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Dispelling the “Masturbation Causes Hormonal Acne Myth”

There is no scientific evidence that supports masturbation causing acne breakouts. Because masturbation is generally a taboo topic to discuss it comes with lots of misconceptions, including an association with hormonal acne breakouts.

The primary reason masturbation masturbation and acne tend be “related” is because both start around puberty. Aside from this there is no correlation between the two other high levels of hormones.

In this article we’ll review the origin of the “acne is caused by masturbation” rumor, dive into any hormonal changes caused by masturbation, discuss why acne is frequent during puberty, and finally several proven hormonal acne treatments that will both heal your skin and address the root cause of your hormonal imbalance.

Where Does The Urban Legend of Masturbation Causing Acne Come From?

The myth of masturbation causing acne stems from both acne and masturbation starting during the beginning of puberty due to an increase in the production of hormones, particularly testosterone, which is known to contribute to acne prone skin.

Although it sounds silly, both masturbation and acne are generally caused by the same thing – changing hormonal levels.

Combine both masturbation and acne starting around the same time with masturbation’s long history of being highly discouraged due to moral and religious beliefs and you have yourself a baseless conspiracy theory.

Does Masturbation Alter Any Hormone Levels?

Masturbation will not alter long term hormonal levels, although there is some evidence to support temporary testosterone, cortisol, and prolactin changes shortly after an orgasm. Below we have included a list of several hormones that are commonly thought to change due to sexual activity:

  1. Testosterone: There’s a common myth that masturbation affects testosterone levels in men significantly, but scientific evidence doesn’t support this notion. An orgasm can increase blood pressure, heart rate, plasma catecholamines, and prolactin, but it has no effect on testosterone.Testosterone levels may fluctuate slightly around sexual activity, but these changes are temporary. Some studies suggest that abstinence might lead to a temporary spike in testosterone levels, but these findings are not consistent or indicative of a long-term impact.
  2. Prolactin: Levels of prolactin, a hormone associated with the feeling of sexual satisfaction, can increase after orgasm. This increase is temporary and part of the normal physiological response to sexual release, it will not have any impact on hormonal acne breakouts.
  3. Oxytocin and Endorphins: Masturbation and orgasm can lead to the release of these “feel-good” hormones, contributing to a sense of well-being and relaxation. Again, this is a transient effect.
  4. Cortisol: Some evidence suggests that sexual arousal and orgasm might influence cortisol levels, a hormone involved in stress response, but the implications of this are not well-understood and seem to vary among individuals.
  5. Estrogen and Progesterone: In women, hormone levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, but there is limited research on how masturbation specifically affects these fluctuations. Any changes due to sexual activity including masturbation are likely to be temporary.

All the hormones above are vital for normal bodily functions. While having these hormones fall out of a normal range can cause complications, masturbation will not have any longterm effect on them.

Does sex cause acne?

No, sexual intercourse does not cause hormonal fluctuations that trigger acne breakouts. In fact, a healthy sex life can actually reduce stress, which has been shown to reduce inflammation including acne.

However, skin on skin contact can cause acne breakouts. This can be caused by oil, dead skin cells, or makeup products rubbing off one person’s skin to another person’s skin. Because of this it is highly recommended to wash your face and moisturize after kissing, sex, or any other skin on skin activities.

5 Common Causes of Hormonal Acne Breakouts

Acne is one of the most complex inflammatory skin conditions that can be triggered by many factors. And although pinpointing what exactly triggered it at any point of your life can be one heck of a challenge, here are a few most known causes that can help you understand your acne better:

1. Clogged Pores

Every pimple, no matter how big or small starts as a clogged pore.

The most common cause of clogged pores is the overproduction of sebum, which is an oily substance secreted by our sebaceous glands and serves as the skin’s natural moisturizer.

Sebum, although good for our skin as it prevents it from becoming dry and cracked, can become a problem when produced in excess.

When this happens, sebum can’t reach the surface of the skin and instead forms a stiff plug inside the pore mixed with other types of cellular debris, such as dead skin cells.

This mixture will then attract a particular strain of bacteria, known as Cutibacterium acnes, which use the substance to feed and multiply.

Eventually, this results in an overgrowth of the Cutibacterium acnes bacteria, which triggers our immune system to respond, leading to inflammation.

And it is this inflammation that we see and feel as redness and swelling on the skin.

2. Hormonal Imbalances

Hormonal imbalances, such as an increase in androgens (male hormones), can trigger the overproduction of sebum, which, as we know by now, can lead to clogged pores and eventually acne.

Additionally, some hormones, such as dihydrotestosterone, a byproduct of testosterone, can actually change the composition of sebum, making it thicker and more likely to clog pores.

