There are two kinds of reactions when someone gets a hickey: 1) “Fuck, how do I cover this up?!” and 2) “Is that a hickey? Cool.” Apart from knowing that hickeys appear right after a hot and heavy make-out session, what else do you know about it? How exactly do they appear? And more importantly, in times when it’s absolutely necessary, how do you remove a hickey?
Here’s everything you need to know about the love bite.
What exactly is a hickey?
If you think about it, kissing involves a lot of activity: pecking, licking, biting, and essentially, sucking. When your lips touch someone’s skin and you start sucking, that action leaves marks—ones that are more evident when the area is softer and more sensitive; common areas where hickeys appear faster are the neck, shoulders, and chest.
When you suck on a patch of skin, you break the blood vessels (capillaries) in that area. At first, that area becomes red or darker than the usual color, but after a while, it turns purple or even brown. It’s that ~*bruised*~ look we know too well.
The size of a hickey depends on three factors: the amount of capillaries you break in one go, how much trauma was done while sucking, and how long it took for the blood to pool before it started clotting.
Can you prevent a hickey from forming?
The short answer is yes. If you’re able to break from the state of ecstasy and realize that someone is sucking on your neck hard, you can apply pressure on the area before the blood starts pooling underneath your skin. You know how when you cut your hand, you’re told to apply pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding? Same idea.
To set your expectations, this won’t keep you from getting a hickey, but it might help in minimizing the damage.
How do you get rid of hickeys?
Here’s where we get to have a lot of fun because people have gotten so creative about making sure nobody sees any evidence of them aggressively making out with someone the night before. Ahead are some tips on how to remove those live bites.
- Moisturize. Can you believe that the one thing that might save you from walking around with a hickey is already a part of your skincare routine? (We hope.) Make sure your skin is extra hydrated before your date.
- Ice it. Grab some ice or anything frozen and hold it against the area—much like how people do when they get punched. Alternatively, you can also try stroking the area with a cool spoon. This will reduce the inflammatory response.
- Apply aloe. Aloe is a topical treatment many people rely on when it comes to soothing inflamed skin. It’s the only thing I reach for when I have a really bad sunburn, and that soothing effect can help with alleviating a hickey. Again, it won’t make it disappear, but it will definitely speed up the healing process.
- Use your under-eye cream. Under-eye creams are rich in Vitamin K, which is the one ingredient you want on your side as it helps brighten the skin.
- Eat Vitamin K-rich foods. If you don’t have under-eye cream, you can also opt to digest your Vitamin K. Foods like broccoli, kale, spinach, and brown rice will help the body absorb the clots of pooled blood.
- Rescue your skin with a jade roller. Not everyone has access to a jade roller—myself included—but if you’re one of the few, this acts like the cold spoon. It’ll aid in removing any excess swelling in the hickey area.
- Heat things up. If your hickey is stubborn and still around days after your make-out session, it’s time to change it up and add heat to the equation. This whole time we’ve been telling you to cool things down…so what’s the heat supposed to do? Applying a warm compress around the area can allow new blood to circulate, which will hopefully break the old blood that’s pooled under your skin.
- Book a laser treatment. If all else fails, the fastest way to get rid of a hickey is with professional help. Again, if this is something you can afford (and if you aren’t patient enough to wait it out), this is your most effective option. According to plastic surgeon Dr. Darren Smith, “These lasers can specifically target red blood cells, fragmenting them into small pieces that are easily removed by white blood cells. This leads to dramatic improvement in the appearance of a hickey in about 48 hours in most cases.”
Bonus tip: Whatever you do, as tempting as it is, don’t touch, poke, press, or play with your hickey. I know you’re curious or self-conscious, but any of these things can just irritate the spot more, which means you’ll be dealing with it for a lot longer.
Can you die from a hickey?
In extremely rare cases, hickeys can be pretty dangerous. In 2016, 17-year-old Julio Macias Gonzalez died because of a hickey. At the dinner, the teenage suffered convulsions. As mentioned, a hickey is formed after suction, with blood vessels breaking and clotting underneath the skin. Unfortunately, Julio’s blood clot traveled to his brain and caused a stroke.
A similar case happened in 2011 to a 44-year-old woman who needed to be hospitalized when she couldn’t move her left arm; she, too, had a stroke. The doctors couldn’t figure out what happened until they saw a hickey on her neck. Apparently, the hickey had damaged a major artery. The woman was given an anticoagulant, more commonly known as blood thinners, for the blood clot.
If you’re cool with waiting it out…
Hickeys are totally fine. They aren’t something you need to stress over. There are plenty of options that don’t involve moving heaven and earth to keep the world from finding out about your hickey. Even if you have an important meeting or work event, you can always just use foundation to cover it up—makeup is magic, trust us—or wear a turtleneck or a scarf. And if that doesn’t work, find comfort in the fact that you had an amazing time with a partner who gave you a hickey in a consensual way. And that every tingle you felt while you two were kissing was worth that love bite!
Follow Vivien on Instagram.