There’s a reason why one the number-one blush in the world is named “Orgasm,” and why you can always kind of, sort of tell when someone’s just had sex: After a particularly satisfying romp—in which you actually climax—your skin takes on this other-worldly glow that seems to radiate from within. And for me, that means 15 minutes when my face doesn’t look acne-prone and irritated, but rather pure, flushed, and glowy.
In fact, I love my “sex skin” so much, that I set out to see if I could make it last forever (or, at the very least, longer than a Friends rerun). So after doing a little research and talking to a few experts to make sure my idea wasn’t totally crazy, I decided to conduct an experiment: 14 orgasms, seven days, and a whole bunch of selfies. Even if my test was a failure, I figured I’d at least end up with a happy ending—14 of them, to be exact.
Could It Really Work?
I’d like to clarify that I didn’t embark on this experiment blindly. The idea came from a book I read called Pussy: A Reclamation by Regena Thomashauer, in which Thomashauer, a “pleasure” advocate and the founder of The School of Womanly Arts, writes, “I am a firm believer in the power of orgasm to fuel a woman’s radiance.” Sure, she meant “radiance” in the abstract, but my interests were still piqued.
After some deep-dive research, I did find a link between consistent orgasm and clearer, brighter, younger-look skin. In the ‘90s, Researcher David Weeks studied 3,500 people and found that women who had three orgasms a week looked, on average, 10 years younger than those who only had two. Furthermore, recent studies prove that female orgasm releases hormones that benefit skin (like estrogen, which helps maintain collagen), lowers cortisol levels (the stress hormone that can wreak havoc on skin), and boosts blood circulation, which stimulates and repairs collagen. I started to think of orgasming as a really, really fun version of retinol.
I called Thomashauer to get her thoughts on my skin-clearing theory. “Actually, I had terrible acne into my thirties, and the only thing that impacted my skin was when I had an orgasm a day,” she says. “If I were to design an experiment for you, I would aim for two daily orgasms, because I think it evens out your skin chemistry in the most remarkable way.” (Note: There’s no science that actually says this, but hey, why not try it?)
My plan was to masturbate once in the morning and have sex with my husband once in the evening (which, I admit, was ambitious), but it was surprisingly hard to find a convenient time to experience so much pleasure. With family visiting, a facial scheduled (which would alter the appearance of my skin), and just feeling blah overall, it took a few false starts before I was finally (getting) off.
The Big-O Experiment
On day one, I made some notes in my journal: “Skin is a little dull, and there’s some scarring and redness, especially under my nose.” After my first (self-administered) orgasm, I checked the mirror immediately to note any changes. My cheeks had a nice, healthy flush—as was expected—but that was about it. A last-minute scheduling mix-up with my husband also meant that I was on my own again that night.
The next day, I compared day two’s selfie to the previous. My skin was definitely a little glowier, right? Right?! But as the initial excitement wore off, I found it harder to fit two sessions into my day—I didn’t anticipate how much time actually goes into getting in the mood and working myself up to the orgasm, let alone setting time aside for sex. By the third morning, I journaled, “I don’t want to do this. I feel like I’m forcing myself.” But force myself I did, in the name of science.
On day four, I was pretty much over it. My skin was looking a bit brighter and calmer, but the work that went into orgasming was seriously stressing me out. And then, to top it off, my period started. I was totally taken by surprise. Usually, a smattering of cystic zits on my face is a sign that my period is coming, but during my experiment, I didn’t break out at all. This was revolutionary—did I just find the cure for zits?!
The thrill of my discovery didn’t last long. On days five and six, I could only manage one attempt at masturbation per day, proving you can turn anything into a chore. The final morning of my experiment, though, as I scrolled through my week’s worth of selfies, I felt shocking satisfaction: Compared to day one, my seventh-day skin was noticeably less inflamed, sported fewer pimples, and looked definitively flushed and glowy. It was hard to notice a change day to day, but from start to finish the pictures didn’t lie—my skin looked, well, better.
What Was Actually Happening
Seeing as this experiment was completely biased, uncontrolled, and not-at-all scientific, I was afraid that my results could partially be a placebo effect. So I consulted a dermatologist to get a professional opinion. Am I crazy? “No,” says Jennifer Vickers, M.D., of Sanova Dermatology in Texas. Though Dr. Vickers admits orgasms, particularly women's orgasms, are not well studied, she was able to validate some of my findings.
“Orgasming causes your brain to trigger an oxytocin release,” she says, noting that the oxytocin (which is a happy, feel-good hormone) lowers cortisol levels, leads to better sleep, helps the skin heal itself, and decreases inflammation in the body. And while orgasming can’t necessarily reverse the effects of stress on the skin, Dr. Vickers speculates that it may stop stress-related skin disorders from flaring up in the first place.
At this point you may be thinking, If orgasms are so good for my skin, why haven’t I heard about this before? “Because orgasms are free,” says Thomashauer. “In this culture, if it’s not tied to a product, it’s not really promoted.” It’s also likely due to the fact that the benefits of orgasms are, sadly, only temporary. Hormone levels even out after the initial post-O glow, so in order for your skin to reap any long-term benefits, your orgasm routine needs to be a consistent—like, at-least-once-a-day consistent.
Still, based on how my skin looks now, I feel like it’s my duty—both as a woman and as a skincare-obsessed citizen of the world—to do my part to make “sex skin” a lifelong look. While I can’t guarantee that consistent orgasm will entirely rid you of acne or wrinkles, I can guarantee that it’s arguably more fun (and way less expensive) than a trip to the dermatologist.