What IS a Hickey? How to Get, Give, and Get Rid of Them

Ever found an angry, purple mark on your neck after a particularly enthusiastic makeout session? We've all been there, left to wonder one thing: what is a hickey, anyway? How long does a hickey last? And how do I get rid of it? Or maybe in this moment, you’re less concerned with getting rid of your hickey as you are in understanding how to give someone a hickey in turn. 

The truth is, hickeys are really no big deal. There’s never any reason to shame someone for having a hickey mark — 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. Pride, euphoria, anxiety, and acceptance: they're all some of the many hickey stages.

After math class, you could even find yourself seated across the dinner table from your father who, after catching sight of the damage, blurts out in earnest: “Did you fall on your neck?” (Not speaking from experience here.)

Whether your goal is to avoid hickeys, also called “love bites,” entirely or simply give the best ones possible, we’ve rounded up all you need to know about hickeys below. 

In this article, you’ll find:

What Are Hickeys Anyway?

How to Give Someone a Hickey

How to Get Rid of a Hickey, Fast

What Are Hickeys Anyway?

1. A hickey is really just a bruise.

Hickeys are basically just broken blood vessels caused by sucking, which results in a bruise. Though a bit of biting or hard kissing could contribute to getting a hickey, sucking is generally the culprit here, since it’s more likely to burst your skin’s tiny capillaries. It doesn’t take long to get a hickey — 20 to 30 seconds of targeted sucking can do the trick — and they often appear quickly, too. You might be surprised to emerge from a makeout session to the sight of a visible hickey as soon as five to 10 minutes later!  Hickeys are also most likely to occur on softer, more sensitive skin like the neck, shoulders, and chest, though you can technically get a hickey anywhere. 

2. Most hickeys look pretty similar. 

What does a hickey look like, you ask? Generally after getting a hickey, the blood under the skin is dark red at first. Once it dries out, though, it turns to a darker purple or brown color, creating the marks we know and love (or hate, whatever). As your hickey begins to heal, it may take on a yellowish color, typical of most bruises. (And if you’re wondering how long hickeys last, we’ll get to that below.)

As far as size goes, it probably isn’t a surprise that most hickeys are mouth-sized and shaped. Meaning? They’re ovular, and they aren’t necessarily all that large. Sometimes, you might get more than one hickey at a time. That can give you the appearance of having a larger hickey on the neck, for instance, since your love bites are likely to be clustered together. 

3. Do hickeys hurt?

Well, it doesn’t feel like nothing. The sensation leans more toward feeling pressure over pain, but because everyone’s pain tolerance is different, some people may find getting a hickey uncomfortable. One thing to consider if you’re experimenting with this for the first time: Come up with a safe word or an easy way for you to communicate with your partner (and vice versa) should anyone stop enjoying the makeout session.

4. They can last as long as two weeks.

There’s surprisingly little research done on hickeys, but the general consensus is that they rarely last longer than two weeks, with many hickeys clearing up within just a few days. How long the mark stays on a person is up to the types of hickeys at play (read: the harshness level of the suction involved) 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.

5. How long do hickeys take to show up?

Hickey marks are going to start showing up pretty quickly. Within five to ten minutes, light bruising can appear on the skin. It can also depend on how long you spend sucking the person’s skin. Twenty to thirty seconds will do the trick, but the longer and harder someone sucks, the darker and more intense the bruising.

6. They 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 how to give 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. That said, especially if you’re someone who really appreciates a good necking, the occasional love bite can show up at any age.

7. Are some people more susceptible to hickeys?

Actually, yes. If a body has lower levels of iron (formally referred to as an iron deficiency), it will bruise easier. This means it won't take as much suction to leave a mark. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you ask), it also means that it will show up darker and stick around longer. This can be the same case for people with thin or sensitive skin. In these cases, the blood vessels usually live closer to the top of the skin and react quicker to irritation.

8. Can you get a hickey on any part of the body?

Technically, sure. But as mentioned above, hickeys show up where skin is thinner. To give someone a hickey on, say, a forearm or quad would be tougher than the neck or inner part of the elbow.

9. Hickeys are seriously no big deal.

Ultimately, if you have a hickey that you were given in a consensual way, you just have a bruise, 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 (more on that below), as long as you’re both committed to keeping the situation as respectful as possible, it’s all good.

