It’s time to Kiss and Tell! From firsts to worsts, we’re talking swapping spit all Valentine’s week long. In this installment, we’re going deep on what is a hickey, and how to get rid of one.
Ever found an angry, purple mark has popped up your neck after a particularly enthusiastic makeout session? We’ve all been there, left to wonder what is a hickey, anyway? How long will it last? And how do I get rid of it?
The truth is, hickeys are really no big deal. There’s never any reason to shame someone for having a hickey — like all forms of consensual sexual behavior, you don’t have to justify someone making out with your neck — but the paradox of the hickey is that it takes something private and creates a public, lingering effect. Nothing feels more right in the moment, but walking through the next few days with it displayed on your neck can be surreal. Suddenly, your private life becomes public. I was once a part of an act of passion, it screams, and now I’m just in math class.
Whether your goal is to avoid them entirely or simply give the best ones possible, here’s everything you need to know about hickeys.
1. A hickey is really just a bruise.
Hickeys are basically just broken blood vessels caused by sucking, which results in a bruise. Hickeys are most likely to occur on softer, more sensitive skin like the neck, shoulders, chest. This blood is generally dark red at first, but once it dries out it turns to a darker purple or brown color, creating the marks we know and love (or hate, whatever).
2. Hickeys can last as long as two weeks.
There’s surprisingly little research done on hickeys, but the general consensus is that they last about one to two weeks. How long the mark stays on a person is up to the harshness of the suction and the health of the person affected; the more intense the hickey, the longer it’ll stick around, while the healthier the person is (think: well-hydrated, good circulation, enough iron), the shorter the hickey’s time on earth.
3. You can’t “get rid” of a hickey, but you can speed up the healing process.
There’s no actual cure for hickeys, but if you’re in a rush and need this thing gone, there are a few things you can do to speed up the healing process. You can put an ice pack (wrapped in a paper towel) on the hickey the first day. Repeat throughout the day to slow blood flow to the area.
As soon as you get the hickey, you can also begin to apply aloe vera and vitamin E. This will help the broken capillaries heal more quickly, as well.
If you’ve had the hickey for two days, it’s time to try a warm compress. Applying heat to the hickey will cause blood flow to increase, which at this point can actually help. Note: if it’s before 48 hours, don’t do this — it could actually make the hickey bigger if you do it early on when the blood vessels are still healing.
4. Keep your hands off the hickey.
Other than applying heat or ice, try to leave the hickey alone. Never scrape, overly massage, or otherwise prod and poke at your hickey, which at the very least will just irritate the spot further and increase the hickey’s lifetime, but can also be seriously damaging, and even lead to scarring.
5. Deaths from hickeys are extremely rare.
The hickey-related death of 16-year-old Julio Macias Gonzalez was tragic and scary, but ultimately remains an outlier. Hickey-related deaths are few and far between, and, though tragic, are often more of freak incidents than something to prevent or worry about too much. Still, if you’re worried, avoid getting a hickey.
6. Hickeys can show up at any age.
The neck, the shoulders, and the chest are seriously sensitive to touch, meaning that being kissed there feels pretty incredible. When you’re newer to kissing and still fine tuning the Perfect Neck Kiss™, you’re more likely to be a little aggressive with your mouth, which is why hickeys tend to show up more on younger or newer kissers. With substantial practice and the right partners, your kissing will probably ease into a less hickey-centric mode, but if you’re someone who really appreciates a good necking, the occasional love bite can show up at any age.
7. Hickeys are seriously no big deal.
It’s totally easy to conceal a hickey if you so wish, especially if you have something memorable, like picture day, or a huge presentation. A turtleneck will do wonders for hiding a hickey, and you can even find a sleeveless version for warmer months. You can also apply a concealer that matches your skin tone. But ultimately, if you have a hickey that you were given in a consensual way, you just have a hickey, and it’s probably going to be gone in a few days, so try not to stress about it if you’re feeling worried. Likewise, if you’ve given someone a hickey they wanted, as long as you’re both committed to keeping the situation as respectful as possible, it’s all good.
This article was originally published in 2016.
Related: How to Kiss Someone