Updated 14 May 2018

Does masturbation really cause acne?

Say it ain't so!

Things masturbation causes: happiness, satisfaction, amazing orgasms. And now, some people on the Internet are apparently claiming that it causes acne, too.

I called a dermatologist to get all the details 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 (aka clogging of pores with keratin/dead skin cells, because they don’t know how to shed), bacteria and inflammation,” says dermatologist and pediatrician Dr Tsippora Shainhouse.

Read more: 7 struggles all adult women with acne understand

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.

Dr 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.

Read more: Where your acne breaks out on your face could be the key to solving your health woes

Why does the hormonal thing matter? “Hormones are charged up and unbalanced during adolescence and puberty (which is why adolescents develop acne),” says Dr 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.

Dr 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?)

Read more: 6 things you’re doing that are causing your skin to break out badly

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. Dr 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).

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