Other factors, such as stress, which is yet another common presence during puberty, can also indirectly lead to hormonal imbalances, which in turn can trigger or worsen acne.

3. Inflammatory Diet

A diet that consists of low-quality, processed foods filled with inflammatory components is yet another factor that’s been linked to acne, especially during puberty when many teenagers don’t really have a say in what they eat and tend to go for the easiest and most convenient option, which is often unhealthy fast food.

These inflammatory foods can further aggravate acne by causing inflammation in the gut, which then results in elevated levels of inflammation throughout the whole body.

Having a constant state of low-grade inflammation can be a good ground for acne because it means that your immune system is constantly on the alert and reacts to even the most negligent stimuli, such as tiny clogs inside the pores.

Additionally, food intolerances and sensitivities can also lead to inflammation, which is why it’s important to be aware of any food that doesn’t agree with your system.

However, diet is definitely a vast and complicated topic, and although there are certain foods that are more likely to cause inflammation than others, it can be quite difficult to pinpoint the exact culprit behind your acne, especially because it usually takes time for the damage to show on the skin.

But if you suspect that inflammatory food might be behind your acne, you definitely want to check out GoodGlow’s ebook, which provides super useful information on how to lower inflammation, balance your hormones, and reduce active acne on the skin through diet.

4. Cosmetics

Cosmetics such as skincare, makeup, and even haircare products can sometimes cause acne, especially during puberty when we tend to become more aware of our appearance and start experimenting with different products.

The problem with many cosmetics is that they often contain comedogenic ingredients, which are components that clog the pores or form an occlusive layer on the skin’s surface and prevent sebum from flowing freely and reaching the surface.

This can then lead to a long and complex process, which is the formation of pimples.

5. Hygiene

Hygiene is not necessarily a direct cause of acne, but it can play a role in its formation or even make it worse under certain circumstances.

For example, not washing your face regularly can cause dirt, sebum, and dead skin cells to accumulate on the skin’s surface and continue to clog the pores and cause more inflammation.

Additionally to that, surfaces where you tend to rest your head, like pillowcases, also harbor bacteria, oils, and product residue that can rub onto the skin and make its way into the pores, where it essentially becomes food for bacteria, enabling them to multiply and exacerbating acne.

And finally, touching your face a lot can also cause more dirt and bacteria to accumulate on the skin, as well as irritate existing pimples and prolong healing.

So, although hygiene is not a direct cause of acne, it can definitely make it worse, which is why it’s important to develop good hygiene habits in order to control acne.

Masturbation Side Effects

Although there is no scientific evidence supporting negative health effects from occasional masturbation, there are negative side effects that can occur from excessive masturbation which we have shared below:

  • Physical Irritation or Injury: Repeated or overly vigorous masturbation can cause skin irritation, chafing, or even minor injuries to the genitals.
  • Disruption of Daily Life: If masturbation consumes a significant amount of time, it can interfere with daily responsibilities, work, or social activities.
  • Impact on Sexual Relationships: If one prefers masturbation over sexual activities with a partner, it may affect the partner’s feelings and the dynamics of the relationship.
  • Guilty or Shameful Feelings: In some cases, excessive masturbation might be accompanied by feelings of guilt or shame, particularly if it’s in conflict with personal values or beliefs.
  • Potential for Addiction: In rare cases, individuals might develop compulsive sexual behaviors, including an addiction to masturbation, which might require professional help.
  • Mental Health Impact: If masturbation is used as a coping mechanism for stress, anxiety, or depression, it might mask underlying mental health issues that need to be addressed.
  • Unrealistic Sexual Expectations: Frequent masturbation, particularly if accompanied by the consumption of pornography, might lead to unrealistic expectations or decreased satisfaction with real-life sexual interactions.

If you believe you may have unhealthy masturbation habits you should make an appointment with a doctor or mental health professional immediately.

Originally Published: October 31, 2023

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Ashley-Wilson-Certified-Personal-Trainer
Analyzed by Ashley Wilson

Hi, I’m Ashley Wilson, a part-time personal trainer, yoga instructor, and mother of three. My journey with hormonal acne started during pregnancy, which led me to natural remedies discussed on GoodGlow like utilizing a low-inflammation diet, dramatically improving my health and skin. After successfully clearing my acne during my first pregnancy I to share my insights on managing acne naturally and maintaining overall wellness on GoodGlow. I’ve adopted a lifestyle focused on nutrition, yoga, resistance training, and meditation, helping me juggle my busy life with kids and work. I’m always eager to connect and share skincare tips, so feel free to reach out!

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