How to Get Rid of a Hickey ASAP, According to Derms

Because you can't always hide a love bite under a turtleneck.

A couple lying down with one kissing the other's neck
Photo: Getty Images

Whether it is a first date or a long-term relationship, a steamy make-out session can sometimes leave a mark, especially if your partner's repertoire involves sucking and biting. Getting physical could result in a hickey —and it is often hard to hide the tell-tell purple splotch (unless it is turtleneck weather!)

Experts share why hickeys happen, how you can heal and conceal hickeys — as well as the hottest techniques to avoid getting one in the first place.

How Hickeys Happen

In the midst of a sexy romp, your partner might get carried away with sucking or lightly biting your neck with their lips or even teeth. This can quickly lead to broken blood vessels — and a bruise. "A hickey is due to the pressure from suction that ends up breaking down small capillaries, which causes the extrusion of red blood cells in the surrounding tissue," explains Dr. Julie Russak, M.D., FAAD., of Russak Dermatology in New York City. And when red blood cells oxidize, they form purple purpura patches, aka a hickey.

Also referred to as 'love bites', hickeys can occur on all parts of the body — not just the neck — but they're more like to occur in sensitive areas, adds Shannon Chavez, Psy.D., a psychologist and sex therapist in Los Angeles.

Because it's a visual reminder that you were getting frisky, you might be embarrassed and concerned that people will see it as "trashy" or an opportunity to pass judgment on your sexual behavior. But it's also possible to get a confidence boost from that love bite. "Not hiding your hickeys can be a way to express yourself or show off to your friends and peers," says Chavez. "Some people feel empowered by hickeys, as it shows they are not afraid of being sexual or letting people know they are sexual."

Even if you're feeling rather self-satisfied about how it got there, there are plenty of reasons (e.g. a job interview or formal occasion) you might want to make a hickey disappear ASAP. In that case, consider any of the following treatments.

Use a Cold Compress

If you're able to treat the hickey as soon as it forms, consider taking this step ASAP to reduce bleeding and bruising, explains Dr. Kenneth Mark, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist who practices in New York City. "Cold compresses can minimize damage," he notes. "And the sooner you can do it, the better. It's analogous to trying to minimize swelling after an acute injury."

Use a cloth soaked in cold water, an ice pack, or even a cold spoon on the hickey for 10 minutes a few times a day for the first day.

Conceal With Makeup

Dr. Russak recommends using Dermablend's Cover Care Full Coverage Concealer. "It is a professional makeup specifically made to cover bruises and scars that will immediately cover discoloration on the skin," she notes.

Apply Arnica Gel

"Applying topical arnica gel several times a day helps break down the bruise and turn it from purple to yellow faster," explains Susan Bard, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "The proposed mechanism of action for arnica gel is increased circulation which allows the body to clear away the bruise quicker." One to try: Boiron Arnicare Bruise.

Eat Pineapple

While it's not going to clear your hickey up overnight, consider adding pineapple to your next snack or meal. Dr. Bard says pineapples are rich in bromelain, an enzyme that has been linked to pain relief and a reduction of swelling and inflammation.

Try a Warm Compress and Massage

A day or so after a hickey forms, Dr. Bard recommends applying warmth to the spot, as it can boost circulation to promote healing.

Chavez notes that lightly massaging the area, perhaps in conjunction with using a warm compress, can increase blood flow and help reduce clotting. "I've even heard people brushing the skin with a toothbrush or light bristle brush to help reduce discoloration and speed up the healing process," she adds.

Apply Vitamin K

Creams or gels packed with this powerful antioxidant can help the body heal by reducing clotting, explains Chavez. One to try: Dermal-K Vitamin K Cream.

See Your Dermatologist

"If you need a super quick fix, see your board-certified dermatologist," advises Dr. Bard. They can perform a laser treatment that will break down the bruise, allowing the body to naturally clear it away in about a day, she says.

How to Avoid Getting a Hickey in the First Place

Once you've cleared up one love bite, you might want to take steps to avoid having to go through the healing process all over again.

Amy Baldwin, sex educator, sex and relationship coach and co-host of the Shameless Sex Podcast, suggests making a point to "kiss mindfully." You or your partner can still kiss parts of the body passionately and with pressure, but try to ensure that the pressure is coming from pressing your lips or tongue against the skin, as opposed to suctioning, as this is less likely to leave a bruise, she explains.

Ultimately, your best bet for preempting a hickey is setting boundaries around intensity, says Chavez. She recommends talking to your partner before your next romp to communicate what's OK and what's not — and if marks are off the table, you can still find plenty of other ways to pleasure one another.

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