Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Hickeys

How to Give and Get Rid of Them

Hickeys—also known as love bites—are mysterious little occurrences. Some people love giving them, others love getting them, and most want to be rid of them once they happen. Where do they come from, what makes them stick around, and what can you do to banish them? Get the facts on these persistent signs of lusty affection.

How Do You Give a Hickey?

man giving a woman a hickey
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Giving a hickey sucks...literally. It's not as mysterious as you might think, though; it's nothing more than a bruise. Suck hard enough on someone's skin, especially on the neck, where the skin is thin and delicate, and you'll leave the little red mark known as a hickey. The bruise is made up of thousands of tiny blood vessels you've just broken.

If you really feel like channeling your inner vampire, you can use your teeth when you leave your hickey (as long as your partner's OK with it). But even without teeth, the sucking motion is enough to break blood vessels and leave a mark. 

Is It Mean to Give a Hickey?

It's mean (and flat-out wrong) to do anything to someone if they don't want it or didn't ask for it. Unsolicited hickeys are especially demeaning, because giving a hickey is like leaving your mark on someone in a very public way.

Some people do enjoy getting hickeys, though—and, weirdly enough, they like wearing them. So, if you've got the urge to suck on your sweetie's neck, ask for permission and you just might get it.

How Long do Hickeys Last?

The time it takes for a hickey to fade away depends on its size and depth, both of which depend on how vigorously the person sucked on the skin. If you have a brand-new hickey, expect it to stick around for at least a couple of days. If it's especially big and dark, it might be visible for as long as a couple of weeks.

Is There Any Way to Get Rid of a Hickey?

There's really no miracle cure for hickeys. Just as with bruises, you have to wait for hickeys to fade away on their own.

You can do a couple of things speed the fading process, though. As soon as possible after you notice the hickey, try the following:

  • Wrap some ice in a cloth and hold it on the hickey for about 15 minutes every hour. This will reduce the bleeding under the skin (which is what actually causes a bruise) and help shrink the swollen, reddish-purple capillaries that make a hickey visible.
  • Massage the hickey gently with coconut oil or cocoa butter to disperse the blood under the skin.
  • A hot compress can encourage blood flow that can help move the clotted blood out of the capillaries.
  • An alcohol-soaked cotton ball can soothe irritated skin and disinfect it if (yikes!) the skin was actually broken.
  • Peppermint toothpaste or oil can stimulate circulation to promote healing. Don't use it more than once a day, though; it can irritate the skin.
  • Hydrate yourself and eat lots of fruits and veggies to flood your body with the nourishment that helps you heal—a pretty good idea even if you're not sporting a hickey.

How Do You Hide a Hickey?

If you have a hickey that you don't want your parents or friends to see, wear a turtleneck or tie a scarf around your neck. It might look a little suspicious by day three (especially if it's the middle of July), so you might have to get creative here.

Of course, the best way to keep people from seeing your hickey is not to get one in the first place (or to get one in a more secret spot, like under your arm or on your belly).

Are Hickeys Dangerous?

Hickeys might be ugly, but they don't cause any permanent damage or scarring. They'll fade away on their own.

There could be some danger in getting a hickey, though. If your partner has oral herpes, this kind of contact could pass the virus on to you. Familiarize yourself with what cold sores look like and politely refuse a hickey (or any other type of kiss, for that matter) from someone who's sporting one.