You probably already know that getting quality sleep can help your skin look its best and help you feel your best. But there’s another, even more fun thing that you can do to get that glow inside and out — sex. Yes, engaging in a little romp between the sheets (both solo and partnered) can affect your hormones and release chemicals in your brain that will make you feel good even after the deed is done. As a bonus, it can also leave your skin looking great.
When you’re doing your skincare routine at night, you’re probably not thinking of sex as the missing step (that’s toner for me). But it may be. From building feelings of love to promoting better sleep and even boosting estrogen (which means more even, hydrated skin over time), sex does some pretty powerful things for your mood and your appearance.
How Does Sex Affect Your Hormones?
For starters, orgasm triggers the release of oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone.” This hormone is released during moments of physical affection — whether that’s cuddling or sex – and it creates feelings of love and bonding. Oxytocin also can promote feelings of calm by lowering your blood pressure and your heart rate. If you’ve ever had the urge to nap right after sex, it could be because some studies have shown oxytocin may lower the stress hormone cortisol, which can make you sleepy.
Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are considered the trifecta of female hormones when it comes to sex. “When you have sex, certain hormones (especially estrogen and progesterone) increase. Estrogen and progesterone are associated with supporting pregnancy and regulating the menstrual cycle,” Dr. Amy Roskin, Chief Medical Officer of The Pill Club, says. One 2014 study found that “sexually active women had significantly higher serum concentrations of reproductive hormones.” (These women were not on birth control.)
The jury’s still out on whether sex increases testosterone; one 2010 study done on women in long distance relationships found “significant increases in testosterone in anticipation of reuniting with a long distance partner, and also the day after first sexual activity.” While more research is needed, it could be that just anticipating sex can briefly spike testosterone levels.
And if you’re trying to stave off menopause, having regular sex may help. “Studies have shown that for women, more frequent sexual activity, including masturbation, can affect hormones and delay menopause,” NYC dermatologist Dr. Hadley King says. One 2020 study found that women who had sex at least once a week were 28 percent less likely to go through menopause compared with women of a similar age who had sex or engaged in sexual activity less than once a month.
So, sex isn’t purely about pleasure – though that’s one of its most appealing aspects; it also helps keep your hormones healthy and balanced, which is yet another reason why there’s no need to suppress the urge (as if you need one!).
Sex Also Gives Your Skin a Boost
You already know that sex is good for the hormones and the soul, but what you might not have realized is that it’s also great for your skin.
“Sex and orgasm can increase blood flow to the skin which can create a rosy glow,” Dr. King says. “Orgasm triggers the release of oxytocin, and there are oxytocin receptors within the skin that play a role in decreasing inflammation and improving wound healing. Oxytocin can also suppress cortisol levels, and increased cortisol can lead to collagen degradation and acne breakouts.”
The physical exertion of sex may also play a role in giving your skin that coveted, lit-from-with glow. “One theory is that sex, with its associated increase in estrogen, can give skin a glowy appearance – given that estrogen is associated with increased suppleness and softness in skin. But the skin effect might not be noticeable so quickly. It may be that exertion with sex, like any other form of exercise or activity, can increase blood flow to the skin,” Dr. Roskin says.
When your temperature rises (either from working out or rolling around in the sheets) blood vessels dilate as a means of cooling down the body. Dr. King explains that this increased blood flow in the skin may help to stimulate collagen production. “Increased blood flow may last for up to an hour, and studies have suggested that the afterglow effects of dopamine and oxytocin on our brain may last for at least 24 hours.”
Don’t put down your favorite acne-healing vital concentrate just yet, but sex may also help prevent breakouts before they start. “While sex doesn’t necessarily speed up acne healing, the hormones associated with sex (including estrogen) can prevent acne from occurring in the first place and can prevent collagen destruction to prevent wrinkles and promote skin health,” Dr. Roskin says. An increase in estrogen has also been associated with higher levels of collagen and hyaluronic acid, which means a little fun getting busy with it could give your skin a youthful, bouncy look.
The best part about the benefits of getting frisky is that, whether you have a special someone this Valentine’s Day or are celebrating the wonderful holiday of Galentine’s Day, you can still reap the rewards. These happy, skin-loving hormones get the same boost whether you’re engaging in solo or partnered fun.
So, this Valentine’s Day, don’t hold back. Your body—and skin—will thank you.