to two weeks for a hickey to completely disappear. Some rare cases of deep hickeys may be permanent.
How do I get rid of a hickey?
The saying time heals all wounds literally applies to a hickey. There is really no way to get rid of a hickey apart from waiting for the healing process to be complete and the hickey resolves on its own. The following methods are potentially useful for making the hickey heal faster, however they have not been proven scientifically as quick fixes for a hickey.
Since the methods are not potentially harmful, there is no harm in trying them while waiting for nature to take its course and clear off the hickey. They are:
- Apply pressure to the hickey immediately. Applying pressure to a hickey immediately works the same as applying pressure to stop bleeding. Less capillary bleeding will translate to less blood pooling under the skin, and a smaller hickey.
- Cold packs or compresses: Applying this over the skin may help clear the hickey by causing constriction of the blood vessels and reducing inflammation. It may also make the skin less painful and sensitive. This is usually best applied as soon as possible or within the first 12 hours of getting the hickey for best results.
- Warm compresses: This can help open up the body’s blood vessels, increasing the blood flow to the area and the activity of the platelets contained in the blood. The platelets help to break down the clotted blood, leading to a faster resolution of the hickey. This is usually advised if the hickey is beyond 48 hours. This can be done as much as 4 times a day every day.
- Arnica: Arnica has been found to help bruises heal more quickly through an unknown mechanism. It is advisable to avoid it when one is taking blood thinners.
- Vitamin C: Research suggests that vitamin C can help the wound healing ,process including clearing the blood clot, which helps reduce the amount of bruising. This can also be applied topically over the skin to speed up the healing.
- Vitamin K: Though vitamin K may help fade bruises, it is advisable to apply this topically to reduce the occurrence of risks associated with the vitamin.
- Arnica gels or creams: Applying arnica gel or cream to the skin may help clear up the hickey faster. Arnica is an herb that has healing properties. It is used in homeopathic remedies and is available over-the-counter.
- Aloe vera gel: This is a safe and natural remedy that may help a hickey heal faster.
- Banana peel massage: Rubbing the hickey with the inside of a banana peel for 15 to 20 minutes may help get rid of it faster. Banana peels have been proposed to help in wound healing.
- Cocoa butter. This is a staple in many skin care regimens. It has been shown to smooth scars, stretch marks, wrinkles, and other skin marks. That is because it’s rich in fatty acids and phytochemicals believed to help nourish skin, improve elasticity, and slow aging.
- Pineapple. It contains an enzyme called bromelain which has anti-inflammatory properties that helps with bruising. Eating fresh pineapple is a better source of bromelain than the juice. This may help the hickey to heal faster.
- Massage. Massages are known to relieve pain and stimulate blood flow. Gently massaging or rubbing the hickey for a few minutes per day may speed up fading of the mark.
- Visine eye drop: This drugs contains tetrahydrozoline which clears redness by constricting blood vessels of the eyes. When applied topically over the hickey, this same mechanism can make the bruise less noticeable. This is however, not an approved use of the drug.
- Lastly, a dermatologist may offer a laser removal for a hickey in the first 24 to 48 hours after it first appears. This is an expensive and often unnecessary option for a hickey which would resolve in a matter of days.
If you have a hickey, just covering it with scarves or a turtle neck shirt till it heals is actually the best option, but try the following tips above while you wait.