How To Get Rid Of A Hickey Once And For All (You’re Welcome)
by: Danielle Page
If you’re reading this article, it’s safe to assume you’re looking for a quick fix for that all too visible mark on your neck that can’t be passed off as anything other than a hickey. Why are you trying to cover it up? Because while having a hickey probably scores you some cool points in other areas of your life, it’s looked at by parents, teachers and other old people who don’t have any fun anymore as something that’s embarrassing and inappropriate. It’s a pretty clear signifier that you probably got some makeout action recently, which can make the older folks who are or feel responsible for you uncomfortable — and maybe even a little bit mad.
But in reality, hickeys are just a part of the greater love-making landscape — even animals give them to one another. Known in the animal world as “love bites,” this phenomenon was first studied and recorded by psychologist Havelock Ellis back in the 1800s. In his research, Ellis discovered that male mammals would hold their female counterparts’ necks in between their teeth just before mating. He deduced that this was due to the male exerting his domination over the female (basically the animal version of a dominant/submissive relationship). Though as you know (because you’re here reading this) the human hickey is fair game for men and women.
But in the event that your folks (or worse, hers) aren’t going to be willing to overlook that mark on your neck even after you’ve dropped some science and history facts on them about why this whole thing is completely normal, you’re probably going to want to try and get rid of it as best as you can, as quickly as possible. Never fear — there are plenty of methods and products out there that can help hide that mark of love, no matter how big it might be. Here’s how hickeys are formed, the best ways to get rid of them and a few products that can help make them virtually unnoticeable.
1. How Hickeys Happen
Obviously, you know how it happened. But what’s going on underneath the skin while you’re getting your neck sucked on by a woman? “A hickey is essentially a form of bruising,” explains plastic surgeon Dr. Ryan Neinstein. “Hickeys are formed as a result of external suction on the surface of the skin from kissing with suction or light biting. This suction causes the capillaries (tiny blood vessels) near the top layer of the dermis to burst, causing blood to leak out and collect in one area, forming a hickey. Areas with very soft skin (like the front and sides of the neck and inside of your arms) have more capillaries closer to the surface.”
As physician and health and wellness expert Dr. Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe explains, the size of these vessels also contributes to why hickeys show up so prominently. “There are certain vessels that supply blood to your skin,” she says. “A hickey is essentially bruising that manifests when some of the very small superficial vessels that are found just beneath the skin become damaged and rupture as a result of sucking on the skin.”
As for how long they last, licensed psychologist Dr. Rachel Needle says it hinges on a few things. “How long a hickey lasts depends on a number of factors: Generally, a hickey can last anywhere between five days to four weeks depending on the size, depth, area of the body, and an individual’s age,” she explains. “Some medical conditions and medications can contribute to slower healing.” An iron deficiency, for example, has been shown to affect healing time. “Also, if the individual takes a lot of blood thinners like aspirin or fish oil or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, they may get a worse response. Therefore, those should be stopped.”
Dr. Needle says location plays a big role in how long your hickey will stick around as well. “The more vascular the area, the longer it will last,” she explains. “In an area that is not vascular and very thick such as with a lot of adipose tissue, it probably wouldn’t be as bad or remain as long as an area that was vascular and had very thin non-muscular, non-fat containing tissue, like the neck.”
What Real Men Say: “My class did a camp out at the beach on Lake Michigan during my senior year, and things got a little crazy,” says Mark, 21. “This was also the day before my high school senior pictures, and a huge hickey was there right on my neck the next morning. I had to figure it out fast, so I used the hickey comb method, where you comb out the hickey to make it look like something other than a hickey — mine probably ended up looking more like a cougar scratch (I was camping out, after all). Then I went looking in the bathroom for something else that would help, and I saw my mom’s concealer. It matched my skin color so I used that to cover it up even more. Liquid money.”
2. How to Get Rid Of A Hickey
Depending on when you notice the hickey and how quickly you act, you have a few treatment options for trying to get rid of them the natural way. Here are a few tried and true methods for erasing those embarrassing love bites.
Ice It Down
“The first remedy for healing hickeys more quickly is to use a simple cooling method,” says Dr. Neinstein. “Use an ice pack or wrap several ice cubes in a towel and press it on the affected area for 7-10 minutes as soon as possible. Alternatively this can also be done by placing a metal spoon in the freezer until chilled and applying it to the affected area. This will eliminate any swelling associated with the affected area.”
“Applying ice will constrict the smaller blood vessels and hopefully help with the capillaries at the surface,” Dr. Needle echoes. “Ice should be applied with some pressure and as soon after getting the hickey as you can.”
