Acne is a common skin condition that affects people of all ages. It often appears during puberty when hormones cause the skin’s oil glands to produce excess sebum, which can clog pores and cause pimples. While acne is mostly attributed to hormonal changes, lifestyle factors like diet, hygiene, and genetics also play a role. One question that often comes up is whether kissing can lead to or worsen acne breakouts. There are a few factors to consider when examining the potential link between kissing and acne.
Does Saliva Cause Acne?
Saliva contains bacteria and when two people kiss, they swap saliva and all the microbes that come with it. This transfer of new bacteria to the facial skin could theoretically disrupt the balance of microorganisms and lead to acne. However, there is no definitive scientific evidence showing saliva alone can cause breakouts. While saliva contains bacteria, these microbes are already present on the skin. The quantities transferred during kissing are negligible compared to what is already inhabiting the skin microbiome. Unless someone is ill, their saliva is unlikely to contain acne-triggering microbes not already present on the skin.
Skin-to-Skin Contact and Spreading Bacteria
Facial skin-to-skin contact during kissing provides an opportunity for bacteria to spread from one face to another. If one person has acne, in theory, the bacteria on their skin could transfer to the kissing partner’s face and infect their pores. However, since most acne-causing bacteria are already present on normal skin, this spread is unlikely to make a difference. The P. acnes bacteria associated with acne is found on everyone’s skin, so transferring small amounts via kissing would not significantly alter amounts that are already present. The exception could be if one person has a more virulent or antibiotic-resistant strain of acne bacteria on their skin. But in most cases, the short duration of skin contact from a kiss is insufficient to spread enough acne bacteria to make a difference.
Does Kissing Spread Viruses that Cause Acne?
Certain viruses, like poliovirus and measles, have been shown to trigger acne breakouts. Theoretically, kissing could transmit acne-associated viruses from one person to another. However, most common viral infections like cold and flu are not known to cause or worsen acne. These types of transient viruses are more likely to be spread through kissing. Chronic virus infections like the poliovirus that can trigger acne are not spread through casual contact. Therefore, it’s unlikely kissing would transmit the types of viruses that could spur breakouts.
Can Friction from Kissing Irritate Acne?
The friction generated when skin rubs against skin can be problematic for existing acne. Kissing involves considerable facial friction, which could theoretically irritate existing breakouts. However, unless the kissing is quite vigorous, the brief contact is unlikely to be worse than facial movements or rubbing that occurs throughout the day. While irritation can make inflammatory acne like pimples and cysts more noticeable, it will not clog pores or create new blemishes. For those with severe acne, irritation should be minimized, but a peck on the lips or cheek poses minimal risk.
Do Lip Products and Makeup Cause Acne?
Transfer of lipstick, lip gloss, and lip balm between kissing partners may pose problems. Many of these products are oil-based and can clog pores and create new breakouts. Makeup shared between people can also clog pores and lead to acne. When kissing someone wearing foundation, concealer, face powder, or blush, the makeup can be deposited onto the skin and get trapped within pores. To avoid acne caused by cosmetics, limit transfer by kissing less vigorously or on areas with less makeup, like the forehead or neck.
Can Hormones from Kissing Cause Acne?
Intense kissing and intimate physical contact promotes the release of androgens like testosterone and DHEA. These hormones signal oil glands to ramp up production, which can lead to clogged pores and acne. The surge in hormones is transient, but the increase in oil production can be ongoing and result in new breakouts. Those already prone to hormonal acne may be more likely to experience flare-ups from amorous kissing due to the hormonal factor.
Tips to Prevent Acne from Kissing
– Use lip balm and lipstick that are non-comedogenic or oil-free
– Gently wash face after intimate contact
– Avoid vigorous cheek/facial friction during kissing
– Kiss areas with less makeup, like the forehead or neck
– Take acne medication as prescribed to control hormonal flare-ups
How Does Kissing Frequency Affect Acne?
Frequent kissing with multiple partners likely increases the risk of acne compared to infrequent kissing. The more often kissing occurs, the more potential there is for spreading bacteria, viruses, lip products, and hormones that contribute to clogged pores and pimples. Teenagers kissing new dates may be more prone to acne flare-ups than adults in long-term monogamous relationships due to the higher number of partners. However, some acne sufferers claim breaking out from kissing one partner, while others remain clear even with multiple kissing partners. Much depends on individual skin sensitivity and microbiome.
