Has the kissing waned in your relationship? Are you more the “air kiss” than “actual kiss” type when greeting your friends and loved ones? Do you cringe when you see your aunt coming in for a big kiss at family functions? It may be time to pucker up because kissing has its special benefits.
Turns out that kissing — even non-romantic kisses with family and friends — has loads of mental and physical benefits that make getting your smooch on totally worth it. Here’s what the science says:
1It boosts your ‘happy hormones.’
Kissing triggers your brain to release a cocktail of chemicals that leave you feeling oh, so good by igniting the brain’s pleasure centers.
2It helps you bond with the other person.
Oxytocin is a chemical linked to pair bonding. The rush of oxytocin released when you kiss causes feelings of affection and attachment. Kissing your partner can improve relationship satisfaction and may be especially important in long-term relationships.
3It has a tangible impact on your self-esteem.
In addition to boosting your happy hormones kissing can reduce your cortisol levels — potentially improving your feelings of self-worth.
Researchers in one 2016 study found that participants who were unhappy with their physical appearance had higher cortisol levels.
Although more research is needed, experiencing a temporary drop in cortisol each time you kiss isn’t a bad way to pass the time.
4It also relieves stress.
Speaking of cortisol, kissing also lowers cortisol levels and stress. Kissing and other affectionate communication, like hugging and saying “I love you,” impacts the physiological processes related to stress management.
5It reduces anxiety.
Stress management includes how well you handle stress and anxiety. There’s nothing quite like a kiss and some affection to help calm you. Oxytocin decreases anxiety and increases relaxation and wellness.
6It dilates your blood vessels, which helps reduce your blood pressure.
Kissing increases your heart rate in a way that dilates your blood vessels, according to Andrea Demirjian, author of the book, “Kissing: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About One of Life’s Sweetest Pleasures.”
When your blood vessels dilate your blood flow increases and causes an immediate decrease in your blood pressure. So this means that kissing is good for the heart, literally and metaphorically!
7It can also help relieve cramps.
The effect of dilated blood vessels and increased blood flow can help relieve cramps. A boost in feel-good chemicals and relief from period cramps? Getting your smooch on when you’re in the throes of a bad period might just be worth it.
8It soothes headaches.
Kiss the, “Not tonight, dear. I have a headache” excuse goodbye. That dilation of blood vessels and lowered blood pressure can also relieve headaches. Kissing may also help you prevent headaches by lowering stress, which is a known headache trigger.
9It can boost your immune system.
Swapping spit can boost your immunity by exposing you to new germs that strengthen your immune system. One 2014 study found that couples that kiss frequently share the same microbiota in their saliva and on their tongues.
10It reduces allergic response.
Kissing has been shown to provide significant relief from hives and other signs of allergic reaction associated with pollen and household dust mites. Stress also worsens allergic reactions, so kissing’s effect on stress may also reduce allergic response that way.
11It’s tied to improvements in total cholesterol.
One 2009 study found that couples who increased the frequency of romantic kissing experienced improvement in their total serum cholesterol. Keeping your cholesterol in check lowers your risk of several diseases, including heart disease and stroke.
12It even helps prevent cavities by increasing saliva production.
Kissing stimulates your salivary glands, which increases saliva production. Saliva lubricates your mouth, aids in swallowing, and helps keep food debris from sticking to your teeth, which can help prevent tooth decay and cavities.
13It’s a solid barometer for physical compatibility with a romantic partner.
Turns out the 1964 classic “The Shoop Shoop Song” was right — it’s in his kiss! One 2013 study found that kissing may help you assess the suitability of a potential partner. According to women surveyed, a first kiss can basically make it or break it when it comes to her attraction.
14And kissing a romantic partner boosts your sex drive.
Romantic kissing leads to sexual arousal and is often the driving force behind a woman’s decision to have sex with someone. Saliva also contains testosterone — a sex hormone that plays a role in sexual arousal. The longer and more passionately you kiss, the more testosterone gets released.
15The more you kiss, the more you tighten and tone your facial muscles.
The act of kissing can involve anywhere from two to 34 facial muscles. Kissing often and using these muscles on the regular acts as a workout for your face — and your neck if you’re really into it!
This may help firm up your facial muscles. Working out your facial muscles can also increase collagen production, which contributes to firmer, younger-looking skin.