Sex and a Man's Skin
Skin is your body's largest organ, so it's no surprise that almost every bodily process—and sex is definitely one of them—impacts it in some way. Sex triggers chemical changes in the skin, but the intersections go way beyond that. The skin of your sexual organs needs special care, and you may find yourself using different products and routines before, during and after sex.
To make sure your sex life and the health of your skin stay in harmony, try to keep a few things in mind.
Sex's benefits for skin
Let's start with the best news: Sex makes your skin look and feel great.
Sexual activity lowers the level of the stress hormone cortisol, which leads to higher production of collagen, and that keeps your skin elastic and smooth. Additionally, a hormone called dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is produced during orgasm, and it helps increase production of sebum, an oil secreted by the sebaceous glands. The effect correlates to oilier skin but better moisture retention and reduced hyperpigmentation.
A 2004 study connected higher levels of sexual activity among college students to increased levels of immunoglobulin A, which theoretically helps in decreasing facial breakouts of acne or other dermatologic conditions.
Orgasms are also linked to increased blood circulation, which has numerous benefits for the skin. When blood flows to the face more easily, skin cells become more oxygenated, cell waste is carried away and skin looks healthier.
But you can't rely on an energetic sex life to keep your skin looking great at all times. For day-to-day life, you have other considerations about how to keep your skin at its best.
Most men are familiar enough with their own sexual appendage that any visible variation to its normal appearance can be concerning, but dry skin on the penis shouldn't cause too much alarm. Spots of dryness on the penis head or shaft shouldn't be regarded as a precursor to genital warts or as a symptom of any sexually transmitted infection (STI).
A number of conditions are associated with dryness in the genital area, and most of them are fairly easy to treat. Allergies, eczema and even yeast infections can be reasons for dryness or reddish irritation on the penis. Other causes may include practices such as dry masturbation, using certain soaps or wearing tight-fitting clothing that chafes the skin.
If your dryness does not arise from an underlying condition, you can still treat it. A few tips include:
- Use moisturizing body and hand soaps.
- Take warm showers instead of piping hot ones.
- Generally be gentle when washing the genital area.
Shaving & skincare
If you shave any part of your body regularly, you might notice the occasional ingrown hair. These can be uncomfortable or even painful, and some people might find them unsightly. Pubic hair is often curly, and shaving curly hair tends to result in more ingrown hairs, but you can take measures to avoid them.
First, prep the area with steam or a hot, wet towel. This helps open up the pores and decreases the likeliness of ingrown hairs or other irritation. Try to shave in one consistent direction; best results come from shaving in the direction of hair growth.
Make sure to use lots of water while you shave, preferably warm or hot, and be careful not to shave too closely or rigorously. As a final step, use moisturizing lotions or aftershave on the area. Ideally, the product you use should have some protection from sunlight, some measure of SPF, if the area is going to be exposed to direct ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Also, take careful consideration of the chemicals used in the products you apply to your skin; opt for the most gentle and fragrance-free products.
Lubes, lotions & lots more
The market is rife with topical products for sex or general skincare needs. However, not all of them are created equal.
For example, each category of lubricant performs very differently. Water-based lube, while easy to wash off and safe to use with condoms, may need frequent application and may contain stabilizing ingredients that can be irritating. Oil-based lube is harder to wash off and can't be used with latex condoms, but it may be better for sensitive skin. Silicone lube is the slipperiest, longest lasting and the most difficult to wash off. It's important to consider what factors matter most to you before you grab a bottle of any lubricant.
When it comes to products such as massage oils, herbal aromatic products or other possible date-night accoutrements, keep the ingredients list simple and natural. If the item you're considering is made of mostly organic, chemical-free substances, it's probably safe to use. Just remember to take into account any allergies you and your partner may have.
Beware of 'snake oil'
All kinds of topical lotions, creams and even edible products make exciting claims about what they can do for your endowment or sexual prowess. For the most part, it's a safe bet to assume such claims are bogus.
Little scientific evidence points to the idea that topical creams or ingestible products can actually increase your penis size, improve your stamina, or improve pleasure for you or your partner.
The marketing for these products often hinges on men's insecurities. While there are certainly some proven medical products for treating conditions such as erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, there are also plenty of over-the-counter products that can have disastrous side effects, including decreased sensitivity, rashes, allergic reactions or long-term conditions.
If you're interested in treating sexual function issues or other aspects of genital health, make sure any product you consider has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and that the claims it makes are backed by science. Before using anything on your genital area, look for registered medical patents, published scientific data or any form of verified, proven success backing the product. Avoid products that provide only "user reviews" or paid marketing.
Just because the beauty and skincare industries are dominated by female-focused products shouldn't indicate that men don't deserve to have healthy skin, as well. When looking for skincare products for your body, use a combination of solid information and common sense to take care of your skin.