Acne Risk Based on Kissing Frequency
|Acne Risk Level
|Infrequent (once per week or less)
|Moderate (2-3 times per week)
|Extreme (multiple times daily)
Does Where You Kiss Matter for Acne?
The location where kissing occurs influences acne risk. Kissing on the lips, cheeks, and neck is more likely to cause acne breakouts compared to kissing on the forehead, back, or hands. Facial skin contains more oil glands and acne-prone regions than the rest of the body. Contact with saliva, cosmetics, and friction from kissing is more comedogenic on the face. However, some people may break out from kissing anywhere on the body if hormones are triggered. Keeping lip product transfer and friction limited to non-facial regions may reduce the likelihood of new acne.
Acne Risk by Kissing Location
|Acne Risk Level
Does Kissing Style Impact Acne?
Some types of kissing are more likely to cause acne breakouts than others. Dry closed-mouth kissing presents a lower risk as saliva exchange is minimal. French kissing with open mouths and tongue contact promotes greater exchange of bacteria. Deep passionate kissing and making out with friction against the facial skin poses a higher risk for irritation and pore clogging from cosmetics and oils. Gentle pecks on the lips or cheek are least likely to contribute to acne problems. While any type of lips-to-skin contact raises the potential for breakouts, wet and vigorous French kissing is most problematic.
Acne Risk Based on Kissing Style
|Type of Kiss
|Acne Risk Level
|Short closed-mouth kiss
|Prolonged French kissing
|Vigorous French kissing with face/neck contact
Does the Type of Relationship Impact Acne from Kissing?
The potential for kissing to promote acne breakouts may vary based on the type of romantic relationship. Teenagers kissing new dates frequently are at higher risk since they are exposed to more partners and greater bacterial variety. Adults in long-term monogamous relationships have lower risk from repeated kissing with the same partner. However, acne sufferers in any relationship where kiss frequency suddenly increases could experience problems from spikes in hormones and contact. Individuals with multiple kissing partners outside a relationship are most prone to acne from greater microbial and lip product exposure. Overall, level of promiscuity and frequent new partners correlates with higher acne risk from kissing.
Acne Risk Based on Relationship Type
|Type of Relationship
|Acne Risk Level
|No current relationship
|Monogamous long-term relationship
|Newly dating multiple partners
|Multiple partners outside relationship
Does Gender and Age Influence Acne Risk from Kissing?
Hormonal differences between genders and ages may impact the likelihood of breaking out from kissing. Teenage boys with high testosterone levels may be more prone to acne from amorous kissing than young girls. However, girls going through puberty also have hormonal surges that can trigger breakouts. Oral contraceptives in older females help stabilize hormones and reduce acne risk from occasional kissing. Post-menopausal women with declining androgens also develop fewer kissing-related breakouts. While mature adults face lower risk than sexually mature teenagers, individual propensity for hormonal acne flare-ups plays a key role.
Acne Risk by Age and Gender
|Acne Risk Level
|Young adult females
|Mature adult females
While kissing does not necessarily cause acne breakouts, certain circumstances can increase the risk of developing pimples and blemishes. Exchanging saliva and skin bacteria through mouth-to-mouth contact introduces new microbes that may aggravate acne in those prone to it. Friction and pressure on the facial skin from vigorous kissing and touching can also irritate existing acne. Transfer of lipstick, gloss, and balm between partners may clog pores. Finally, hormonal shifts stimulated by passionate kissing can trigger increased oil production and breakouts.
Minimizing prolonged open-mouth kissing, avoiding sharing makeup, and gentleness with existing pimples can help reduce acne problems aggravated by kissing. However, those already struggling with persistent acne may need medication and dermatological treatment to manage flare-ups related to romantic encounters. Being aware of individual risk factors and triggers can allow those prone to acne some leeway for kissing and intimacy without worsening breakouts. While acne may be worsened by certain kissing behaviors, there are also many for whom kissing has no impact on their blemishes.