Does masturbation actually cause acne? Here's the truth

Does masturbation cause acne or is the idea completely bogus? Let’s find out.

Written by
Gemma Kaczerepa
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
May 15, 2024
min read
Does masturbation actually cause acne? Here's the truth
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Whether you’re doing it solo or with a partner, masturbation is a natural, healthy and perfectly safe way to have fun.

It seems plenty of other people agree: in the US, 74 per cent of males and 48 per cent of females aged 14 to 17 masturbate, as do 63 per cent of males and 32 per cent of females aged between 57 and 64.

But, there are a lot of, well, interesting ideas surrounding the side effects of self-pleasure — from causing hair loss and blindness to making your penis shrink. One of the most commonly spread claims is that masturbation can lead to acne breakouts.

Is there any truth to this? Does masturbation cause acne or is the idea completely bogus? Let’s find out.

Fact or fiction: Does masturbation cause acne?

Concerned that your self-pleasure sessions are causing your skin to behave badly? There’s no need to give up your one-on-one time: masturbation pimples definitely aren’t a thing.

So, if the idea is totally fictitious, where does it come from? It’s likely that the myth around pimples and masturbation comes from puberty.

You see, during puberty, there are huge hormonal changes going on. These hormonal fluctuations make your body secrete more oil. When your body produces excess oil, it can accumulate alongside bacteria and dead skin cells and block your pores, thus causing acne.

At the same time, puberty is a period when many start experimenting with masturbation. This is due to the fact that puberty causes sex hormones to begin rising. Because acne and masturbation both start during puberty, it’s led some people to believe the two are linked. The reality is that they’re not.

It’s worth mentioning that masturbation does have a minor impact on hormone levels — specifically, testosterone levels — but this hormonal imbalance is temporary and levels return to normal after ejaculation. It’s certainly not enough to trigger an acne outbreak.

Other things that don't play a role in the development of acne include poor hygiene, unclean skin and eating junk food. (In saying that, a balanced diet can do wonders for your overall skin health!)

And even though puberty is typically when acne is at its worst, pimples can crop up at any age, even among young adults and older people. This is often a result of genetics, taking particular medications or even smoking.

The good news is that if this happens, Pilot offers easy to access and effective treatments for acne that you can access right now. All you have to do is complete the online assessment and from here, our Australian practitioners will create a personalised acne clearing formula specifically for you.

Are there any skin benefits of masturbation?

We know now that masturbation doesn’t cause acne. So is there any correlation between self-pleasure and skin health? As it turns out, there is — but it’s a much more positive one. In fact, masturbation may just be an excellent way to give your skin a healthy glow.

In 2009, researchers from the University of Michigan conducted a study looking at the link between orgasming and hormone levels. Through the study, they found that orgasming caused estrogen levels to increase, which has a powerful flow-on effect on your skin.

This is because estrogen slows collagen decline. Collagen is one of the building blocks of good skin, improving strength, elasticity and hydration, and helping to prevent wrinkles from forming.

Not only that but orgasming increases blood flow around your body — whether it's through sexual activity or a masturbation-induced orgasm. This delivers a nice dose of oxygen to your skin, which aids in collagen production and gives you that awesome post-coital (or post-masturbation) glow.

And if you need a few more reasons to masturbate, it can also relieve stress, improve sleep quality and boost self-esteem.

Common side effects of excessive masturbation

Generally speaking, masturbation is a fun, healthy and safe activity that anyone can enjoy. But even though acne isn’t one of the side effects of masturbation, there are a few potential implications to take note of.

Masturbation addiction

For some, masturbation can become an addiction.

Some of the tell-tale signs of masturbation addiction include skipping work, school or events; avoiding social situations; shirking day-to-day responsibilities; using masturbation as an escape; or suffering from relationship issues.

Fortunately, masturbation addiction can be overcome with the help of a medical expert like a doctor or sex therapist.

They can support by suggesting strategies to manage obsessive masturbation and assist in returning to a healthy amount of self-pleasure.

