Is it worth doing your nighttime skincare routine before sex?



Asking the important questions.

Skincare can be expensive. We’re all familiar with the involuntary cringe when we hand over our card, and a good chunk of our paycheck along with it, for precious products. For me, what I spend on skincare is worth it, but I like to make sure I’m getting my money’s worth. 

I apply my skincare just after my post-dinner shower, so I can marinate in my serums before bed. Five hours of Sex and The City and a good night’s sleep later, I expect to wake up with my skin looking as fresh as ever. But there is an activity that can jeopardise all the time and hard-earned money spent in pursuit of glowing skin: sex.

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Sex is often a surprise, and in the heat of the moment, your skincare routine is likely the last thing on your mind. Visions of mascara streaming down cheeks and smudged lipstick spring to mind.

But if we can schedule our skincare routine for before or after sex, which is best? I asked Dr Shyamalar Gunatheesan, a leading Australian dermatologist and founder of Ode Dermatology, everything we need to consider when it comes to sex and skincare before making the final verdict.

Can having sex post-skincare destroy all the hard work I just put in?

Well, it depends on how long you wait. If you have sex too soon after applying your products, “you are wiping off skincare,” Dr Gunatheesan says. This is not good news for your skin or your wallet, as no one wants to be wasting those expensive nighttime products.

Not only that, but the friction caused by sex can be damaging if products such as lactic acid or retinol are staples in your routine. “Too much rubbing can certainly aggravate the skin,” warns Dr Gunatheesan.

If your sex session is preplanned (lucky you) and you want to wash the day off before the action begins, try a bland moisturiser instead of these stronger products to avoid inflammation.

If I’m firmly team skincare before sex, how long should I wait to have sex after applying products?

If you allow about an hour for your skincare to sink in before having sex, you should be fine. Try to apply your skincare at around 7.30pm to 8pm for maximum penetration into the skin.

“Everything should be quite well-absorbed, then when have you sex there should be no issue with the actual product rubbing off,” says Dr Gunatheesan. “The serums and moisturisers should have had enough time to permeate through the different levels.”

Oops, I didn’t wait long enough. Should I reapply my skincare?

Having sex is a messy business. “You’ve got sweat, saliva, bristles, so the skin is slightly traumatised,” Dr Gunatheesan says. Yikes. To calm the skin down after all the action, she recommends using a gentle cleanser and smaller quantities of products to redo your skincare routine.

If I save the skincare for after sex but have makeup on during the act, is this damaging for my skin?

This isn’t a major issue, and everyone has their own personal preferences. Wearing makeup while having sex can be a major confidence booster for some women and it doesn’t damage the skin too much.

But “having all that makeup rub everywhere on expensive pillowcases is not ideal,” says Dr Gunatheesan. For me, the dreaded mascara smudge on my silk pillowcase is the stuff of nightmares.  

What’s the final verdict: before or after?

In a perfect world, where we actually stick to sex and skincare schedules, after is best. The major reason is that, in the words of Dr Gunatheesan, “you can have a proper frolic without worrying,” and who can say no to that?

While the focus is on your own pleasure, saving the skincare for later can be beneficial for your bedfellow, too. Skincare “is a bit sticky for your partner… it can be a bit salty [and] it’s not the true taste of your skin,” says Dr Gunatheesan.

Thankfully, working up a sweat during sex can actually make your skin more supple and hydrated. “You have better penetration,” Dr Gunatheesan explains (for the products, obviously, get your mind out of the gutter). “Your face is flushed, so you’ll want to calm it down a bit, but it’s primed for better absorption,” she continues.

There you have it: skincare is more effective and lasting after a good old romp in the hay. If you’re still not converted to post-sex skincare, try to hold off for an hour after application so that your products are not wasted. But if sex takes you by surprise, as it often does, don’t despair.

Gently wash your face and reapply smaller amounts of the products that got wiped off, so you don’t waste your precious nighttime serums. Plus, your skin will thank you for the added benefit of that post-O glow.

To find a nighttime skincare routine for your skin type and budget, head here

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