A black eye typically heals on its own, without the need for medical attention, within two weeks. There are several ways to help ease the pain and speed up the healing process.

A black eye is a bruise that develops around the eye, usually in response to a blow to the head or face.

Below, we explore the healing stages of a black eye and give some tips for a quicker recovery. We also describe when to see a doctor about this and other types of bruising.

A black eye is a bruise around the eye area. Like other bruises, it occurs when tiny blood vessels beneath the skin rupture, causing blood to pool in surrounding tissues.

Most black eyes form following blows to the eye area, which is delicate. Because the skin around the eye is thin, blood pooling there creates a noticeable bruise.

Black eyes and other types of bruises change color as they heal. The four stages of healing are:

  • Stage 1: Oxygen-rich blood pools at the site of the injury, creating a bump that may appear red or purple in lighter skin. People with darker skin may experience a bump darker than their usual skin tone.
  • Stage 2: The body begins to break down a component of the blood called hemoglobin, which carries oxygen. As the pooled blood loses oxygen, the bruise may turn blue or purple due to the creation of the compounds bilirubin and biliverdin. People with darker skin may have a bruise that is darker than their usual skin tone.
  • Stage 3: The body continues to break down the pooled blood. After 5–10 days, the bruise may turn green or yellow in a person with lighter skin.
  • Stage 4: Between 10 and 14 days later, the bruise may be light brown or the color may not be noticeable.

It is highly unlikely that a black eye will go away within 24 hours. Generally, bruises are dark for at least a few days.

The time needed for healing depends on several factors, including:

  • The severity of the bruise: A small bruise typically heals faster.
  • The person’s age: Older people tend to have weaker blood vessels and thinner skin — and each can increase a person’s susceptibility to bruising and delay healing.
  • Certain underlying health issues: The following medical conditions can also increase a person’s susceptibility to bruising and delay healing:
  • Whether the person is taking certain medications: The following medications can increase a person’s susceptibility to bleeding and bruising:

A person can use the following strategies to speed up the healing process:

Applying ice

Wrap an ice pack in a towel and rest it gently against the eye for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, with at least 20 minutes between each application. This will help reduce immediate swelling.

Never apply ice or an ice pack directly to the skin, as it can cause skin damage.

Applying heat

Once the bruise has fully developed, applying gentle heat will boost blood flow to the area, helping to speed healing.

To do this, try soaking a cotton pad in warm water and applying it to the bruise.

Taking over-the-counter medications

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, called NSAIDs, can help alleviate pain while reducing swelling around the bruise.

Opt for ibuprofen (Advil) instead of aspirin, which can worsen bleeding and subsequent bruising.

Having a bruise-healing diet

Certain foods may help strengthen blood vessels and promote overall skin health. Some foods that may help minimize, prevent, or heal bruises include:

A black eye is a normal reaction to an injury in the delicate eye area. Most black eyes heal on their own in two to three weeks without the need for medical treatment.

However, a person should see a doctor if they have any of the following:

If any of the following accompany a black eye, the eye socket may be broken:

  • bleeding in the white of the eye
  • any numbness around the eye
  • inability to move the eye
  • a drooping or puffy eyelid
  • a bulging or sunken eye
  • nausea

In this case, the person needs professional treatment.

Learn more here about broken eye sockets.

Also, see a doctor if persistent or frequent bruising develops. Either may be a symptom of a bleeding disorder.

If a black eye results from a blow to the head and the person also has symptoms of concussion, they should receive urgent care.

Concussion symptoms include:

Concussion can be serious, even if the symptoms seem mild. Anyone who may have this issue should receive medical attention right away.

What is the timeline of a black eye?

Generally speaking, the timeline of a black eye is as follows:

  • First 1-2 days: The bruise is swollen and red or dark purple.
  • Days 3-5: The bruise darkens to purple or blue.
  • Days 6-10: Bruise fades to green or yellow.
  • Days 10-14: Bruise lightens and diminishes in size.

If a person’s black eye does not go away within three weeks, they should consult a healthcare professional.

How to make a black eye heal faster?

To make a black eye heal fast, a person might consider the following:

  • Applying a wrapped ice pack to the eye for 10-20 minutes at a time to reduce swelling (avoid direct skin contact).
  • After the first two days, applying a warm compress to increase blood flow and promote healing.
  • Taking NSAIDs such as ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling, but avoid aspirin.

Can a black eye go in 3 days?

The healing time for a black eye may vary depending on the severity of the injury.

In some cases, a black eye may begin to fade and show signs of improvement within three days, especially if it’s a minor injury.

However, for more severe cases or if there is significant bruising and swelling, it may take longer for the black eye to fully heal.

Generally speaking, a black eye should get better within two to three weeks.

A black eye happens when an injury to the area causes blood vessels beneath the skin to burst. This causes blood to pool just beneath the surface of the skin, creating a bruise around the eye.

Most bruises heal on their own within a few weeks. In the meantime, home care strategies can help. A person might try using an ice pack wrapped in a towel right away, using a warm compress after the bruise has developed, and taking over-the-counter medications to alleviate the swelling and pain.

Certain health issues and medications can cause a person to bruise more easily. Anyone who has persistent or frequent bruising should consult a doctor — especially if there is no clear cause.