Through our entire adult lives, we've always been pretty sure that the tidbit "semen is actually good for your face" is a lie, made up by sketchy guys who just want to, you know, give you a facial. But of course, every once in a while somebody in the public eye tries to push the semen facial as a legitimate beauty routine. First, there was former Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown, who wrote in 2000's I'm Wild Again, "Spread semen over your face. [It's] probably full of protein, as sperm can eventually become babies. Makes a fine mask — and he'll be pleased." [Ed note: If you're into it, sure. But don't just do it for him.] More recently, beauty blogger Tracy Kiss decided to showcase a semen-facial tutorial in a video. Over spa-worthy instrumental music, Kiss talks about the benefits of this unusual mask — "I use semen to look after my skin, to rejuvenate it, to give it some freshness," she says. Why? "You know, semen builds babies, they come out very soft and they have beautiful skin." Err, okay — not sure that really qualifies as sound logic.
Obviously, we had a lot of questions. Where do you get it from? (In Kiss' case, from "a health-conscious friend.") Do you store it in the fridge? (Presumably, yes.) But mostly, we had to ask: Is this a real thing? For that, we went to the pros. First of all, "Yes, obviously, semen is a component of making a baby and you need a sperm and an egg to create a fetus," dermatologist Karyn Grossman, MD, says. "But the sperm itself has nothing to do with the skin of the newborn. The sperm is only a carrier of genetic material." So there goes that theory. What's probably creating the smoothing effect Kiss likes, Dr. Grossman says, is simple: protein. But from a health perspective, semen may not be the best call. "Just from a physician's point of view, there are medical health issues around being exposed to other people’s body fluids," Dr. Grossman says. "Body fluids are capable of transmitting STIs, and even if you're with your husband or boyfriend, and could potentially have these diseases anyway, there are potential issues that could be different [on the face]." Most notable, she says, is the potential infection of the eye — herpes on the eye can cause scarring and visual problems. Eye herpes. Just think about that for a minute. Of course, Kiss does address these issues in the video — she gets the semen "donated" by a friend who doesn't do drugs, drink, and is of "good sexual health," she writes on her blog. "I would never condone using anonymous semen," she writes. Practice safe semen?
Body fluids are capable of transmitting STIs, and even if you're with your husband or boyfriend, and could potentially have these diseases anyway, there are potential issues that could be different [on the face].
But aside from the possible health issues, there are some flaws in Kiss' logic. She claims to be using semen as an alternative to facial peels, in which mild acid removes dead skin cells. "The normal pH of semen is around 7.1 to 8.0, and that is actually not acidic at all," Dr. Grossman says. "Your skin’s pH is closer to 4, 4.5, and that's normally where people like things to be." In fact, for a long time skin care has been moving away from basic treatments; bar soap, for instance, is universally regarded as terrible for facial skin. "We talk in skin care about how skin is acidic and we need to restore that acid mantle, so in this sense semen is actually very caustic to the skin," Dr. Grossman says. Sure, the basic components of semen aren't terrible — amino acids, enzymes, potassium, zinc. "There isn’t anything bad in it," Dr. Grossman says, but there's also no study that shows it's the magical path to youthful skin. Something to be thankful for, because can you imagine your beauty routine if it were? "There is an endless array of things you can mix together; so many other things you can do," Dr. Grossman says. "People used to take eggs and turn them into masks for that high concentration of protein. You can create a great scrub with coconut oil, baking soda, and maybe powdered milk or almond milk." And if you're seriously considering what Kiss calls "man moisturizer"? "I wouldn’t encourage someone to do it" strictly for cosmetic reasons, Dr. Grossman says. So if that's what gets you off, more power to you. But if you're just tolerating it because you think it will give you soft skin, it's probably time to reexamine your priorities.