Chances are, at some point in your life you’ve known the embarrassment that comes with being seen in public with a visible love marks. It’s an inevitable part of growing up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to hide the offending marks. To understand how best to remove a hickey, it’s important you understand what they are.
What is a hickey?
A hickey is a bruise caused by biting or hard-kissing on an area of soft tissue of the body, for example the neck. Bruising occurs as a result of the thin walled capillaries that lie under our skin rupturing due to pressure, releasing blood into the cells around them. Blood clots around this area, causing a reddish blemish on the skin that slowly turns dark brown or blue due to lack of oxygen. This discoloration is known as a hickey (also called “love bite” or a “kiss mark”), and can last for a week to a fortnight, depending on which part of the body it has developed in.
The treatment of a hickey depends on how intense the pressure was, and where on the body the pressure was applied.
- Cool the affected area
This method is most effective when used immediately after receiving the hickey. As mentioned earlier, hickeys develop as a result of ruptured capillaries that ooze blood to the surrounding tissues. Making the area cold slows down the flow of blood to the area. To cool the area down, try one of the following:
- Wrap some frozen ice in a towel and press it onto the affected area for around twenty minutes, take a break for another twenty minutes and apply pressure to the ice for a final twenty minutes.
- Placing a cold spoon on the affected area has a similar effect, but requires several cold spoons be placed on the affected area concurrently for around twenty minutes for best results.
Placing very cold objects on the skin may cause frostbite and may trigger asthma attacks in asthmatic people, so take care when using this method.
- Rub the hickey with a toothbrush
This method works best hand-in-hand with making the affected area cold. The idea of this method is to increase blood flow from the hickey area to other tissue parts. The clotted blood spreads to adjacent tissue parts with the help of a stiff brush. The brush reduces the intensity of the discoloration on the affected part by spreading the clotted blood, making the discoloration spread to a wider area. The results should be visible after a few hours.
- Apply heat to the affected area
Despite being the polar opposite of the cold method, the hot method works best when applied following a period of forty eight hours since the formation of a hickey. After forty eight hours, the broken capillaries have healed. The discoloration is a result of the blood clot on the tissues surrounding the broken capillaries. This clot is slowly re-absorbed into the blood stream, with the heat increasing blood flow to the area and hastening the re-absorption of the clot into the bloodstream.
- Use toothpaste
To increase blood flow and ensure the clot is re-absorbed faster, try applying mint based toothpaste to the affected area. The tingling effect stimulates the flow of blood. After the tingling sensation has subsided, wash away the toothpaste with warm water. Be careful not to use this method too frequently, however, as it can cause local irritation of the skin.
- Use a coin
Using a coin as a scraper on the affected area as a scraper can also help alleviate the irritation. Be sure to scrape the coin from the center of the hickey outwards. The concept is to break down the blood clot in the area and spread it to surrounding tissue, easing the re-absorption of the clot into the bloodstream.Be careful when using this method, ensuring you avoid aggravating the hickey and turning it into a wound. The area scraped will become red, but this should subside after a short time.
- Twist cylindrical objects (e.g. Pen caps) on the hickey
Similar to the use of a coin, this method aims at breaking down the clot. Press the cylindrical object down on a hickey and whilst ithis position, turn it around as far as possible. Hold the object in the turned position for five minutes or so, then release. This breaks down the blood clot and makes it easy to be re-absorbed into the blood. Take care to ensure you don’t cause further damage by not using too much force.
Similar to the previous two methods, massaging hickeys breaks down the clot to allow it to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Before you massage the area, apply warm water to the bruise. Immediately after removing the hot cloth, apply two fingers and exert pressure as you move the two fingers outwards from the center.
Just like any external bruise, medication has little effect in healing a hickey too. But there are medicines that can aid in relieving pain and altering the blood composition to hasten healing. For instance:
- Consume Vitamin E supplements and foods rich in Vitamin E immediately after getting a hickey to aid repair of the broken capillaries.
- Vitamin K is a good anti-coagulant. When taken immediately, it helps in the re-absorption of the blood clot back into the circulatory system, helping to clear the hickey faster.
- Aspirin is a well-known painkiller, but it can also come in handy when trying to get rid of a hickey. It is most effective when used twenty four hours after acquiring the love bite. As an anti-coagulant, the clotting blood is thinned and easily re-absorbed back into the blood.
In general, any medication taken for the purpose of aiding hickey removal should not be abused and any allergic reactions should be considered.
- Rubbing alcohol
Rubbing alcohol creates a soothing and cooling effect, not to mention that it has disinfectant properties. It should be applied as soon as possible so as to relieve soreness and possible itchiness. However, one should have a moisturizing lotion to apply on the area, since alcohol dries up the skin.
- Banana peelings
Banana peelings have a soothing effect. Place the peelings on the bruise with the inside part facing down, leaving them on for ten minutes or so before discarding. This should be done at least three times in a day to ensure success.
Vitamin C can aid in the healing of skin tissue, so can be help heal your hickeys. For the best results, fresh orange fruit juice should be chosen over packaged orange juice.
The moisturizing properties of cocoa butter mean it can be used to assist in the removal of hickeys. Dry skin flakes off and heals more slowly than with well moistened skin, which has a higher chance of generating new tissue and growing.
Warm tea bag
A warm tea bag works in the same way as applying warm water, but with the added bonus of the tea acting to speed the regeneration of dead skin, although there is no scientific evidence to support this theory.
Often used as a home remedy for skin blemishes, tuna oil can be placed on the hickey. If left to settle for five minutes and subsequently washed off leaving, it leaves behind traces of Vitamin E and Omega that can play a noticeable role in the regeneration of skin cells.
A healing ointment that has been medically proven to reduce swelling and soreness, Anika salve can be used in the regeneration of skin cells. When applied, it reduces the soreness and also helps repair the broken capillaries in the skin, expediting the healing of hickeys.
Preparation H is an anti- inflammatory used to treat puffy eyes. Some users have also put it to use to soothe their hickeys and have recorded that it has considerably reduced the soreness.
Concealing a hickey
In some situations, it may not be possible to heal the hickey within the time frame you require. In such cases, there are a number of ways to disguise a hickey.
- Make-up. A creative and wise use of make-up can cover up even the most severe of love bites. The make-up should incorporate blends that will conceal the injuries.
- Wearing clothes to conceal hickeys. Although far from ideal, fashion can be employed as a last ditch effort to conceal a hickey. Long sleeved blouses and turtle necks can do the job in cold weather.
- Application of Vitamin K cream. The Vitamin K cream helps in absorbing the blood clot on top of the skin and by doing so reduces the intensity of the skin discoloring. Its disadvantage is that it is not easily available.
There are a lot of different methods for dealing with the after effects of love bites, and every method will carry its own pros and cons. But the most important thing to remember is that you aren’t the first to go through this issue, and you certainly won’t be the last.