Most people probably think of their sex life and their beauty regimen as two completely separate self-care practices. But as it turns out, the two actually go hand-in-hand.
The increase in the hormone estrogen through orgasm, as well as the physical activity involved in sex, can promote healthy skin, hair, and overall healthy aging. We chatted with holistic dermatologist Keira Barr, M.D., to explain some of the beauty benefits of sex:
Sex promotes skin and hair vitality.
Studies have shown that women who are sexually active (including solo sex, which is one of many great benefits of masturbation) tend to have higher levels of estrogen since the hormone levels increase during orgasm1. According to Barr, estrogen is key for the normal functioning of the skin, blood vessels, hair follicles, oil glands, and melanocytes (aka pigment-producing cells).
Sex supports youthful, supple skin.
Maintaining a robust sex life throughout adulthood might help you feel young in spirit, and the estrogen production will also promote healthy aging of the skin. "Estrogen increases collagen production, skin thickness, and hyaluronic acid production, giving skin a youthful and supple appearance," Barr tells mbg.
One study on over 3,500 men and women even found those who had sex three times a week appeared seven to 12 years younger than their actual age.
Sex might make your hair grow.
Not only does it enhance the skin, but "estrogen also helps keep your hair in the growing (anagen) phase, which helps you have those luscious locks," Barr says. While studies haven't looked at the effects of sex on hair growth specifically, pregnant women who have increased levels of estrogen have been shown to have thicker, fuller hair5.
Sex can make your skin glow.
Since sex can be a form of physical exercise (and yes, sex burns calories, too), it can also boost the release of nitric oxide, which increases blood flow and oxygen throughout the body, Barr tells mbg. This is what leads to an after-sex glow.
"What helps create that after-sex glow is that nearly every cell in the skin can make nitric oxide, which is key for maintaining blood flow," Barr says. "But it also helps bolster the skin's barrier function, boosts its microbial defenses, promotes wound healing, and buffers the harmful effects of environmental exposures like UV radiation."
With naturally flushed cheeks and a little tinge of dewy sweat, who needs makeup?
Sex reduces stress, which can reduce acne.
When people are stressed, Barr says the "hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)." When CRH is produced, it increases the production and growth of oil glands, as well as inflammation7.
"Oil gland secretion and inflammation are two of the primary contributors to acne formation," Barr says. In other words, managing stress may lower the chance of developing stress-induced breakouts.
Sex may speed up acne healing.
It may help manage menopause symptoms.
Since estrogen levels naturally decrease during menopause, having orgasms may increase the production, thereby keeping menopause symptoms at bay.
"Without estrogen's influence to help produce hyaluronic acid and collagen, the skin loses its firmness and begins to sag; fine lines, wrinkles, and jowls appear; and pores and pigmentation become more prominent," Barr says. "In fact, studies show that women's skin loses about 30% of its collagen during the first five years of menopause8 and about 2% of their collagen every year after for the next 20 years," she adds.
This thinning of the skin not only happens externally but also in the vagina, which can lead to pain during sex. Having sex more frequently can promote estrogen production and elasticity in the vagina, so tightness and pain may be reduced, according to gynecologist Lynley Durrett, M.D. In fact, research has shown that having sex regularly may even delay menopause.
Sex might make your boobs look bigger.
For those who are into this sort of thing: The breasts can swell up to 25% during sex, according to internist Michael Roizen, M.D. This change occurs due to increased blood flow during sexual activity. They'll generally go back to their normal size following an orgasm. Nipple height can also increase (aka become erect) through stimulation.
Sex can increase overall confidence.
Spending time with your naked body can increase confidence and may make it easier to enjoy sex.
If you're not used to doing this, clinical sexologist Cyndi Darnell, recommends spending conscious, intimate time with your body. "It could be as simple as creating space in your week to lie in bed and run your hands over yourself, either for pleasure or simply for exploration," she once told mbg. This can support your sexual self-esteem and overall confidence.
A healthy sex life can do a lot more than promote intimacy with a partner. It may also promote healthy skin, hair growth, and even play a role in managing menopause symptoms. And you don't have to be partnered up to get these bonus benefits—so go ahead and add orgasm to your beauty routine.
Editor's Note (June 24, 2022): This article was originally published on May 10, 2021 A previous version of this article indicated that a study included over 3,000 participants. We have since clarified this to indicate the study included over 3,500 participants.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.