Guilt around masturbating

Some men feel guilt or shame when they masturbate. This is usually due to personal, religious, cultural or spiritual beliefs and can make one feel ashamed when engaging in the act.

Delayed ejaculation

Delayed ejaculation — that is, when it takes a long time for a man to orgasm and ejaculate, or he doesn’t ejaculate at all — is a possible side effect of excessive masturbation.

This is because a man’s masturbation techniques may be very different from penetrative sex, thus making it harder for him to orgasm when he’s doing the deed with a partner.

For example, when he’s masturbating, he may rub himself a lot faster or more aggressively than a partner is capable of.

Tender skin

Very persistent or vigorous masturbation can cause the skin around the penis to become a little tender. It can also result in chafing or swelling.

However, these side effects generally aren’t serious and tend to clear up on their own within a few days.

Treat breakouts without stopping your self-pleasure sessions

If you’re suffering from acne, there’s absolutely no need to stop masturbating. Instead, you can try one of these treatments to keep pimples at bay.

Skincare products

There’s a huge array of products available that are designed to get rid of pimples and oily skin. These are usually best for mild or moderate acne, and when used regularly, they can be quite effective.

A gentle cleanser or facial soap is perfect for removing build-up on your skin that can cause clogged pores. Use a cleanser twice daily — once in the morning and once at night — and after exercising to remove sweat, which can aggravate acne.

Another product worth investing in is toner, which can reduce the appearance of pores and keep your skin moisturised.

A gentle chemical exfoliant that includes acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid or glycolic acid can also help to combat pimples and get rid of dead skin.

Lastly, finish off your skincare regimen with an oil-free moisturiser. Sometimes, anti-acne products can lead to redness, dry skin, scaling and mild stinging. A moisturiser will help defend against these side effects.

Aside from salicylic acid and glycolic acid, other ingredients to look for in an over-the-counter pimple treatment include benzoyl peroxide, lactic acid, vitamin C, sulfur, azelaic acid and tea tree oil.

Be sure to also opt for products that are marked ‘non-comedogenic’ — this means that the product has been formulated to not block your pores.

If you haven’t seen an improvement after using over-the-counter treatments for three or so months, or your acne is affecting your self-esteem, you may want to pay a doctor or dermatologist a visit to discuss your options.

Clinical treatments

If your acne is more severe, you could try a clinical treatment plan.

With Pilot's personalised acne treatment, you can tackle acne without even needing to leave your home. After completing an online assessment, our Australian practitioners will determine the best course of action to treat the breakouts.

From here, a personalised formula will be created for you and delivered to your door. It's that easy. The formula will often include ingredients that help stimulate cell turnover, causing skin cells to be moved on quicker and discouraging dead skin cells from blocking your pores.

Skin therapies

There are several different therapies employed by doctors and dermatologists that can aid in fighting acne, such as light therapy, chemical peel, drainage and extraction.

These treatments usually need to be performed repeatedly before noticeable results. Steroid injections are also used to address nodules and cysts.

Lifestyle tweaks

On top of treating pimples directly, you might want to make a few lifestyle changes to further prevent breakouts. These include:

  • Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated is good for your health and helps expel toxins from your body that may lead to breakouts.
  • Try to stress less. Stress can actually make acne worse. This is because it raises cortisol levels in your body, which can cause your sebaceous glands to become overactive. (These are responsible for producing sebum, an oily substance in your skin that can lead to pimples.) So, make sure to engage in activities that reduce stress — such as meditation, exercise or spending time with friends and family — and establish a good sleep routine so you can get enough shut-eye.
  • Use sunscreen daily. Make sure it’s oil-free and non-comedogenic so it won't clog pores, and opt for a formula that is at least SPF30. This one is especially important if you’re following a clinical acne treatment plan, as some of the ingredients can make your skin a little sensitive and more susceptible to sun damage.
  • Trying not to pick. Picking, squeezing and touching acne can make it worse and may also cause acne scars or infection
  • Give up the smokes. There’s a direct correlation between smoking and acne, with research showing that smokers are much more prone to post-adolescent acne. Aside from all the other health benefits of quitting, it may also do a lot to give you clearer skin.

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

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