The Bruise Eraser I Discovered By Accident
When I was the beauty editor at Shape, the stories I edited walked the line between beauty and health, so I received a fair number of wellness pitches and products. One package I recall, in particular, was filled with homeopathic first aid items (patches treated with magnesia phosphorica for menstrual cramps, calendula cream for skin irritations, and arnica gel for bumps and bruises). Heath was in preschool at the time and a typical rough and tumble boy, so I was curious about the arnica. I brought it home, tossed it in our first aid bin—then forgot about it until Heath began playing lacrosse a year later.
Holy leg bruises. When kids start playing lacrosse, sticks are flying every which way, and Heath’s legs took a beating. His skin is on the fair side and, in shorts, all those purple and green welts were something to behold. In a bad way. We iced every night but saw little improvement. Then I remembered the arnica at the bottom of the first aid bin. I slathered it on one evening after lacrosse practice and, right away, Heath said his bruised legs felt much better (there is a slight cooling/analgesic effect upon application). The next day, the bruises looked noticeably, quite significantly, better. So a coat of arnica before bed became part of our lacrosse-season ritual, and it really did make a remarkable difference in how dark and tender new bruises became—and how long they stuck around.
We still stock up on arnica, though thankfully the number of bruises Heath gets playing lacrosse is fewer now, thank to everyone's improved stick-handling skills. But we’ve also found myriad other uses for this miracle gel.
It helped speed up the healing of Heath’s three sprained ankles; I used it on a sore knee after running a half-marathon last spring (the pain was gone in two days); and I slather it on my face routinely after I’ve gotten Botox. (My dermatologist Neal Schultz, M.D., also says popping a few arnica pellets for two to three days before you get injections helps minimize bruising on the backend.) Finally, arnica is the best salve for those painful bruises we get stumbling from bed to the bathroom in the middle of the night. BAM &@#%
So, how does it work? The gel (or pellets) helps relax blood vessels near the surface of the skin that freak out when they’re under stress (from a whack or other trauma). Kind of like a glass of white wine does for me.
You can get arnica gel at any drugstore or online here. And Whole Foods sells it in its Whole Body section. I’m not a doctor (I just interview lots of them), but I’m telling you, on my family's skin, it’s been a godsend.