On Assignment For HuffPost
While having sex, you’re typically not thinking about how great your skin is going to look afterward. But like other good-for-you activities, the benefits of having sex extend far beyond whatever pleasure is derived in the moment. In fact, having sex has both physical and psychological effects that can benefit skin health for women, in particular, and can even make you look younger.
Alisa Vitti, founder and CEO of Flo Living and a functional nutrition and women’s hormone expert, explains that it’s important to first define what “having sex” means, because not all sex is equal.
“For women, the sex that benefits us is clitoral stimulation and it turns out that achieving climax is not necessary to achieve all the health benefits,” Vitti explains. “Most people confuse the words orgasm and climax. They are two distinct things. Climax is the big finish. Orgasm is everything else, and the longer you stretch out orgasm, the more nitric oxide and oxytocin you will produce, which triggers all the other benefits,” Vitti says.
This so-called “orgasmic plateau” is beneficial for men, too – a time in which nitric oxide is produced to create an erection. For men, however, ejaculation can actually be depleting, says Vitti, leading some biohackers to practise refraining from climaxing in order to retain the benefits from erection alone. (This isn’t completely necessary to see skin health improvements – there are other ways in which sex benefits everyone regardless of whether climax occurs.)
The release of that nitric oxide and oxytocin can help balance hormones, flush out cortisol, boost collagen production and slow the ageing process. In women, it even helps regulate ovulation. “When your immune system, your stress response system and your reproductive system are performing optimally, the skin has a chance to perform optimally, too. When they are stressed and underperforming, you will see it on your face,” Vitti says.
That oxytocin boost can be calming and encourage better sleep. “A restful night sleep is associated with higher energy levels, improved memory, heightened immunity and boosted health – all of which can contribute to healthier skin,” shares Jess O’Reilly, a sexologist and host of the Sex With Dr. Jess podcast.
Notice that your skin breaks out before big work events or travel? Sex might be a good idea to calm stress-induced acne. Sex can lower cortisol, a stress hormone that can cause overactive sebum glands (i.e., cause oily and more breakout-prone skin) when raised. High cortisol can also aggravate existing skin conditions, like psoriasis and dermatitis. “One study found that those who had recently had intercourse responded better and had lower blood pressure when put into stressful situations,” O’Reilly says.
And when sex is especially vigorous, it can act as exercise, boosting blood circulation that brings nutrients to the skin; it may even have anti-inflammatory effects. “This rush of oxygen and nutrients promotes the development of collagen to prevent skin sagging and regenerates new skin cells to keep the skin glowing and exfoliating properly,” said board-certified dermatologist Corey L. Hartman in a previous interview with HuffPost.
As for that post-please glow? It’s absolutely real. O’Reilly explains that sex can increase levels of DHEA, a hormone that not only can ward off depression but also has beauty benefits like promoting shiny hair, glowing skin and bright eyes.
Despite the myth that masturbation causes acne, it might actually be a key to clearing it up – all of these benefits can be reaped regardless of whether you have someone to sleep with (although Vitti recommends ditching the vibrator in order to spend more time in the beneficial orgasmic stage, rather than reaching climax too quickly).
“When it comes to pleasure, it doesn’t matter how you enjoy it ― alone or with a partner. Pleasure is pleasure,” O’Reilly says. “Having said that, if sex enhances your connection or feelings of trust, love and intimacy, that might offer a bonus: Happy relationships are associated with better health (mental and physical), which can positively affect your skin.”
But if you are coupled up, you might experience an extra benefit. “[A] study found that frequent sex is positively correlated with low blood pressure and resting heart rate in couples who live together,” O’Reilly says.
Of course, sex can lead to some skin mishaps, like skin irritation from stubble or rubbing skin. “Chafing is always a possibility with repetitive touch, rubbing and grinding,” O’Reilly says, but using lube and changing positions can mitigate a post-sex burn.
Excess sweat can seem like an issue, but Vitti sees it as a positive: “Sweat is SO good for your hormones!” she shared. “So many women are unknowingly oestrogen dominant, which leads to breakouts, so get your sexy sweat on! However, feel free to do a little scrub down in the shower after to further enhance lymphatic drainage and support the oestrogen detox,” Vitti says. Sweat, like movement, also improves blood circulation, and it can even help clear bacteria from skin, thereby curbing acne and skin infections.
So next time you want to give your skin health a boost, put down the moisturiser and head to bed instead – it’s your choice whether anyone joins you.
On Assignment For HuffPost
On Assignment For HuffPost