Illustration ByNaomi Sloman
Ever month, we send some of your biggest questions on health, nutrition, and more, to our panel of experts to answer. The question, “Why do I bruise easily even when I don’t really bang into anything?” was answered by Neil Sadick, M.D., clinical professor of dermatology, Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.
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First of all, let’s take a look at what causes bruises: They happen when a blood vessel leaks blood cells into soft tissue near the surface of the skin. Some body parts, like the shins, are more prone to bruising in general, as they have less cushioning. And it may simply be that you have inherited a disposition to the marks—there’s a genetic phenomenon that causes blood vessel fragility, meaning they rupture and leak more easily.
Another common cause of bruising is medications or supplements. Do you take blood thinners, aspirin, or ibuprofen regularly? They can make blood vessels more susceptible to rupturing, as can many herbal or nutritional supplements. Or you may be vitamin-deficient, particularly in vitamins C and K. So adding foods rich in those vitamins (for C, blueberries, kiwis, strawberries; for K, kale) to your diet can definitely help you resist bruises. (One common myth about easy bruising is that it’s due to a lack of potassium in your diet, but that is false.)
If you develop a bruise or suspect one is coming, ice the area on and off for a day to reduce swelling and inflammation. Wearing a compression bandage can also slow the blood flow and reduce the size of the bruise.
If you just bruise easily all the time, topical vitamin K creams can help prevent marks as well as speed up the healing process. And clinical studies have shown that vitamin K in combination with arnica can help resolve bruising faster than either alone; I like Revision Skincare Vitamin K Serum ($46, revisionskincare.com). Another topical to consider is witch hazel—an astringent that helps tissue contract and reduces bleeding, leading to faster fading of existing bruises.
Lastly, taking bromelain supplements (an enzyme found in pineapples) or even just drinking pineapple juice can also help reduce swelling, redness, and inflammation. Generally, bruising is not cause for alarm, but because it can be a sign of underlying disease like collagen vascular disease or leukemia, see your dermatologist or internist if you have certain symptoms, including a sudden onset of easy bruising, changes in your bruising pattern, or bruises on multiple areas of your body.
This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Women’s Health. For more great stories and advice, pick up a copy on newsstands now!