A bruise is blood that has escaped from broken blood vessels due to an injury. The blood collects in the space between muscle and skin and is visible below the surface of the skin. A bruise on the face is usually not serious but may be a cause of embarrassment until it heals. Some simple first-aid steps can reduce the severity of a bruise and speed the healing process.
Assess the Injury
Pain, swelling and bruising may be signs of a fractured bone in the face. If you suspect a fracture, seek immediate medical attention.
If you experience nausea and vomiting, dizziness, faintness, mental confusion, difficulty walking or moving, or changes in your vision after a head or face injury, you need immediate medical attention. Even a brief loss of consciousness calls for assessment by a doctor. Do not attempt to drive but call for an ambulance or have someone else drive you to the emergency room.
Sometimes the symptoms of a head injury are delayed. Even if the injury appears mild, the individual should be monitored closely for 24 hours. Do not allow him to sleep for more than two or three hours at a time and periodically check alertness by asking him simple questions. If you are concerned by any of his responses or if you notice other signs of mental confusion, seek immediate medical attention.
Begin treating a developing facial bruise right after the injury occurs. Your efforts will have the most benefit at this time.
Apply an ice pack to the affected area for approximately 15 to 20 minutes at a time. A bag of crushed ice or a package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth or towel makes an effective ice pack. Do not apply ice directly to the skin. Avoid applying pressure to the affected area and do not fall asleep with the ice pack on your face. This can result in frostbite and further damage your facial skin.
Re-apply the ice pack for 15- to 20-minute increments, up to every hour. Continue this treatment for the first 24 hours after the injury. Ice will reduce inflammation, swelling, pain and redness. If you can adhere to a frequent schedule of icing during this critical time, you may be able to dramatically improve the appearance of the facial bruise.
You may take over-the-counter medications for pain, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Follow the dosing instructions on the bottle and consult your doctor if you are unsure about whether these medications are safe for you. Avoid aspirin because it reduces blood clotting and may cause additional bleeding from broken blood vessels.
Rest and Heat
If you have a bruise in the eye area, do not perform any heavy lifting or exercise during the 48 hours following the injury. These activities may cause additional blood to pool in the injured area, worsening the appearance of your bruise.
Make sure you get enough rest in the days following the injury. Elevate your head with additional pillows at night to reduce facial swelling. Continue to monitor your injury in the hours and days that follow. If you experience severe pain, swelling, vision disturbances or nosebleed, contact your doctor.
After 24 hours, switch from ice packs to warm compresses. The warmth will help improve blood flow to the affected area, stimulating the delivery of immune system molecules and speeding healing. Soak a clean washcloth in warm, not hot, water. Wring it out and apply it to the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat this every hour as needed.
Concealing a Bruise
Despite your best efforts to speed up healing, a facial bruise may still take several days or more to fade. You may consider using makeup to conceal or reduce the appearance of facial bruise, while you wait for the area to heal.
New York-based surgeon, Dr. Tal Dagan, recommends using only products that are hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. If you have any lacerations or open cuts on your face, you need to make sure your makeup products are clean or new and use only new applicators.
Choose a concealer in a shade that matches your skin tone. Concealers are thicker and more opaque than regular foundation and can hide bruises. Color correcting makeup can also reduce the appearance of a bruise. In general, use a lavender-tinted corrector to diminish the appearance of a yellow bruise and green-tinted corrector to reduce redness.
Keep in mind that some people bruise more easily than others. Elderly people have thinner skin that is more prone to injury; people taking warfarin or other blood thinning medication may develop more severe bruises. Bruises may be more noticeable on fair-skinned individuals.
If you develop bruises without any injury, consult your doctor. These could indicate an underlying medical condition such as a bleeding disorder.
Amy Liddell has been writing on health and medicine since 2004. She is also a biomedical scientist and studies human cancer. Her articles have appeared in scientific journals, medical textbooks and on health-related consumer websites. Liddell holds a Doctor of Philosophy in biological and biomedical sciences from Harvard University.