Sex and Acne – What Causes Acne After Sex?

Whether you and your partner use the pillow princess foreplay position, a straddle or the speed bump sex position (also known as the ‘knee thing’) to create intimacy and build sexual tension, you’re probably familiar with the joys of clitoral stimulation. However, sex and acne can be complicated.

Bumps near the vagina may look like pimples and are often caused by folliculitis, which is when hair follicles become inflamed and clogged. Other causes include genital warts and molluscum contagiosum.

Causes

Nothing ruins the blissful afterglow of sex like waking up to find a big, ugly pimple on your face. But what causes this to happen? Is it a sign that you’re not getting enough sex, or is there another culprit?

Pimples form when excess oil clogs pores. During sexual intercourse, your body’s sebaceous glands are stimulated by hormones to produce more oil. When the oil comes into contact with skin, it can irritate and block the pores. The resulting bumps are called acne.

Hormones are also responsible for the acne that most people experience in puberty. During this time, boys and girls have higher levels of the androgen testosterone (male sex hormone) in their bodies. This increases the activity of the sebaceous glands and promotes adolescent sexual development.

Other factors that can cause sex bumps on your face include wearing tight-fitting clothes or using oily products. Putting too much oil on your skin can block the pores and encourage an overproduction of oils that leads to acne. It is also important to avoid dirty or unhygienic places when having sex.

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Some types of sex bumps, such as cold sores and genital warts, can be caused by sexually transmitted diseases. These diseases are spread through the exchange of saliva, semen and vaginal secretions. They can also be spread by sharing utensils, straws, towels and lip balm with a person who has these symptoms.

Symptoms

After a night of good sex, the last thing you want to wake up to is an unexpected acne outbreak. During sexual intercourse, smooth skin rubs against hairy areas on your partner’s body, and excess oil can cause breakouts. The same goes for facial hair: when a man or woman’s face rubs against a beard, it can trigger skin irritation and oil buildup.

There are also a number of conditions that can lead to post-sex acne, such as molluscum contagiosum, warts and herpes. Symptoms of these conditions usually appear in the same area where the infection happened, such as on the thighs and genitals. They include hard lumps or lesions that resemble pimples, and are sometimes itchy, painful or swollen.

Molluscum contagiosum causes a group of small, round bumps with a flesh-colored or discolored surface and often have a dimple or dent in the middle. They can show up on the thighs, arms, torso and neck. The lesions are not dangerous, and they don’t spread to other parts of the body. Often, the bumps resolve on their own within a few months without treatment.

Other conditions that can cause post-sex acne include gonorrhea and chlamydia, both bacterial STDs that can cause bumps on or around the penis. Bumps from these STIs usually start out as blisters that can turn into open skin ulcers.

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Treatment

There’s no evidence that sex causes acne, but it may trigger hormonal changes that lead to clogged pores. If you do notice breakouts after sex, try a cleanser that contains salicylic acid, which can help dissolve dead skin cells and prevent your hair follicles from getting clogged. If over-the-counter products don’t work, talk to your dermatologist or healthcare provider about prescription options.

Pearly bumps on the penis could be a sign of molluscum contagiosum, an infection caused by a virus that’s spread through unprotected vaginal, oral and anal sex as well as intimate skin-on-skin contact. Usually, these bumps are painless and they disappear on their own. However, squeezing them or scratching them can cause them to spread to other parts of the body and to sexual partners. Fortunately, treatment is safe and effective.

Many people think that masturbation or sexual activity can cause post-sex pimples, but this isn’t true. Masturbating may trigger a change in hormones that leads to pore clogging, but it’s not the only factor. Seeing a dermatologist or healthcare professional can help you find the right treatment for you. A medical professional can also run tests to determine whether the lumps are due to an STI and can prescribe antibiotic or antiviral medications, if necessary. If you have a severe case of acne, abstaining from sex or masturbating only after rinsing your penis can also help clear it up.

Prevention

Nothing ruins the bliss of a good night of sex like waking up to find a big ol’ zit on your face. While sex provides many health benefits to the body, including increased blood flow and lower hormone levels, it also can trigger acne breakouts. Whether the pimples are due to ingrown hairs, shaving irritation, something your skin came into contact with or are the result of an STI like Human Papillomavirus (HPV), they can cause serious problems.

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There are several things you can do to help prevent sex bumps. Keep in mind, however, that abstaining from masturbation or sex won’t help — those blemishes would have appeared regardless of your sexual activity.

Using a moisturizer that is oil-free and noncomedogenic (noncomedogenic means it won’t clog pores) can help keep your complexion clear. You may also want to use a salicylic acid face wash that targets bacteria that can cause acne and prevent sebum buildup on the skin.

You can also avoid spreading molluscum contagiosum by not touching infected skin or sharing clothing, towels or toys. While the virus is more common in children, it can affect adults as well, particularly those with weakened immune systems. Molluscum contagiosum usually shows up on the stomach, arms or legs but can spread to the face if scratched or injured.

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