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Can sex really improve your skin?

It sounds too good to be true — but can an active love life make your skin look younger and healthier? The surprising answer is yes! We explore the science behind this crazy skincare fact with the top 5 reasons a healthy sex life = healthy skin.

1. It gets your blood pumping

Even a slow session is enough to get your blood moving, and that’s great news for your skin. Increased blood flow gives your skin cells more oxygen to fuel growth and healing. It also helps flush out waste products, including cell-damaging free radicals. Exercise is like “cleansing your skin from the inside,” according to dermatologist Ellen Marmur, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. And the good news is, sex totally counts!

“Like other forms of exercise, sex increases blood flow to the skin, which will give you a brighter complexion,” says Melissa Piliang, MD, a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic. And you don’t necessarily need a partner to help you out. Ted Lain, MD, of Sanova Dermatology, says having an orgasm is enough to get the oxygenating benefits of sex. “The more energy expended translates to better circulation and higher blood pressure, leading to increased hydration.”

2. Sex reduces stress

Stress is horrible for our skin. We’ve all experienced a stress breakout, and the underlying cause is cortisol. This is our “stress hormone,” and our bodies produce it when our fight-or-flight response is triggered. While cortisol may have helped us survive as a species, it can cause problems when it gets out of balance. Cortisol increases blood sugar levels so we have more energy available if we need to run or fight. It also raises blood pressure so we can access that energy quickly.

It’s amazing what our bodies can do based off a simple stress trigger. However when cortisol gets out of hand, the side-effects become unnecessary and unwelcome.

From our skin’s perspective, the most damaging effect is what cortisol does to collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. That protein is made of amino acids that are great for providing fast energy. Cortisol breaks down collagen to free up that energy, and that can have a devastating effect on the skin. Collagen is vital to supporting the structure of our skin and without it, skin quickly looks dry and wrinkled.

Sex is a great stress reliever because it raises endorphins that counteract cortisol. Endorphins are neurochemicals that reduce pain and increase pleasure. Our bodies release endorphins in response to physical stimuli such as pain, exercise, and sex. More sex = more endorphins, and less collagen-destroying cortisol.

3. It regulates your hormones

Sex releases more than just endorphins. Estrogen levels also rise during sex. Estrogen has been linked to increased collagen production and improved hydration. Topical estrogen treatments for post-menopausal women can help increase hydration, reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles, and speed up wound healing. When you have sex, you get all the skin-nourishing benefits of an estrogen treatment for free!

Sex also releases a whole host of other beneficial hormones. The most important are oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, all of which have an effect on the skin.

  • Oxytocin combats free radicals and reduces inflammation
  • Dopamine increases circulation to cells and helps support the skin barrier
  • Serotonin improves wound healing and promotes the growth of new cells

In addition, sex improves our ability to absorb nutrients. The related boost of key vitamins and minerals can lead to healthier skin, hair, and nails.

4. Sex helps you sleep better

Serotonin is necessary for the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Combined with oxytocin, which relaxes us, the two hormones create a powerful sleepy state that’s hard to ignore.

Getting enough sleep is vital to good skin health. During sleep, the blood flow to your skin increases. This delivers more energy for building and repairing cells and tissues, and flushes out waste and harmful free radicals. This helps reduce the damage caused by UV light and pollutants, and improves the appearance, tone, and texture of skin. If you don’t get the recommended amount of sleep each night, you’re not giving your body a chance to heal. Over time that damage can accumulate, resulting in tired, aged skin.

5. It boosts your self-esteem

We saved the best for last — sex is great for boosting your self-esteem. Part of this is hormonal, from that magical combination of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin which makes you feel all happy and glowing. But sex also provides a psychological boost that shows on your skin. After all, there’s nothing sexier than confidence.

And if you think that sounds like a lot of psychobabble, consider this. A 10-year study, Secrets of the Superyoung, found that people who had sex 3+ times per week looked 7-12 years younger. In fact, how often participants had sex was one of the most reliable factors for establishing if their age would be underestimated or not.

Sex doesn’t just make you feel good in the moment, it can have long-ranging repercussions for your overall physical and mental health. And nowhere does that show more clearly than on your skin. Orgasming regularly releases important hormones that regulate sleep, reduce stress, and heal cells from the inside-out, meaning you look as good as you feel.

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