Sex AfterGlow: Is It Really a Thing?

Continually on the hunt for healthy, glowing skin? Of course, you could include topical vitamin C and similar brightening actives in your skincare regimen… but there are other *creative* ways to achieve a lit-from-within complexion. Perhaps the most fun of the bunch: engaging in regular bedtime activity.

Yep, the sexual afterglow is totally legit, expert-vetted, and scientifically backed. Better yet, the benefits of sex and orgasm won’t only translate to your complexion but also your mood, relationship satisfaction, and beyond. Keep reading to discover why having more sex could be the glow-getting gift that keeps on giving.

The Sex Afterglow Study

In most cases, sex can make you feel pretty darn good… and researchers sought to quantify just how good it can be by pooling data from studies on sexual activity amongst newlyweds.  Over the course of two weeks, 200+ couples were asked to report their daily sexual activities and sexual satisfaction, as well as their baseline marital satisfaction. They also measured their marital satisfaction four to six months later.

The results? Sexual satisfaction stayed strong for a full 48 hours after copulating. (Note: If you struggle with the Sunday scaries or Monday blues, consider this your cue to get busy in the bedroom once the weekend hits.) Moreover, couples who felt a stronger afterglow—that is, greater satisfaction and bonding post-sex—felt happier in their marriages at both baseline and the follow-up months later.

All things considered, this 2017 study in the journal Psychological Science suggests that sex could put more spring in your step and keep some zest in your relationship over time. And it turns out that the same hormonal changes that are driving these perks could equate to skin wins, too.

Young couple makes love to the wall

3 Reasons Why the Post-Coital Glow Benefits Your Skin

Let’s unpack what a sexual afterglow is as far as your skin is concerned. “The post-coital glow is characterized by radiant or glowing skin seen after sexual activity. It can last for as long as 48 hours after sex,” shares board-certified NYC cosmetic dermatologist Michele Green, MD. “In addition to visible, radiant skin, regular sexual activity can also lead to healthier skin overall.”

Here’s a closer look at why sex is so good for your skin:

1. Sexual Activity Boosts Blood Flow

ICYMI, sex can count as a mild-to-moderate cardiovascular workout, which is good news for your skin and total well-being. “Sex is considered a form of physical exercise in that it increases heart rate and blood flow,” Dr. Green explains. “With increased blood flow, nutrients and oxygen are distributed to cells across the body more rapidly,” which can result in a brighter, fresher, more rejuvenated complexion. (If you’ve ever noticed that your skin looks better after exercising, the same idea is at play.)

2. Estrogen Works Its Skin-Enhancing Magic

While you might be more familiar with estrogen as it pertains to other aspects of sexual (and menstrual) health, the hormone also offers a variety of benefits for your skin. “Estrogen levels surge during sexual stimulation,” says Dr. Green. (side note: for better hormone balance, check out HUM’s Hormone Balance supplement.)

The dermotologist says estrogen is responsible for countless aspects of skin health, including:

  • Regulating oil production for clear, balanced skin
  • Maintaining skin barrier function
  • Modulating inflammation, thus offering defense against the likes of acne, rosacea, and eczema
  • Staving off the decline of collagen and elastin, thus helping to maintain skin thickness and firmness

As such, we can see that the estrogen boost from sexual activity is powerful to promote many markers of skin health. (Conversely, research shows that a lack of estrogen—including the major dip that results following menopause—accelerates undesirable skin changes like dryness, wrinkles, and difficulty healing wounds.)

3. Oxytocin Soothes and De-Stresses

If you feel closer to your partner after getting busy in the sheets—but also via innocent activities like holding hands—you can credit oxytocin for the feel-good, heart-eyed emoji vibes. “Oxytocin, also known as the ‘love hormone,’ is released during an orgasm, reducing stress levels and inflammation.” says Dr. Green. Naturally, this release can promote healthier, more radiant skin since stress and inflammation stand in the way of skin clarity, integrity, and moisture. Plus, similar to estrogen, oxytocin can aid collagen and elastin production for pro-aging, pro-healing perks. (With these points in mind, feel free to go all in on cuddling, coitus, or both… if not for the sake of love, then at least for visible skin wins.)

“Lower levels of cortisol [also known as the ‘stress hormone’] can lead to less breakdown of collagen and elastin, improving skin thickness and elasticity,” Dr. Green adds.

Final Thoughts on Sex Afterglow and Skin Health

Based on the sexual afterglow study (which investigated newly married couples) and the lovey-dovey bonding effects of oxytocin, you might be wondering if you need to be booed up to achieve the full potential of the post-coital glow and satisfaction.

“Being in love and being loved releases oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin into your system,” Dr. Green shares. Dopamine is most often associated with reward, motivation, and reinforcement. In addition, it “can help repair the skin barrier and improve microcirculation, or the circulation of blood in small blood vessels,” she continues. “Increased microcirculation supports proper skin functioning, supplying necessary nutrients and oxygen to skin cells.” As behavioral neuroscience researcher and certified sex therapist Nan Wise, PhD, previously shared in a deep dive on orgasms and brain activity, dopamine is what she fondly deems “the slutty neurotransmitter” and is far from limited to love alone. That said, lust can also work to strengthen the skin barrier, boost circulation, and nourish your cells.

Next up, serotonin isn’t only responsible to help regulate mood and support mental health. “Serotonin is a natural antioxidant that can help combat free radicals and oxidative stress in the body,” Dr. Green adds. Oxidative stress is one of the chief drivers of accelerated aging throughout the skin and entire body, so antioxidants—including your go-to vitamin C serum, deliciously nutritious antioxidant-rich foods and drinks, and natural chemicals like serotonin—can all work wonders to keep your complexion, mood, and overall health in peak condition.

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