Sex isn’t without its benefits: It feels pretty damn nice, counts as exercise, brings you closer with a partner, and the list goes on. But have you ever noticed that after the act and during the inevitable bathroom session, your skin kind of glows? There’s a flush to your cheeks, a light misting of sweat, and from underneath, your skin looks healthy and alive. It can’t just be my mirror lying to me, so is good skin something we should add to the list of sex benefits?
According to Melissa Piliang, M.D., a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic and Ted Lain, M.D., at Sanova Dermatology, the answer is a resounding “yes!” Piliang says, “Like other forms of exercise, sex increases blood flow to the skin, which will give you a brighter complexion.” That brighter complexion can give a better glow than Fenty Killawatt Highlighter—yes, please.
As for how that afterglow happens, Dr. Piliang says to thank the blood rush, which “provides an oxygen boost to the skin.” Oxygen boost equals immediate glow. But there are more benefits to your skin than just an easy highlight—and more science, too.
Dr. Lain says that having sex leads to a “reduction in cortisol levels, the ‘stress hormone,’ which can improve collagen production.” Collagen—for all non-derms—is the most abundant protein in our bodies. This protein is what helps keep our skin elastic, supple, and smooth. High cortisol levels can physically damage collagen beyond repair, leaving your skin with scars or wrinkles. Thus, the more sex you have, the more skin-saving collagen you have. Even if you’re constantly stressed out, Dr. Piliang adds the boost of estrogen levels during sex also helps to “plump” collagen, so you don’t have to worry about worrying.
The good news doesn’t stop with immediate effects, either. Both doctors say regular sex, one to three times a week, has lasting benefits on complexion and youthful appearance. Dr. Piliang attributes brighter, clearer skin to the lowering of cortisol levels over time, while Dr. Lain says the regulation of hormones oxytocin, prolactin, and estrogen help prevent unwanted menstrual acne flare-ups.
We’re all in for these skin bonuses, but what kind of sex is needed to reap all these benefits? Thankfully, you don’t have to dedicate hours to making love—unless you want to, no judgment here—but Dr. Lain does say that having an orgasm is the “most beneficial” for skin. He explains, “The more energy expended translates to better circulation and higher blood pressure, leading to increased hydration.”
And if you don’t have the time, can’t find a partner, or need a break from yours, masturbation works, too. Although you won’t get all the hormonal benefits, says Dr. Lain, coming and blood flow are bound to happen, which means afterglow and hydration are also coming … your way.
While having sex can’t reverse “unhealthy habits such as smoking and tanning beds,” says Dr. Piliang, it’s clear that doing the nasty, getting frisky, or whatever else you want to call it, does benefit the skin. As if we needed something else to convince us to have sex, getting clearer, brighter, and younger looking skin is a side effect we’ll gladly take.