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Does Masturbation Cause Acne?

Written by
Dr. R. Y. Langham

November 6, 2023

Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Dianne Steven

It is common and even normal to question the short-term and long-term effects of masturbation. A common myth is that masturbating can cause you to have acne. While it is common to masturbate and experience acne during adolescence and even into adulthood, researchers have been unable to identify a direct link between these two situations. 

The truth is there are a variety of myths, misunderstandings, and misconceptions when it comes to masturbation primarily due to a lack of studies on this topic. While many believe that masturbating is inherently “evil,” “wrong,” or “bad,” that is rarely the case. 

This ideology is a common tactic used to deter individuals, especially teens, from engaging in self-pleasure or self-stimulation. This tactic is typically used by people who feel uncomfortable with the idea and act of masturbating. While equating masturbating to something “immoral” is the most common tactic, other tactics have been used to instill shame and guilt into the people who engage in this adult pastime. 

For instance, masturbation has been linked to blindness, hairy palms, decreased height, weight loss, kidney issues, tiredness, hair loss, memory loss, changes in the taste of food, homosexuality, and even insanity – all of which have no scientific merit.

If you want to know if masturbating can affect hormones, leading to acne, keep reading because, in this article, you will learn what acne is, how it is caused, its relationship to masturbation, and how it can be treated.

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What is Masturbation?

Masturbation is commonly described as a form of “self-pleasure” or “self-stimulation.” It typically involves using fingers or hands, tongues, and other sexual devices or tools to elicit sexual arousal and achieve sexual satisfaction. For many, masturbation is a healthy form of self-exploration – i.e., identifying what a person likes sexually and does not like sexually, and gaining a better understanding of how one’s body “works.” 

In some cases, masturbation can boost self-esteem, and create feelings of empowerment in the individual. It can also help relieve sexual and non-sexual tension. Some masturbators even tout this activity’s ability to spark creativity and help them stay on task or re-focus on the task at hand.

It is common for individuals of all ages (even young children) to “touch themselves.” While young children explore their bodies through touch, it is not sexual in nature. This is solely self-exploration or learning about one’s body. Adolescents and adults, on the other hand, also touch themselves to explore their bodies, but there is often an added component – sexual arousal and sexual satisfaction. This is masturbation. 

Masturbation can become a problem when it starts to negatively affect one’s mental health and well-being. Masturbation is often combined with porn, commonly referred to as porn-induced masturbation. This can also be normal and healthy as long as it does not become excessive or harmful – i.e., child exploitation or sex trafficking. However, watching porn and masturbating can be a slippery slope. More specifically, it can be easy to fall victim to porn addiction when it is linked to masturbation. 

When this occurs it can be hard to separate “fantasy” from reality leading to both emotional, mental, or physical problems and relationship problems. Porn addiction can lower one’s self-confidence, and trigger sexual performance anxiety, shame and guilt, porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED), high blood pressure, headaches, gastrointestinal distress, avoidance, reassurance, secrecy, and feelings of betrayal on the part of one’s partner. This is only a partial list when it comes to some of the problems excessively or chronically masturbating to porn can cause. 

The common culprit in all of these cases is stress and anxiety stemming from one’s own view and society’s view of porn and masturbation (i.e., cultural views and religious views). Thus, for most masturbators, it is all about moderation aka “not spending all of your free time masturbating to porn” and “not neglecting your responsibilities to masturbate.”

What Are Some Possible Causes of Acne?

Acne is a type of skin condition that involves whiteheads, pimples, or blackheads. Acne develops when your skin pores (found under your skin and that produce sebum or an oily substance) become clogged with oil, dead skin, and other debris. When this occurs, bacteria develop within the pores, leading to inflammation and acne (i.e., whiteheads, blackheads, or pimples).

Although acne can develop on any part of your body, it is most commonly found on your:  

  • Face
  • Shoulders
  • Neck
  • Back
  • Chest
  • Arms
  • On or Around Your Genitals

Acne does not discriminate so you can get acne at any age, even babies. However, it is most common during puberty when hormone levels are fluctuating.

Listed below are some possible triggers for acne:

  • Hormonal Fluctuations
  • Medication Side-Effects
  • Cosmetics (Wearing It Too Long)
  • Genetics

Note: While poor hygiene does not directly cause acne, it can cause oil, dead skin, and debris to accumulate in the skin, indirectly leading to acne. It can also worsen acne in people who already suffer from it.

Is There a Relationship Between Masturbation and Hormones?

No, not really. 

While masturbation and hormone fluctuations typically occur around the same time (i.e., puberty), masturbation is not directly linked to hormone changes. It is true that testosterone levels rise during masturbation, this rise in testosterone is minimal at most. In other words, it is not enough to make a difference in one’s body. 

Any increase in testosterone attained during masturbation returns to “normal” upon ejaculation. Thus, this minimal increase in hormones is not sustained long enough to cause changes, like acne development, in the body.

According to researchers, hormonal changes attained during masturbation are minimal and fleeting, thus, unable to affect the body in any significant manner. Keep in mind, however, that this study was designed to assess the short-term effects of hormones on masturbation. There have been little-to-no studies on the long-term effects of hormones on masturbation to date.

