There comes a point in almost everyone’s life where they look at their neck in the mirror, notice a splotchy bruise, and wonder how to get rid of a hickey. Whether you’ve spotted one the night before an important meeting or you’re going to (even virtually) see your parents, it’s natural to want your hickey to disappear.
Below, you’ll find all the information you need to come to terms with your little love mark. Is there any way to make a hickey smaller, lighter, or, you know, gone? It turns out that there are a couple of things you can do when it comes to how to get rid of a hickey—though they’re generally high-effort, low-reward.
First things first: What the hell is a hickey, anyway?
A hickey is, basically, a bruise, Sejal Shah, M.D., a New York City-based dermatologist, tells SELF. Like any bruise, a hickey forms when your capillaries (teeny-tiny blood vessels) undergo some kind of trauma. The capillaries break and release blood, which pools under your skin to create a bruise. The size of your bruise may vary depending on how much trauma your capillaries went through, how many capillaries were affected, and how long the blood pooled before clotting.
Okay, but how do hickeys happen?
Well, let’s spend a little time with the word trauma, shall we? “Suction on the skin can cause a bruise,” Robert Brodell, M.D., tenured professor and chair of the department of dermatology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, tells SELF, as can similar actions that put pressure on the skin. So even though biting, kissing, and suction can feel good when they’re happening, you are actually temporarily damaging the skin a little, Dr. Brodell explains. Your hickey is evidence that the pressure from biting, sucking, etc., broke a few capillaries. So even if you don’t really remember anyone nibbling on your neck, you probably didn’t notice while it was happening.
Here’s how to get rid of a hickey:
If you suspect someone has given you a hickey and apply pressure immediately, you can help your blood stop pooling. (Have you ever scraped your arm and applied pressure to stop the bleeding? Yeah, same idea.) The sooner the blood stops pooling, the smaller and lighter the hickey is—which means it should be less visible and take less time to heal, Robert Finney, M.D., a Brooklyn-based dermatologist, tells SELF.
In order for this to work, you’re gonna have to stop mid-hookup to apply pressure to your neck, shoulder, or wherever else you think a hickey’s cropping up. Alternatively, you could apply pressure to the spot while continuing your hookup if you happen to be extremely anti-hickey and also great at multitasking. Remember: This won’t prevent a hickey from forming altogether, but it will (hopefully) keep it from getting as big as it could’ve been if left unchecked.
Once your hookup session is over, Dr. Finney says you can apply a cold compress to the hickey to reduce some of the redness and inflammation, and Dr. Shah says heat or pressure might work as well. But these methods aren’t fool-proof. Instead, you might just have to live with your hickey for a few weeks. Which brings us to…
The only tried-and-true hickey removal methods are time and patience, so just sit back, relax, and give it time. Most hickeys will “change color and fade” within a few weeks, Dr. Brodell says. So your strongest option is just to let your body heal at its own pace.
If you want to try and nudge things along, Dr. Shah says vitamin K creams, like Reviva Labs Vitamin K Cream ($16, Amazon) or Instaderm Vitamin K Cream ($23, Amazon), might reduce bruising. A 2017 literature review, published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, examined bruises after cosmetic surgery. Researchers found a few small studies that suggest vitamin K creams can reduce bruises, but Dr. Finney explains that you shouldn’t get your hopes up. These studies have been pretty small and fairly limited, so the jury’s still out on whether these creams will make an actual difference.
In short: They might be worth a shot, but don’t expect your hickey to vanish immediately after using them. If you do want to give them a try, you can diligently apply it based on the directions on the packaging and see how it goes. It might not shorten your recovery time, but vitamin K is generally not something that many people react badly to, Dr. Brodell says, so it could be fine to try. But you can still have a reaction to other ingredients in the product that may not be obvious on the label, especially if you have sensitive skin, so consider patch testing before really going for it.
Okay, slathering on makeup doesn’t really do away with your hickey, but it does “get rid of it” temporarily. “Use a little makeup or something, and just cover it up until it goes away,” Dr. Brodell explains. In need of a few good recommendations? Check out our favorite concealers and foundations.
If you’re not keen on slathering on something like concealer (or letting your bruise be free), you can cover it up with a simple bandage, Dr. Brodell explains. Will this get rid of your hickey? Absolutely not, but it gives you an opportunity to hide your, uh, injury (instead of waiting for someone to call you out on it). You might also opt for fun “bravery badges” from Welly Bandages ($7, Amazon).
Okay, yes, much like the above tip, this is also not a real way to actually get rid of a hickey. But it definitely is a way to look chic as hell while you camouflage your hickey instead. And don’t think you have to limit yourself to only following this tip in certain seasons. While it may feel more intuitive to pile on the layers in fall and winter, you can absolutely opt for something like a sleeveless turtleneck or fancy silk scarf if you’re figuring out how to get rid of a hickey in the warmer seasons. Voilà—now you’re hiding your hickey and feeling cute while doing it.
If you have money to burn, you can actually undergo laser treatments to make your hickey heal faster. Dr. Shah says she does laser treatments to reduce bruising with patients who’ve undergone cosmetic procedures like fillers or Botox, which can cause skin discoloration.
In these sessions, dermatologists use a specific kind of laser that targets the blood cells that have pooled under the skin to create the bruise. The laser works to break up these blood cells, which catalyzes the healing process for the bruise. The lasers aren’t going to make the bruises heal immediately—in fact, Dr. Shah says most people report seeing improvements within a couple of days. Even then, the bruises aren’t totally gone.
According to Dr. Shah, Dr. Brodell, and Dr. Finney, these laser treatments could cost you $300 or more, though that might vary based on location. That’s…so much…to spend on a hickey. But if you’re committed to trying anything—even an incredibly expensive treatment that still takes a few days to make a minor difference—live your truth.
You can take preventive measures, you can try to impede your hickey’s formation, you can experiment with vitamin K creams, and you can even spend your well-earned money on laser treatments. But none of these things will help your hickey pull a Houdini. The only surefire way to “get rid” of a hickey is to avoid getting one altogether (and maybe invest in a scarf while you’re at it).