This article was originally published on July 26, 2016.
Do you remember your first orgasm? Mine happened about six months after I'd lost my virginity, in the 11th grade, by way of my hand. I'd read enough excerpts from Harlequin Romance novels in the back of Cosmopolitan to know that my well-intentioned, but sexually inexperienced, boyfriend hadn't actually made me come. (Although I may have led him to believe otherwise.) So one Friday night, when I was alone in my house, I pulled out a photo of Johnny Depp and didn't stop until there were fireworks. And when I looked at myself in the mirror after, panting, but feeling accomplished, I remember thinking one thing: Holy shit. I am glowing.
The post-coitus glow is something you've undoubtedly read about. It's that amazing flush you get after a really good sack session — whether solo or with a partner. What you may not know, though, is that the act leading up to that glow is actually hella beneficial for your skin. "Sex is good for so many things — and your skin is definitely one of them," says Eric Marlowe Garrison, a clinical and forensic sexologist. "It gets the blood flowing, and that can create a more youthful appearance." How? Blood-vessel dilation causes oxygen to flood your system, which equals a boost in collagen production.
According to dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, founder and director of Capital Laser and Skin Care, since orgasms help to relieve stress, they can also lead to a decrease in skin inflammation. "It's really simple — sex decreases stress, which, in turn, reduces stress hormones in the body, which helps to lower inflammation," she says. Less inflammation means less acne and puffiness, and fewer wrinkles — a triple win.
Interestingly, the positive benefits of regular orgasms appear to be cumulative. Garrison says he works with a lot of older clients, and he can always tell who masturbates or has sex regularly. "The ones who have regular sex look younger," he says. "I've never done a study on it before, but I can always tell how often a person has sex or masturbates when they come into the office." They glow. Their skin looks better. They look years younger. Basically, their sex lives are written all over their faces.
So I started to wonder — if I had an orgasm every day for 30 days, would I be able to toss my highlighter collection for good? Could 20 minutes with my partner (or my Lelo Liv) be better for my skin than any peel on the market?
And that, my friends, is how I came to have 30 orgasms in 30 days. (Ha! Came.)
There were no real rules to my sex-periment: I could achieve orgasm by any means necessary. That means with a partner or on my own, with my hand or with a vibrator, in my bed or in my shower. (Wait, did this just turn into a Dr. Seuss story?) I could have as many orgasms a day as I wanted, but I had to have at least one. I know, try not to feel too sorry for me.
When I told my partner (whom I will call Jake) about my intentions, his eyes lit up like those of a kid who had just caught a Zubat in Pokémon Go. There was no getting out now. As he reminded me, "You have to do it for science." After every session, once we'd caught our breaths, I'd sit up and look him in the eye. "AM I GLOWING?!" I'd yell in his face. He'd roll his eyes, and I'd scurry off to the bathroom to check myself out. Yes, I was glowing — but the effect wasn't as long-lasting as I had hoped it would be. No matter — we still had weeks to go.
Achieving orgasm during every sex session sounds like a dream, and it was at first. Jake became a crazy-attentive lover — more so than he already was. Since he knew orgasm had to be on the menu for me, he made sure to listen to my needs. "How shitty will it make me feel to know you had to finish yourself off?" he said. But, damn, sometimes a girl would rather just get up and eat eggs on a Sunday than try for The Big O.
When Jake wasn't around, I got into the habit of using my Liv before bed to unwind. I masturbate regularly, but there was something really nice about setting aside some time each night to take care of myself. It was during week three when I really started to see results. The zits on my chin seemed to be retreating ever so slightly, and my complexion was definitely brighter. And, while I was out to breakfast with a friend who works in PR, she asked if I'd done anything to my skin recently. "You're glowing!" she told me. If only she knew.
It makes sense, Garrison points out, that masturbation is slightly more beneficial for the skin than sex with a partner — especially for women. "You tend to be a little more relaxed when you masturbate," he says.
At the end of week three, I had to jet off to Milan for a press trip, which got me all kinds of excited. (Would hotel masturbation be like hotel sex?!) But I ran into a major snag as soon as I got to my room and realized I'd forgotten to pack my vibrator. Now, I'm not someone who can easily achieve orgasm with my hand (I was determined in 11th grade, but I'm too old for that shit now). So I pondered my options. Does Milan have sex shops? What would an Italian vibrator be like?
Luckily, my luxe shower was equipped with a hand-held showerhead — a tool I'd heard could be quite effective in a masturbation pinch. Well, let me just tell you, "effective" is an understatement. I emerged from that shower so relaxed and glowy that you'd think I'd just swallowed sunshine, rather than stepped off a plane.
I returned home in the middle of my fourth week, and continued the challenge fairly seamlessly. Funnily enough, I got into such a routine that I didn't realize my 30 days were up — I just kept on coming straight through day 35. I definitely saw an improvement in my face, and others did, too. As a girl who has struggled with acne most of her life, I've never gotten as many compliments on my complexion as I did during this period. The results have lasted: My skin seems softer and brighter, my zits haven't been making my life a living hell, and I've been skipping foundation.
Now, is this all from orgasming? Possibly — but I think it's more complex than that. Taking the time to orgasm every day meant that I was taking time for myself every day. I was communicating my needs when I was with my partner, so I was less stressed out about finishing. There were a few nights in the beginning of my experiment when I'd be tucked into bed, half-asleep, before realizing I hadn't hit my daily minimum. Life gets in the way, and it's hard to remember to prioritize ourselves when we have a million other things on our to-do lists. So, yes, a lot of the benefits I saw on my skin came from orgasming, but becoming more relaxed and comfortable in my own skin played a major role, too.
I've eased up on the once-a-day rule since and replaced it with a new one. Every day, I make sure to take time for one personal activity. That can mean cooking myself a delicious dinner to eat on my balcony, or taking a long walk along the East River by my apartment. And occasionally, indulging in a good session with the Magic Wand I've ordered as a gift to myself — and my skin.
Floral styling by Brittany Asch.