A little while ago Lady Gaga suggested that the secret to healthy skin was plenty of orgasms. While this raised chortles from some, others noted that there could be an element of truth in the flamboyant singer’s claim for a link between orgasms and skin health. How can good sex improve your skin? Does the effect last after the first bloom of love is over? And, is the effect the same across genders?
Sex is something that causes a lot of stress – finding someone to have sex with, talking about consent, doing it ‘right’ etc. – but sex is also an exceptionally good form of stress relief. Reduced stress can have advantages for the skin as it means lower levels of systemic inflammation, improved immune system function, better blood glucose control, and improved adrenal gland function and less risk of dehydration.
Sex as Skin Therapy
Orgasms, or just the happy feelings associated with sex (even without orgasm) are linked to the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that promote a sense of overall wellbeing. Sex can also help temporarily shut off parts of the brain responsible for fear, anxiety and depression and may enhance serotonin activity (low levels of this neurotransmitter are implicated in some skin conditions).
Skin, Sex, and Pain
Serotonin and endorphins also help decrease the sensation of pain, which is why having sex during your period can be a great way to relieve menstrual cramps, help you get to sleep and wake refreshed, and help banish the monthly blues.
Sex during your period may also be associated with a happier self-image and appreciation of the body, meaning that skin issues could simply be less of a focus as enjoyment and pleasure takes precedence.
If you’re worried about the potential for mess when having sex during your period, why not invest in a LunaBlanket!?
Hormone Balance, Sex, and Acne
Regular sex may also help regulate the menstrual cycle. However, it remains unknown as to whether this is the same for menstruating folks who have sex with multiple partners and/or exclusively with other menstruating folks.
Evolutionary biology certainly plays a role here as it tends to be that the more time a menstruating person spends with cis-men, the shorter the menstrual cycle becomes. The idea being that this can maximise reproductive potential. Conversely, the menstrual cycle may lengthen in people who menstruate who predominantly associate with other people who menstruate. And, the menstrual cycle can be ‘thrown off’ by a newcomer to an existing social group.
Sex Improves Immune System Health
Orgasms also trigger release of immunoglobulin A, a type of natural antibody that can help fight infections. Those prone to whiteheads and painfully infected acne lesions, or cracked and weeping skin in eczema or psoriasis that then becomes infected, may find that regular sex helps improve their resistance to such skin infections.
Sex, Sweat, and Skin Health
Vigorous sex that gets you all hot and sweaty may also have benefits for the skin as increased perspiration through exercise (although not through sauna visits) helps flush out more toxins in the skin.
Vasodilation of capillaries in the skin also encourage increased blood flow during orgasm and sexual activity which means that the skin is better provided with oxygen and nutrients and better able to flush away toxic metabolites and other unwanted substances. Increased blood flow is also a result of the heart pounding during sex, while orgasm can trigger a deep breathing response that improves tissue oxygenation.
Sex as a Health Motivator
Regular sexual activity (be it alone or in company) can also help improve your desire to look after your body in other ways. This may mean getting more physical activity in general, eating well, quitting smoking and reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption.
Of course, it may also lead to a post-coital cigar-smoking, or your sex life may involve eating large quantities of edible chocolate body paint and whipped cream, which could undo some of the benefits of sex for skin health.
Sex as an Anti-Ageing Treatment
For many women, lots of good sex (or masturbation) can increase circulating levels of oestrogen as this hormone is released during orgasm. Oestrogen can enhance skin health and is linked to better collagen production and firmer, better hydrated skin.
Those with hormonal disruption may, therefore, find that regular orgasms are an effective home (or otherwise!) remedy for acne associated with oestrogen disturbances. Increased collagen production and skin hydration also means that sex can have an anti-ageing effect as the skin tends towards dryness as we age.
Indeed, in a study carried out in the 1950s at Duke University (reported in the Gerontologist journal in 1982 and described here) 3,500 volunteers were classified as either having regular sex (three times or more a week) or not having regular sex and were then subjected to age estimates by other volunteers. Those who had sex regularly had their age underestimated by some seven to twelve years while those not engaging in regular sex were said to look older than their real age.
Birth Control and Skin Health
Many women who have sex fairly regularly choose to use some kind of birth control drug, as do some women looking to help reduce acne related to hormonal imbalances. However, some birth control methods may increase the levels of copper in the body which can actually have deleterious effects of skin. This is because copper is antagonistic to zinc and so an excess of either may compromise the production of certain proteins and the activity of different enzymes involved in skin health.
Long-term use of birth control pills or a copper coil may mean that close monitoring of dietary zinc is a good idea. Stopping taking the contraceptive pill may also throw your hormones out of whack for a while, leading to a resurgence of ‘teenage’ spot-prone skin in the weeks immediately following cessation of the pill. Hormone levels will usually return to normal shortly after, however, clearing up any skin issues tied to the drugs.
Long-Term Relationships vs. Fun Casual Sex – Which One’s Better for Skin Health?
As some people choose to stop using birth control pills after being with a specific partner for a while it may be that those first heady days of love and exuberant sex are long gone by the time they stop taking the pill. Long nights of great sex are pretty unsustainable and, unfortunately, sleep deprivation is rather unkind on the skin and can undo many of the skin benefits of sex.
It could even be that having a stable, long-term relationship with one or more partners actually helps improve general health and, therefore, skin health as you take care of each other (no more bachelor take-outs or nervous date-related drinking frenzies). A stable relationship and the first rush of great sex in a new relationship may both benefit the skin. Some may, therefore, count this as yet another potential advantage to polyamory….
The Skin Benefits of Sex for Men
So, should everyone have more sex to help boost skin health? Not necessarily. While regular sex does seem to have a lot of advantages for women (relieving menstrual cramps, boosting oestrogen levels, balancing hormones) it may not be quite as great for men.
This is because the ejaculate produced during orgasm in men is very rich in zinc. Having lots of sex could, theoretically, deplete the levels of zinc in the body if the diet lacks this important mineral. For many men this is not a problem as their diets will provide plenty of zinc but for others, particularly vegans and vegetarians, zinc absorption may be low. Snacking on a handful of pumpkin seeds each day, or checking out these other great sources of zinc may help in this regard.
It’s also worth noting that some lubricants and even sex toys are less than kind on the skin, containing as they do parabens, phthalates and other harmful chemicals. Be sure to check out safer sex toys and lubes as there are some that may even improve skin health.
Orgasms and Skin – Top Free Skin Tip!
The beauty of this beauty tip is that it is free and doesn’t have to involve anyone else! Some skin specialists have even recommended including a daily orgasm (or fun sexual activity) as something to consider akin to brushing your teeth or showering. Getting into a regular pleasurable rhythm may help improve your overall health as well as skin health and, in the meantime, you can feel safe in the knowledge that make-up companies have already figured out the link between orgasms and skin benefits. NARS Orgasm Blush claims to give you that post-sex skin glow without the need for you to work up a sweat.
And, if you are considering adding a little food play to your bedroom antics, you might want to think about choosing those foods that support skin health and can actively fight against acne! Make sure you know your anti-inflammatory, anti-acne foods by picking up a copy of Eat to Beat Acne!