How to get rid of a hickey, according to dermatologists
- It's not easy to get rid of a hickey, but you may be able to help it heal quickly with a few natural remedies.
- You can try icing the hickey, applying cocoa butter or aloe vera, and using topical vitamins and herbs — like Vitamin K and Arnica.
- A hickey is basically a bruise — so it will need time to heal its own — but you can cover it up or help speed up the process with the following techniques.
- This article was medically reviewed by Susan Bard, MD, a board-certified
dermatologyspecialist wand a fellow of the American College of Mohs Surgery at Manhattan Dermatology Specialists.
Sometimes, if a makeout sesh gets a little too steamy, you might wake up the next day with a purple bruise on your neck — otherwise known as a hickey.
Hickeys are harmless, but they leave a visible mark on your skin and can sometimes feel a little sore. Like bruises, they will go away on their own. But while there is no real cure for hickeys, there are a few ways you can help them heal faster.
What is a hickey?
"A hickey is essentially a bruise that develops from pressure on the skin," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, dermatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital, "As blood vessel walls become damaged, blood cells leak out in the skin."
Hickeys form when your partner sucks or bites on your skin hard enough to burst the blood vessels. Like a bruise, a hickey can change color over time. "They start out purple, then go to pink, then green, then yellow then fade completely," Zeichner says.
A hickey will go away after about a week, once your body breaks down the leaked blood cells and reabsorbs them into the bloodstream. In the meantime, here are a few remedies you can try to speed up the healing process.
Ice the affected area
Ice can be a helpful way to prevent a hickey after the sucking or biting occurs, if you think one might form.
"Ice can decrease the severity of a [hickey] by constricting the blood vessels from spreading into the surrounding tissue," says Cameron Rokhsar, MD FAAD FAACS, an associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Ice can also help with pain management if your hickey is sore. For example, the Mayo Clinic recommends icing a bruise for 10 to 20 minutes several times a day.
Use topical vitamins and herbs
There is some evidence that topical vitamins and herbs — like Vitamin K and Arnica — can help speed up the healing process, Zeichner says.
Vitamin K is a nutrient that helps with blood clotting, and some research has found that Vitamin K cream can help reduce the severity of bruising after laser treatment. You can try rubbing a small amount of cream on your hickey at least twice a day to try and speed up the healing process.
Arnica is an orange flower that can help heal wounds. A 2010 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that topical Arnica — made from the plant's flower head — can help reduce laser-induced bruising. However, the study concluded that 5% Vitamin K cream is more effective than 20% Arnica cream.
Zeichner recommends trying Vitamin K cream first, but you can combine it with other products as well. You can find Vitamin K cream, like this product from Instaderm, online or at your local pharmacy.
Apply aloe vera or cocoa butter
Similarly, cocoa butter, a type of vegetable fat derived from cocoa beans, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help with wounds.
While Zeichner says there is no scientific evidence that aloe and cocoa butter can specifically get rid of hickeys, he says they both have "moisturizing properties to help hydrate the outer skin layer, creating an optimal environment for wound healing."
Try massaging a bit of aloe gel or cocoa butter on your hickey to hydrate the skin and help it heal faster, since hydration promotes the growth of new cells and prevents infection.
Try a pulsed dye laser
Pulsed dye laser is a technique that uses light to break down blood vessels, reducing redness and helping the bruise disappear faster. According to Rokhsar, it is the most effective way to quickly heal a bruise.
If you are interested in this treatment, you should ask your dermatologist. However, pulsed dye laser can be costly and is probably not worth it for a simple hickey.
How to get rid of a hickey, according to dermatologists
When it comes to hickeys, there aren't a ton of proven treatment options at your disposal. "The only scientific way to expedite the resolution of a bruise is pulse dye laser," says Rokhsar.
Beyond pulse dye laser, Zeichner says that topical creams like Arnica or Vitamin K are your best bet for a speedy recovery. Plus, Zeichner says if the skin barrier is disrupted and the hickey becomes dry or itchy, you can also apply Vaseline petroleum jelly to protect the skin from infection and keep the wound clean.
If you want to hide your hickey while it heals, you should also consider covering it up with makeup or clothing. But overall, the dermatologists say that prevention is your best option in the case of hickeys.
"The best way to treat a hickey is really to prevent it from happening to begin with — by telling your partner to go easy on your neck," says Zeichner.
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