WTF? I dialed up a derm to get all the tea on this thought-provoking sex-turned-skincare dilemma.
What actually causes acne?
“Acne is caused by a combination of four things: excess sebum (oil) production, hyperkeratinisation of the pores (a.k.a., clogging of pores with keratin/dead skin cells, because they don’t know how to shed), bacteria, and inflammation,” says Tsippora Shainhouse a board-certified dermatologist and paediatrician in Los Angeles.
Okay...does masturbation cause acne?
Notice what’s NOT part of that abovementioned foursome? Solo acts, twosomes, threesomes... Masturbation—and sex in general—is not making you break out.
Shainhouse says that hormones (specifically testosterone and progesterone) can increase oil production, and can also increase the inflammatory response. That’s why your breakouts are often worse in the week leading up to your period—because that’s when your body is producing more progesterone and testosterone.
Why does the hormonal thing matter? “Hormones are charged up and unbalanced during adolescence and puberty (which is why adolescents develop acne),” says Shainhouse. “Puberty can also be a time of self-exploration and, perhaps, masturbation, so the ‘fear’ likely arose that masturbation might be what is causing acne,” she says.
Shainhouse says that while masturbation (and sex) can temporarily increase your testosterone levels, it’s not nearly enough to have an impact on your long-term skin health—especially since those levels shrink back to normal within minutes. (Sounds like another aspect of sex we know all too well, hmm?)
Does masturbation have any effect on your skin?
That’s not to say that your sex life isn’t affecting your skin in other ways. Shainhouse says some research has shown that adrenaline levels rise in the blood during orgasm—which explains both the sweating and the healthy glow immediately after the act. (So yes, Samantha Jones really was onto something).
Bottom line: Take it from a board-certified dermatologist—masturbation does not cause acne. So, stop worrying and enjoy your euphoric release for what it is.