Dab It With Peppermint Toothpaste
If you’re using the toothpaste method, it’s important to make sure there’s actually peppermint on the ingredient list for this to be effective. “By spreading a thin layer of peppermint based toothpaste on the hickey, the peppermint acts as a calming effect on the skin and any inflammation,” explains Dr. Neinstein. “You may feel the area tingle at first. Leave the toothpaste on until the tingling subsides. Wipe the area gently with a warm washcloth.”
Brush It Out
One of the oldest methods of getting rid of a hickey is to brush or comb it out. There’s some dispute over whether or not this actually makes things worse, but the reasoning behind it is that if you’re able to break up those blood clots, it might make the affected area look less visible. “Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently stimulate the blood flow in that area to promote healing,” Dr. Neinstein explains.
What Real Men Say: “I learned how to remove hickeys long ago, when I was in the Army — where hickeys were a punishable offense,” says Mitchell, 31. “If you haven’t done this you may think I’m crazy, but I promise it works (having had to do it myself on more than one occasion). Wet the area of the hickey, and take a comb and place it so that the edges of the teeth are on the hickey (so the comb is sticking straight out, perpendicular to the hickey). Rub the comb up and down over the hickey (keeping it wet, so you will need to keep applying water). Eventually the area will get really red from the rubbing (it doesn’t feel great, but it’s tolerable). The area is going to get really red, and when you can no longer distinguish between the hickey and the rest of the red area, you can stop, and when the redness goes away (fairly shortly) the hickey will have magically disappeared. I’m sure the reason this works is that it breaks up the blood (which is what the hickey is) so that it can be reabsorbed and cleared away by your body.”
3. The Best Products To Cover Them Up
If you’re serious about covering your hickey up, don’t just swipe whatever your mom has in her makeup bag — especially if it’s a hickey that’s very big and noticeable. Why? Typical powders and cover ups that you’d find in a lady’s makeup arsenal are only made to cover up small imperfections, and aren’t engineered to stand up against the friction of whatever shirt you’re wearing that day. Here are a few products to consider if you need to hide that hickey STAT.
NARS Stick Concealer in Pear
The art of covering up a hickey is a multi-step process. Makeup artist Michelle Schultz strongly recommends using a color corrector to even things out. “Start with moisturizer for a smooth canvas and even application,” she says. “To offset the purplish undertone of a hickey, start with a yellow color corrector to ensure it doesn’t show through. NARS Stick Concealer in Pear has an ideal yellow tone and finish. Apply the stick with a gentle dabbing motion until the area is fully covered.”
$28.71 at Amazon.com
Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer
Not all concealers are created equal — and not all formulas work well for the specific type of coverage you need to get that hickey covered up. “Use a full coverage matte concealer on top to completely conceal,” Schultz recommends. “Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer is a great concealer for men. The formula has a matte finish and is full coverage allowing it to look undetectable. The best way to find a shade match for concealer is to swatch three shades closest to skin tone on the neck. The perfect shade is the one that ‘disappears.’ Using the same technique as the corrector, apply with fingers.”
$42.71 at Amazon.com
Laura Mercier Translucent Setting Powder
At this stage in the game, your hickey is probably looking all but invisible. But Schultz says not to skip the final phase in operation “hide that hickey.” “Setting the concealed hickey with powder is the last but most important step,” she explains. “Powder dries and locks the makeup underneath, making it long wearing and transfer proof. Laura Mercier Translucent Setting Powder has a great blurring effect and will seal the concealer without adding additional coverage. Take a powder puff and press into the powder. Take loaded powder puff and press onto skin, being careful not to swipe away or else it will remove the coverage.”
$30.00 at Amazon.com
Just No Logo Men’s Basic Turtleneck Pullover Solid Sweater
If it wouldn’t be out of character to change up your look (or if the adults in your life are more likely to approve of you wearing a turtleneck than seeing a hickey on your neck), picking up some new threads is always a course of action. “Many people resort to hiding the affected area other clothing or accessories when they are on the neck or chest as to not be visible by the often discerning public,” says Dr. Neinstein. This one made by Just No Logo is under $30, and comes in a variety of colors.
$27.99 at Amazon.com
What Real Men Say: “If the weather allows you to get away with it, the turtleneck method was always what I used when I lived at home during college and wanted to hide a hickey from my folks,” says Dustin, 25. “Honestly my mom was so thrilled that I was wearing something other than a t-shirt to class that she didn’t even think anything was up. After I wore that first one she bought me a turtleneck every year for like four years for Christmas or my birthday. By the end of college I had so many that I had wardrobe options for even the longest lasting hickeys that I got. Of course, the summer was more challenging — but I got creative and started wearing big headphones around my neck when I had ones that were really noticeable. Plus I tried to stay out of the house as much as possible.”
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