Bruises are one of the most common minor injuries that people experience. They occur when an impact causes tiny blood vessels under the skin to break, allowing blood to leak into surrounding tissues. This results in the familiar black-and-blue discoloration of a bruise. While bruises usually heal on their own within a couple weeks, many people want to speed up the healing process or cover up bruises for cosmetic reasons. This article explores different options for covering and treating bruises.
Causes and Types of Bruises
Bruises can occur from minor bumps and knocks in day-to-day life, as well as more serious impacts and injuries. Common causes of bruises include:
- Bumping into objects like furniture or door frames
- Sports injuries like getting tackled in football
- Falls or other accidents
- Being hit by an object
People with bleeding disorders like hemophilia are also more prone to bruising easily from minor bumps. The elderly also bruise more easily as the blood vessels become more fragile with age.
Bruises can occur anywhere on the body, but are most common on the legs, arms, and trunk areas that are more prone to bumps and knocks. The appearance of a bruise depends on its age:
- At first, it appears reddish as blood leaks into the tissue.
- After 1-2 days, the hemoglobin in the blood breaks down and the bruise turns bluish-purple.
- After 5-10 days, it turns greenish or yellowish as the body reabsorbs the broken down blood.
- Finally it turns yellowish-brown until fully healed.
While bruises tend to heal on their own within a couple weeks, there are some things you can do to help treat them:
- Ice: Apply ice immediately after getting a bruise to reduce swelling and inflammation. Ice helps constrict blood vessels to limit further internal bleeding.
- Compression: Wrap the area with an elastic bandage to limit swelling. Don’t wrap too tightly.
- Elevation: Keep the bruised area raised above the level of your heart when possible to limit blood flow and minimize swelling.
- OTC Pain Relievers: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help relieve bruise pain and swelling.
- Arnica: Arnica creams and gels may help reduce bruising when applied topically. However, research is limited on its effectiveness.
- Vitamin C: Getting enough vitamin C helps your body reabsorb blood from bruises. Eat citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, and broccoli.
See your doctor if you have extensive or deep bruising with swelling, numbness, or severe pain as it may indicate an underlying injury. Avoid applying heat during the first 48 hours as it can increase bleeding and swelling.
Covering Up Bruises
Besides treating bruises, many people want to conceal bruises for cosmetic reasons, especially if they are visible on the face or limbs. Here are some options for covering up bruises temporarily:
For small facial bruises, using concealer and color corrector makeup can help mask the discoloration. Green-tinted concealer counteracts redness, while yellow conceals blue/purple tones.
|Color corrector in green
|Neutralize redness when bruise is fresh
|Color corrector in yellow/orange
|Neutralize blue/purple as bruise fades
|Concealer matched to skin tone
|Set concealer so it lasts
Use a color corrector first, then layer your normal concealer shade on top. Powder can help the makeup last longer. Be sure to blend well so the covered area looks natural.
For bruises on arms and legs, wearing long sleeves and pants can easily conceal the bruises. Opt for dark-colored clothing that contrasts with the color of your bruise. Wear layers that allow you cover up more or less as needed.
Body Makeup and Spray Tans
Full-coverage body foundation and self-tanning lotions can help disguise bruises on arms and legs as well. The darker bronzed look of spray tans and self-tanners helps hide discoloration. Body makeup evens out skin tone but can transfer onto clothing more easily.
When to See a Doctor
While most bruises heal without any complications, it’s important to see a doctor if:
- The bruise is very large or deep.
- You have unexplained bruising or bruise very easily.
- You have severe pain, swelling, or numbness around the bruise.
- Your bruise doesn’t seem to be healing properly after 2-3 weeks.
Seek prompt medical care if you have a bruise accompanied by other concerning symptoms like dizziness, lightheadedness, loss of consciousness, or significant injury or trauma. This could indicate a more serious underlying problem like internal bleeding, fracture, or head injury.
When to Avoid Covering Bruises
While it’s generally safe to conceal minor bruises, there are some cases where you’ll want to avoid covering them up:
- If the bruise could be evidence of abuse. Don’t hide potential abuse with makeup.
- If you need to monitor the healing and progress of the bruise.
- If you have an infection or rash along with the bruise that needs air exposure.
- Before procedures like MRI, surgery, or injections over the bruised area.
In these situations, covering the bruise could interfere with proper diagnosis and management. Notify your doctor about any large or unexplained bruises.
When to Contact Authorities
You should also contact the appropriate authorities in these circumstances:
- If your unexplained bruising may be a sign of elder abuse or child abuse.
- If the bruise is the result of an assault, battery, domestic violence, or other crime.
Don’t let a desire to cover up bruises prevent you from reporting crimes or seeking help in an abusive situation. Your safety should always come first.
Bruises are common minor injuries that most people experience from time to time. While bruises tend to heal on their own, you can help treat them with rest, ice, compression, elevation, pain medication, arnica, and vitamin C. For cosmetic reasons, makeup, clothing, and self-tanners can temporarily conceal bruises. However, see a doctor promptly for severe or unexplained bruising, which may indicate a more serious problem. Don’t let covering bruises stop you from seeking medical care or reporting to authorities when appropriate. With proper treatment, most bruises should resolve without issues within a couple weeks.