First, Rule Out Emergencies
Grossest part of this article: If your black eye leaks pus, call a doctor.
The same is true if you took a hard blow to the head. Or if you're seeing double. Or if it just won't heal.
If it’s bad, get help. If it’s just a shiner, read on.
Ice Now, Heat Later
As soon as it happens, apply ice. But don’t even think about using a frozen steak.
"Steak was only recommended because it was cold," says Brendan Camp, a board-certified dermatologist based in Northern Virginia. "I’d avoid raw meat because of the risk of infection, but you can use a bag of frozen peas instead."
Wrap your peas or ice pack in a towel (or T-shirt) so you're not freezing the skin directly. The cold will help minimize swelling, and constrict the blood vessels, which slows the bleeding underneath your skin that’s causing this shiner in the first place.
Ice it on and off for the first day or two. After a few days when the swelling has stabilized, switch to heat.
"Once your bruise has already formed, then you want to increase the circulation to the area with warm compresses," says Camp. "Warmth causes the blood vessels to dilate, and more blood in the skin digests the bruise faster."
Attack It Two Ways
Your black eye is technically two symptoms happening at once: swelling and discolouration.
For swelling, check out bromelain, a mixture of enzymes found in pineapples that is used to reduce inflammation. Just eating a pineapple won't deliver a high enough concentration, but bromelain also comes in pill form.
For discolouration, try arnica, an herb often used as a skin treatment. It comes in a gel form and will usually mention "wound healing" on the tube.
Sounds Weird But... Stroke It Gently
Here's one you haven't heard before, in addition to warm compresses, gently petting your bruise can speed recovery.
"I first heard this in junior high," says Camp. "When you get a hickey, you get a fine-toothed comb and basically gently comb your skin. For some reason, it reduces the intensity of the bruise and the swelling. It works."
He theorizes that the gentle petting encourages circulation. And if you don't have a comb, a toothbrush works just as well. But be gentle—don't go overboard if your bruise is still tender or raw.
Your Last Resort: Make-up
Your healing could be well underway, but not quite photo-ready when you need it to be. Time to enlist your girlfriend, a girl friend, or those nice people at the cosmetics counter.
"As far as make-up goes, it's all about color correction," says makeup artist Justin Tyme. "Bruises take on many colors as they develop and heal, and using a complementary color will help negate the discoloration."
For instance, a fresh bruise is blue-ish, so ask for a yellow-toned corrector concealer. If you're in the later, yellow-ish phase, get something with a cooler tone. Once the colour is neutralised, the bruise can be covered over with ordinary concealer that matches the rest of your skin.
One more thing: you'll need to "set" it. And you have no clue what that means.
"Bruises are raised, sometimes warm, and constantly moving while they heal," says Tyme. "This could lead the make-up to easily slide off if you don’t set it with a powder."
So powder up, and you're good to go. But if you're going somewhere really important, consider bringing whoever helped you with your make-up as a date. For touch ups. And to keep you from sustaining any further injuries.
This article was originally published on MensHealth.com