Ever had a kiss that swept you off your feet—the kind that leaves you light-headed, with your fingers and toes tingling? Turns out those post-pucker-up butterflies aren’t the only benefits of a big smooch; kisses can actually help keep you healthy! As if you needed another reason to lay one on your crush from psych class…
According to Andréa Demirjian, author of Kissing: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About One of Life’s Sweetest Pleasures, kisses can do all kinds of wonders for the body. We asked Demirjian—aka “The Kissing Expert”—for the best health benefits of puckering up.
1. It Lowers Your Blood Pressure
While no two kisses are the same, they all tend to do the same thing: get your heart pumping. That characteristic thump-thump you feel mid-make-out does more than set your spirits soaring; according to Demirjian, kissing “immediately increases your heart rate but lowers your blood pressure.” The combination sends you into a more mellow state; you feel good, even zen, the way you would after a workout. Basically, it’s a feel-good aerobic activity that doesn’t require spandex and running shoes!
It seems counterintuitive, though; why would your blood pressure lower if your heart rate is skyrocketing? Apparently, kissing gives you an adrenaline rush, and adrenaline makes your blood vessels dilate. Once your vessels are dilated, more blood can flow through the body, and your blood pressure stabilizes over time. “If you were going to get your blood pressure taken at the doctor’s, you would probably [have] a perfect, healthy blood pressure level,” Demirjian says. No complaints here!
2. It Relieves Physical Pain
Let’s be honest, though: the last thing we want to think about while kissing is our blood vessels dilating. It’s not exactly a sexy image, and there are so many other sexy things to focus on in the moment instead! Still, that dilation can do wonders when we need it most—specifically when we’re in pain.
“When we’re on our period and we have bad cramps, it’s because our blood vessels are constricted,” Demirjian says. “So I know a lot of times when you’re not feeling too snappy with your period, the last thing you want to do is make out with anyone, but it’s actually the best thing for you because it’s a sort of natural way of taking a few Advil.” It isn’t the only way of dealing with menstrual cramps, but it’s certainly the best way we’ve heard of.
The same pain-relieving principle applies to headaches. Headaches can also caused by constricted blood vessels, and sexual stimulation—like kissing—helps loosen the pressure. So forget popping Midol and Advil—just pucker up!
3. It Releases Happy Chemicals
Whether you call them warm fuzzies or butterflies in your stomach, you know the feeling: that “I’m-the-queen-of-the-world” kind of feeling you get after a top-notch smooch (some of you might even hear “A Whole New World” playing softly somewhere... we aren’t judging).
Well, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it isn’t all in your head; kissing really does improve your mood, thanks to the fact that it triggers so-called “feel-good chemicals.”
“Kissing gets all of the happy serotonin [and] dopamine chemicals in the brain going,” Demirjian says. Serotonin puts you in a positive mood; dopamine helps the brain process pleasure, pain and emotion; and the third feel-good chemical kissing releases, oxytocin, affects feelings of attachment and affection. “And again, it’s like the same thing as a workout,” Demirjian explains. “You know after a workout you have that kind of high, you feel kind of exhilarated, you’re clear-headed and you feel like you’re in a good mood? Kissing activates the same sort of reaction in the pituitary [gland] and [the rest of] the brain.”
Obviously, the effects aren’t exactly the same as if you were to hit the treadmill for a half hour, but combined with the excitement of landing that perfect smooch, the “feel-good chemicals” will send you soaring.
4. It Prevents Cavities
Kissing may not be a one-way ticket to pristine oral hygiene, but it definitely helps. According to Demirjian, kissing can mean fewer cavities!
“When you’re kissing frequently, you’re secreting a lot of saliva, and saliva is what really washes away plaque,” she explains. “So you’re going to have [fewer] cavities, less tartar buildup [and] less gingivitis, so you have a healthier mouth.”
But don’t drop your floss just yet, collegiettes (you’ll probably be hard-pressed to find someone willing to smooch you with bad breath, for one thing). Clearly, kissing alone isn’t enough to dig deep at that plaque in between your teeth—and honestly, if you’re with someone who does possess those excavating kissing abilities, we highly suggest moving on!
5. It Improves Your Complexion
Sick of popping pimples? Try puckering up instead. Apparently, kissing keeps your pituitary gland in check, which can clear up your complexion. And kissing is so much more fun than pricey facials!
“The brain is this insane operating center,” Demirjian explains. “It’s controlling your glands, your pituitary—all of those things that, in our teen and adolescent years (and that can go into college, too), are creating more oil.” If you’re kissing on a more regular basis, the blood dilation in your face basically keeps things from getting clogged up. While kissing itself won’t clear up severe acne, it could prevent breakouts down the line.
Demirjian adds that, similar to how a lot of kissing keeps your lips rosy and plump, a lot of kissing keeps your cheeks rosy and fresh as well. Not to mention the fact that a cuddle-and-kiss sesh can tone down your anxiety come midterms (or anytime, really), and anxiety is known to lead to breakouts.
6. It Tightens Your Facial Muscles
Speaking of faces, it turns out that making out does more for your visage than just clear up your pores. Demirjian says it actually works your muscles, too. Finally, a workout for your face! We don’t need it, of course, but it’s pretty cool that it happens on its own.
“Vigorous kissing and making out basically keep your neck and jaw line in good shape and toned,” Demirjian says. “I tell a lot of women, ‘Don’t be running to the plastic surgeon—just make out a lot. You’ll get the same effect.’”
Fortunately, we collegiettes don’t need to be concerned with sagging skin. Still, it’s nice to know that stretching our necks for a kiss today may keep saggy skin at bay in the faraway future!
7. It Burns Calories
We know, we know: despite all of the amazing benefits of heart-pounding make-outs, kissing just doesn’t have the same effects as hitting the gym (but a collegiette can dream!). Still, kissing does burn some calories, and every bit can count. According to Demirjian, you can burn around 11 calories in a hot-and-heavy, half-hour-long make-out session. Mind you, it has to be vigorous kissing, so don’t use make-outs as an excuse to avoid workouts --at least, not all the time. Just rev up the passion in your free time and get going!
Not everyone has the ability to make out on a whim—most of us aren’t in relationships, and many of us haven’t even been kissed yet. Whatever your status—single, taken or in a serious relationship with Netflix, thanks very much—you can take comfort in the fact that your next kiss will reap some major health benefits. In Demirjian’s words, “A kiss a day keeps the doctor away!”