Why Do Women Bruise More Easily Than Men?

A young woman asked me this week why she bruises so easily on her legs. I get this question in clinic (as well as at my dinner table) a lot.

A bruise appears when you injure a superficial blood vessel and blood leaks into the tissues just beneath the surface. The leaked red blood appears as blue-black through the skin. The size of the bruise depends on how much blood leaked out before a clot formed to stop the bleeding — the larger the vessel damaged or the longer it takes for your blood to clot, the larger the bruise will be.

As the pooled blood resolves over days, hemoglobin, the iron-containing structure that absorbs oxygen in red blood cells, is broken down into its component parts, bilirubin and biliverdin. Biliverdin has a green color; this is why bruises change from blue-black to yellow-green over time. It usually takes two to four weeks for the blood cells to be reabsorbed completely. Bruises on the face or upper body resolve more quickly than bruises on the legs because of differences in blood supply.

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It is true that women bruise more easily than men. This is most noticeable on their legs and buttocks. As many women will tell you, sometimes even an insignificant bump or injury can cause an obvious black and blue.

Easier bruising in women is probably because women’s skin is thinner (though not the women in my family…) and because the fat and blood vessels in their skin is organized a little differently compared to men. The dense collagen layer is thicker in men and the blood vessels are held more securely. Similarly, structural differences between men’s and women’s skin can be seen in things like cellulite (which you’ll notice men don’t have, even when they’re overweight).

Bruising is common and is usually normal, but in uncommon instances it can be a marker for serious medical conditions such as bleeding disorders, low platelets or other blood disorders, or liver disease. If you have any concern, as always, consult your physician.

In addition to being female, bruising easily results when your blood vessels are made vulnerable, as when the skin has been thinned from:

  • Aging
  • Sun Damage (especially on the forearms)
  • Oral or Topical Steroids

Easy bruising also occurs when the blood is prevented from clotting quickly, as from:

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen, Naproxen
  • Plavix
  • Coumadin (warfarin)
  • Fish oil
  • Vitamin E
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Ginko biloba

So if you do whack your previously pristine shin on the coffee table, what can you can do to minimize the bruise?

  • Apply ice for 10 to 20 minutes. This slows the blood flow and minimizes the amount of blood leaking into the skin.
  • Keep the leg elevated. This also minimizes the effect that gravity has on pooling blood in your legs.
  • After a day or so apply warm compresses which can help the bruise to resolve more quickly.
  • Finally, eat plenty of blueberries or broccoli for vitamin K; citrus for vitamin C; eggs, dairy, meat, or fish for vitamin B12; and leafy green vegetables for folic acid. All of these vitamins are needed for good blood clotting and healing.

10 thoughts on “Why Do Women Bruise More Easily Than Men?

  1. I bruise easily so does my sister. I heard that it’s better to press and rub on it; it kind of hurts but the bruises disappear in about 3 days. It is a much better way then waiting and covering it with makeup… Good luck!

  2. I was referred to a new product, BruiseMD, to handle a large bruise. Primarily, it contained Bromelain and Papain. Is anyone familiar with either of these natural enzymes? Dr. Benabio wrote an article on Bromelain, recently. Bromelain is from the pineapple fruit and Papain is from papaya. On the other hand, some other folks swear by Arnica. My research says not to take Arnica orally. However, Arnica tablets are sold. All I need is something safe and efficient, to get rid of a painful and unsightly bruise. Help!

  3. I’ve used BruiseMD actually and I found it very effective. Taking Arnica orally is not recommended, really it should just be used topically.

  4. @Rock
    I also bruise very easily although I didn’t realize women were more inclined to bruising then men. I use Bruise Relief. I bought it at CVS. It doesn’t contain arnica. It is all natural and it’s worked great for me and for my husband actually.

  5. Pingback: Do Women Bruise More Easily Than Men? | Vivastic

  6. the guy i hope to leave likes to bite/pinch me and leaves bruises–why? how can he stand to see me with his marks

  7. I can confirm from personal experience that women do indeed bruise far more easily than men (and not just in the way that men get ‘man flu’ whilst women get ‘some minor sniffles’ either!). I changed sex eight years ago, and my body has had therefore had plenty of time to change over to a new hormonal regime. Amongst the many, many fascinating changes I’ve seen and felt in that time, one distinct difference has been that physical activities I used to be able to do without bruising (such as playing 5-a-side football) now leave me black and blue!, especially on my calves and thighs! I was rather shocked when I first experienced this phenomenon, as I’d just played what I thought was a fairly normal, fun game of football with no outrageous tackling or anything; then, next morning, I woke up looking like I’d been beaten with a baseball bat on my legs!

    Ah well, I wouldn’t change my new body for anything (not even to be able to play footie again without looking like a car crash victim!). Thanks for your article, which helped me understand the mechanics behind the easy bruising a little better. : )

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