Hickeys tend to happen while you’re not paying attention. Just a few seconds of passion and the next thing you know, you’re left with a big purple mark on your skin. Whether you call it a hickey or a love bite, it’s essentially a bruise.

The suction from your partner’s mouth causes damage to the capillaries, which are small blood vessels under your skin. This damage causes your capillaries to leak blood, but the blood doesn’t have anywhere to go. As a result, it gets trapped under your skin, where it appears purple.

Just like a bruise, a hickey can last anywhere from one to two weeks, changing color along the way as your body absorbs the blood.

Your hickey should fade within a week or two, depending on how much damage was done beneath your skin’s surface. The trapped blood — which is the dark mark you see on the skin — breaks down and is reabsorbed by your body.

Your hickey will change colors as it heals. Here’s what you can expect along the way:

  1. Your hickey will start off as a reddish mark under your skin. This is caused by the blood that leaks from the damaged blood vessels.
  2. With a day or two, the hickey will appear darker as the hemoglobin in your blood changes color. Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein that carries oxygen and is responsible for giving your blood its red color.
  3. By day four or five, you’ll likely see your hickey beginning to fade in some spots. It may appear blotchy as it heals.
  4. Within a week or two, depending on the amount damaged caused by the suction, your hickey will fade to a light yellowish color or disappear.

There’s not much you can do about a hickey. It’s a minor injury that will have to go through your body’s natural healing process. How long your hickey lasts will come down to how many vessels were damaged.

But there are a few things you can try to help move the process along:

Give your skin a rest

Avoid rubbing or poking the skin while your hickey is healing. You don’t want to cause any further damage to the area. You also want to keep inflammation down and avoid further irritating your skin.

Apply a cold pack right away

Applying a cold pack to a new hickey may help to slow the flow of blood from the damaged vessel. Hold a covered ice pack or a cloth soaked with cold water to the hickey for 10 minutes at a time. Repeat this several times a day for the first couple of days.

Switch to heat on day two or three

Use a cloth that’s been dampened with warm water or a heating pad to apply heat over your hickey on day two or three. The heat helps to increase blood flow to the area, which may speed up healing.

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Just like bruises and other minor injuries, hickeys require time to heal on their own. This process usually takes about a week or two.

In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help your hickey heal slightly faster. If you’re concerned about the way your hickey looks while it heals, consider covering it with clothing or makeup.

Keep in mind that the hickey will also gradually fade in color throughout the healing process.