How to Give Someone a Hickey

Giving someone a hickey is, really, pretty simple. After first asking if your makeout partner is comfortable with receiving a souvenir mark — particularly a visible one — warm up their neck or the intended site of the hickey with some long kisses. Then, put your lips against their skin and form an “O” with your mouth. Draw in your breath and suck; it should create a bit of a vacuum effect. Teeth aren’t needed to cause a hickey — suction alone will do it — but you can mix in a bit of light biting and nibbling here if your partner is interested in that. After about 20 to 30 seconds of uninterrupted suction, you’re likely to have visible hickey results within the next few minutes. 

What if your partner is down to receive a hickey but would prefer it wasn’t in a super visible location? As mentioned earlier, thinner sections of skin are the best candidates for a hickey, and they exist on more than your neck alone. Other hickey site contenders could include around the collarbone, on the inner thigh, on the stomach, or even the skin in the crook of your elbow. The back of the neck may involve less cover-up work, too, for people with longer hair.

Some people call the act of giving a hickey as “marking” a partner. This is a term used in various BDSM and kink communities—it’s a good thing to be aware of and an even better conversation topic for you and your partner. And don’t be intimidated by the conversation. What are your goals with giving or receiving hickeys? Does the idea of possession come into play and how does that make all parties involved feel? Things like this are way more fun when you’re both super into it. Make sure and take about the elements that make you feel anxious or nervous and go slow. Have a safe word, if needed, to you can pause if things get too intense for anyone.

How to Get Rid of a Hickey, Fast

Here’s the bad news. You can’t “get rid” of a hickey, as there’s no actual cure for them. But if you’re in a rush to have this thing gone — especially if you have something memorable, like picture day or a huge presentation, coming up — there are a few things you can do to speed up the healing process. Find tips for what to put on a hickey to help heal it below, as well as the best ways to cover a hickey up.

1. Use aloe vera and vitamins E and C. 

As soon as you get a hickey, you can start applying lotion with aloe vera and vitamin E to the bruise. This will help the broken capillaries heal a bit faster, and anti-inflammatory aloe vera can assist with swelling, too. Creams containing Vitamin C may also help get you over the hickey healing finish line faster — just be sure to have balanced expectations going into this. No topical solution will zap a hickey overnight, but they can help with the overall healing process.

2. Reach for a cold compress. 

You can put an ice pack (wrapped in a paper towel) on the hickey the first day. A packet of frozen peas is also great for this, and a cold spoon that you’ve stuck in the freezer could work in a pinch, too. (Freezer spoons are also an age-old hack for undereye circles!) No matter what you’re using as your cold compress, you’ll want to place it directly on your hickey before slowly moving it around the neighboring skin. Do this for about 10 minutes, give your hickey a break of the same length, then reapply the cold compress. You can do this throughout the day, to slow blood flow to the area, and moving the compress will help to break up coagulated blood, too. 

3. Try switching over to a warm compress. 

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.) Something as simple as a towel soaked in hot (but not scaldingly hot!) water works well as a compress, or you can try using a hot water bottle. Even the heating pad you use during that time of the month can help here!

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. Use some peppermint oil.

Peppermint oil can help stimulate blood flow to the hickey area. It's best to drop a couple of drops of diluted essential oil into a carrier oil like coconut or olive oil. Before going all in, test a tiny bit of the oil to the inside of your forearm. This is called skin patch testing and it can help you determine whether or not the oil will irritate your skin. Want to take it one step further? Ask your partner to massive the oil into the spot of focus.

6. Try arnica.

Arnica is a part of the sunflower family, and topical and oral extractions of the herbaceous plant can help speed up the bruise's healing process. These types of treatments are widely available in most pharmacies.

7. When all else fails, cover it up. 

We’re pretty sure turtlenecks shouldn’t actually be seen as a last option here, given they’re kind of a fashion statement as well as a guaranteed solution for hiding hickeys. (And if you’ve been hickey-ed in the warmer months, there are always sleeveless turtlenecks!) 

You can also simply apply a concealer that matches or is a bit lighter than your skin tone, and ideally contains color-correcting properties. Since the color you’ll need to correct depends on the healing stage of your hickey, you’ll want to swap out concealers if possible as the bruise heals. For hickeys with purple and red tones, try a green-tinted concealer; for black and blue ones, go for a color-correcting concealer with red or orange undertones; and if your hickey is in its final-stage green and yellow days, use a color corrector with purple undertones. Then, dust the area over with some translucent powder to help the concealer stick. 

Although we totally get the frantic feeling of needing to get rid of a hickey, as one last reminder: if you can’t totally cover up the offending bruise, that’s okay! Hickeys that are consensually gotten and given aren’t something you need to be embarrassed of; they can even be a hot reminder of a moment of fun you had. And don’t we need some fun moments in this life? 

Related: How to Kiss Someone

Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue