We’re not exactly sure where or why the rumor started, but regardless, some folks began drawing a correlation between acne and masturbation - at least according to Google search results!
But dear reader, rest assured that there is no connection between acne and masturbating. Masturbation pimples aren’t a thing. There are plenty of other (more fun) reasons to have sleepless nights, so focus on those and forget about this one.
Does masturbation cause acne?
In a word, no. Masturbation does not cause acne breakouts. Now, if you’re rubbing your face as often as you’re rubbing your nether regions, it’s possible that the oils on your hands could be negatively affecting your facial skin. But again, acne and/or breakouts have nothing to do with your masturbation habits. Promise.
Speaking of, some people believe pretty wild things about what masturbation can and can’t do (for example, some ask, “Does masturbation cause hairfall?” or, “Does masturbation make you tired?”). We’ve got the scoop on whether any of that is true in our other blogs!
Masturbation and hormones
In general, solo masturbation and sexual activity in general won’t have a significant impact on your hormone levels, aside from minor fluctuations up or down. However, some contraception methods — the birth control pill, in particular — can impact your skin. Major hormonal changes such as pregnancy, beginning a pill-based birth control method, or switching to a new form of the pill can be large contributors to what’s known as hormonal acne.
Hormone shifts can significantly contribute to acne formation. In fact, hormone changes can cause an acne problem thanks to increasing or decreasing hormones like progesterone. Hormonal changes can increase the amount of oils that are produced in your skin, creating more opportunities with those oils to interact with bacteria and dead skin on/near your skin's pores. This can lead to clogging and infection of the pores, which can trigger acne and skin breakouts, in general.
Penis-owners aren’t exempt from the equation when it comes to changes in hormones, either. If you have medical issues with your prostate (i.e. you’re getting prostate cancer treatment), you may be prescribed medications that inhibit androgen hormones like testosterone. This can also cause shifts in the levels of oils in your skin, and oily skin can contribute to hormonal acne.
Now here’s a fun truth bomb to counter the masturbation equals acne myth: Masturbation (partnered or solo masturbation) is actually good for your skin.
Yep, it’s true. Achieving orgasm lowers your cortisol levels (stress hormones). Cortisol increases oil production in your skin — which can lead to acne breakouts, so lowering those levels can counteract acne. Plus, when you lower your stress level, you reduce overall inflammation in your body. Finally, the sex hormones released when you get to the big O include things like estrogen, which is a key player in maintaining your levels of collagen, the protein that helps your skin look young and glowy.
So if you want to have more orgasms as a way of combating oily skin, more power to you! There are plenty of sex toys available to help you indulge in a little or a lot of self love. There isn’t really an excessive masturbation level, so as long as you aren’t missing work or doctor's appointment, have at it!
Causes of acne
So, we know that neither vulva/female masturbation nor penile/male masturbation definitely doesn’t cause acne. Now we can talk about what can contribute to breakouts. Basically, the source of acne is any blockage of the pores in your skin. It’s gonna get a little technical here for a minute, but hang with us.
Sebaceous glands that are itty-bitty glands just under the surface of your skin. They help keep your skin lubricated by producing an oily substance called sebum. When you get acne, it’s because those sebaceous glands have generated too much sebum. Excess sebum mixes with dead skin cells and plugs up the pore, which then bulges out.
Now, it’s totally normal for innocuous bacteria to live on your skin. But when that bacteria is hanging out by one of these plugged-up pores, it can infect the already-irritated area and cause things like pustules, papules, cysts, and cystic acne.
Fun fact: experts believe teen acne is caused by the boost in testosterone that happens during puberty. The sebaceous glands are super sensitive to hormones, and it’s believed that the increase in testosterone during this developmental stage produces lots more sebum than the skin actually needs, thereby setting the scene for pimples.
Acne and self-esteem
The important thing to remember here is that acne is a regular part of the human experience. Almost everyone experiences acne at one point or another in their lifetime, and adult acne is not uncommon. Acne scars are also a common feature, and many people have them. You can think of acne scars as a badge of courage that you get for surviving your childhood/adolescence. You made it!
The body changes a lot during puberty, a time when many folks begin to become sexual beings. It’s very common to start masturbating during this time, and masturbation is a normal part of life. Overall, self love can lead to more health benefits than not.
Frequent male masturbation won’t have an effect on your sperm count or drastically lower your testosterone levels. If you’re worried about your level of testosterone (i.e. you’re worried that perhaps you’re dealing with low testosterone), you should take a look at your sleep schedule, diet, and overall health instead. That’s where there are big strides to be made when it comes to sperm count and testosterone level.
Finally, if you’ve got a case of severe acne, there are a bunch of different kinds of acne treatments available, some prescription-based, and some more holistic/natural. Consider speaking with a dermatologist about options.
Dealing with acne can definitely be a self-esteem hit, especially during teenage years, and frankly later on, too, if people haven’t learned to treat others with compassion. If you’ve got severe acne as a teenager, trust us — you’ll be OK. The acne stage will pass, and you’ll return to your normal, smooth skin. And don’t forget: Your worth as a person is not tied to your looks. You are worthy, lovable, and valuable exactly as you are.