Are Sexual Facials Healthy?
Facials came into popularity the same way many sexual desires do: through pornography. During the rise of porn in the 1970s, the question of how and where to ejaculate for the camera surfaced, and by the mid-1990s, the top-rated answer had become porn's most ubiquitous conclusion. Semen facials were introduced by porn directors as a way to give viewers a full view of the male release without sacrificing the female visual.
Now it's a common and popular practice for many sexual partners who want the same experience. But outside of porn's influence, what is the appeal of facials?
"Ejaculating on someone's face is quite popular in mainstream porn," said sex expert, author and professional dominatrix Emme Witt, of Los Angeles. "But there are still some ways that it can be classified as a kink."
They aren't for everyone, but for some, an attraction to facials may be rooted in a connection to BDSM, or bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism.
"I do think that giving someone a facial can be classified as dom/sub play. In a sense, it's 'marking' your sub," Witt explained. "Some women, or men, feel humiliated by having someone come on their face. This also classifies this activity as a BDSM play."
An Atlanta-born landscaper in his mid-20s who wished to remain anonymous found his attraction to giving facials is based more on a partner's interest in them.
"That category of porn does often interest me…I've only given one once," he said. "There's probably a power dynamic that's appealing, but I think it's mostly only hot when asked for, because it comes off like, 'Damn, you really want me.'"
Alternatively, Jessica, a 37-year-old native of Savannah, Georgia, isn't interested in facials.
"Thankfully, I have had partners that aren't into things when I'm not into it," said Jessica, who requested her full name not be used.
Like Jessica's experience, having partners who listen when you communicate a need is what makes any sexual situation safe.
"I would say that come facials are a healthy kink," Witt explained. "What makes any sexual practice unhealthy is when it's done without consent. I would recommend that partners communicate with a great deal of respect and compassion. One partner should never push the other partner to do something they're not comfortable with."
What to consider about semen-to-face contact
First, let's debunk any false health narratives surrounding facials. If you and your partner are interested in facials as a safe alternative for avoiding sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you are, unfortunately, mistaken. STIs, such as HIV, that are carried in semen can still be spread through the eyes, more sensitive mucus membranes and any broken skin.
The eyes are a particularly sensitive area which, if infected with an STI, can contract trachoma, a disease caused by the chlamydia bacteria that can lead to loss of sight. Conjunctivitis (pink eye) can be caused by chlamydia or gonorrhea. If you and your partner have been tested for STIs and are comfortable with trying a facial, avoiding the eyes is still worthwhile because semen is naturally fairly acidic and can cause stinging and mild discomfort. As the giver, try aiming for the lower part of the face upon ejaculation; as the recipient, keep your eyes shut and wash them out soon afterward.
Have you heard the old wives' tale about semen being good for your skin? It's often used as a way of encouraging facials with a reluctant partner. This line has been passed around enough times that even luxury skincare brands have advertised semen facials as a treatment. Their success may have been exaggerated because semen contains trace amounts of protein, zinc, and spermine, all of which are linked to keeping skin healthy: protein for firmness and to prevent wrinkles; zinc as an anti-inflammatory for blemishes; and spermine as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory to help fight free radicals and keep skin clean and smooth. All of these chemicals, in higher doses, are very good for your skin, but in semen, their effects as a skincare facial would be barely perceptible.
At best, semen may provide some mild enzymatic exfoliation that breaks down dead skin cells, said Geeta Yadav, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Facet Dermatology in Toronto.
"But you can accomplish better results with enzymatic exfoliators you can buy over the counter," Yadav said.
Potentially damaging effects on the skin
"There are many cases of severe allergies to the proteins in seminal fluid that can…lead to hives, swelling and itching," Yadav said.
The skin on your face is particularly sensitive, so be aware of your skin's particular triggers. If you are prone to hives or even mild irritation, rethink facials as your and your partner's finishing position. Or if it's an enjoyable part of your sex life or something you want to try, make the proper preparations.
"For hives and itching, a topical corticosteroid, either one prescribed by a doctor or purchased over the counter, can help," Yadav said.