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Here's What A Hickey Actually Is And How To Get Rid Of It

We know that mark on your neck isn't from the curling iron.

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We've all been there.

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Hopefully this stopped happening past the age of 17, but sometimes shit happens and next thing you know you're wearing a scarf to work in August. But WTF is a hickey actually, and how do you get rid of it? We reached out to an expert to find out.

A hickey is a bruise caused by suction, which bursts tiny blood vessels under your skin.

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"The negative pressure from suction causes veins to rupture and blood leaks out so it's visible under the skin as a bruise," Dr. Rachel Herschenfeld, of Dermatology Partners, Inc. in Wellesley, Massachusetts, tells BuzzFeed Life. Obviously, the harder you suck on someone's skin, the worse the mark is. But not all people react to hickeys the same way.

You can get a hickey anywhere, but it shows up worse on your neck because the skin there is so thin and delicate.

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They're also pretty easy to get on your chest, lips, and inner arm...if people are sucking there? "There isn't a tremendous tissue support for veins in those areas, so the tiny vessels under your skin can rupture with just enough pressure and once they do, they cause a very dark bruise," Herschenfeld says.

Most people don't realize how bad a mark is in the moment because it takes about five to ten minutes to start evolving into a bruise, says Herschenfeld. So even if you aren't purposefully trying to mark someone, they can still wake up the next day looking they hooked up with a literal vacuum.


The color of the hickey really depends on how quickly your body breaks down the blood.

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Everyone is different, but bruises follow a predictable course, Herschenfeld says. Your body has to reabsorb the blood that leaked out from your veins in order for it to disappear. "The change in color is from the way your body breaks down hemoglobin, which causes pigment in your red blood cells," Herschenfeld says. This is why a hickey transforms from red to purple to brown — and that gross, sickly yellowish green — before it goes away.

Unfortunately those are all pretty much bullshit.

"Bruises just take a while to go away, there's really nothing you can do to make it heal faster — these tips are utter nonsense," says Herschenfeld. "Otherwise we'd be rubbing coins and toothbrushes on patients' skin who have serious bruising after surgery."

So, no, don't rub or brush a hickey to "redistribute the blood" — that can actually make it worse. Ice or cold compresses won't do anything to change the final color of your hickey either, but it can help reduce swelling or redness at first, says Herschenfeld.

So what does work? Leaving it alone! And makeup.

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Herschenfeld suggests treating the skin as gently as possible and avoiding too much irritation or manipulation of the area. You can also try some heavy-duty concealer or other makeup tricks. Here's a popular YouTube tutorial to get you started.