Can Masturbation Cause Acne?

Can masturbation cause acne? No.

Masturbating does not cause acne. Masturbation side-effects typically have a mental or emotional or physical (not health-related) component to them, such as low self-confidence, stress-related aches and pains, gastrointestinal distress, relationship problems, financial or work-related issues, feelings of shame and guilt from their porn use and/or masturbation practices, etc., rather than health-related ones, such as hairy palms, blindness, acne, height reductions, etc. 

During certain times of your life, your body changes, for instance during puberty and adolescence. During these times, it is common for your hormones to fluctuate. These hormonal changes can cause your body to produce more oil, which can cause your pores to clog. The result? Acne. 

It is also common for people to start masturbating during puberty and adolescence, however, masturbating has little, if any effect, on your body processes, which means that masturbation is highly unlikely to cause acne. It makes sense to believe that masturbation causes acne because they typically occur around the same time – during puberty and adolescence. But, there is no direct link between them – it is all coincidence.

Masturbation and acne are both influenced by hormones – just not by each other. 

What Does The Research Say?

Truthfully, there are no published studies on if and how masturbation causes acne. What is known is that both acne and masturbation are influenced by hormones, but there is no evidence that these two conditions are linked together. In fact, according to a 2020 study, there was no correlation between masturbation and health-related variables like acne – even when perceived by the individual as having an impact on their health. Researchers also found that masturbation was a negative predictor of weight loss.

What Do People Believe When It Comes to Masturbation and Acne?

There are various viewpoints from masturbators who have acne. Some people believe that masturbating directly causes acne, while others believe it does not cause it or only indirectly causes it. Either way, it is interesting to read the viewpoints of people who are currently grappling with or who have grappled with it in the past.

  • “I started getting bad acne around 4 years ago. Before that time, I used to only get mild acne that would eventually go away without leaving scars. But 4 years ago, my family immigrated to America, and I started to study for the citizen’s exam which meant I was home most of the day.

    Before this time, I masturbated, on average, once a day, but afterward, I started to do it more and more. Eventually, I started masturbating, on average, about 3x a day. Then, I started developing acne a lot, which left me with marks and scars.

    I thought the acne would eventually go away, so I decided to wait for a bit, but it escalated very quickly, and I ended up with pretty bad scars and marks on my face. I tried benzoyl peroxide and topical vitamin A from a clinic. Both of them made a bit of improvement on my acne, but not nearly good enough. I also tried a small dose of Accutane for 2.5 months.

    It helped a lot but I decided to drop it because of the side effects. After all that I thought I would try quitting masturbating. Surprisingly, it worked so well. I used to get acne almost every day, but once I stopped masturbating, I didn’t get a single pimple for 30ish days. But once I started masturbating again, I started to get acne in a few days. Pretty serious acne.

    I know most of you guys don’t suffer from this and I know there is no scientific evidence. I’m probably more addicted to masturbating than most of you here. It took me around 2 years to be able to restrain myself from masturbating for a considerable amount of time.

    I want to masturbate more than anyone and I would like to say masturbation has no effect on acne whatsoever but it’s like that for me. I would look for another solution but not masturbating is helping me in many ways so I plan to keep doing it.”

  • “Whenever I don’t masturbate for a long time. WHATEVER I do I don’t get acne. It “seems like” if you don’t masturbate, somehow your body fights off acne or something. If I masturbate, I get acne and also little bumps on my face. And overall makes my face look bad.”
  • “I personally believe that masturbation causes acne, but not the act itself. I believe that hormonal changes that occur after you ejaculate cause acne. More testosterone is created, so my advice is to find a pace that is not too often like once a week, every Wednesday so that way your hormones don’t get out of balance.

    Also, when you masturbate, make sure you are not holding your breath. Try to breathe normally, and do it in an open place. In other words, do it on top of your bed, not under your bed sheets. Doing undercover will just make you sweat more, which will clog up your pores and cause acne.”

  • “I just don’t see how masturbation and acne could be related. It makes no sense.”

How Can Acne Be Prevented?

While preventing acne be tricky, there are some things you can do to lower your risk of acne flare-ups, such as:

  • Limiting baths or showers to no more than twice a day
  • Removing any sweat from your face and body, especially in acne-prone levels
  • Refraining from scrubbing acne-prone areas of your skin
  • Selecting cosmetics that do not clog your pores
  • Refraining from touching or picking at your acne (as much as possible)
  • Ensuring that your bedding and clothes are clean
  • Covering all acne-prone areas, not just the places where acne subsides

How is Acne Treated?

There are many different ways to treat acne, depending on the cause of it. For instance, if acne has a physical cause, such as oil accumulation (clogged pores), certain foods, such as chocolate or soda, genetics, medication side-effects, such as antidepressants, or stress from masturbating and/or watching porn and masturbating. 

While masturbating does not cause acne, feelings of low self-esteem, shame or guilt, anxiety, depression, etc. can cause stress, especially when porn or when religious beliefs (i.e., Bible teachings) are involved that can indirectly cause acne.

Selecting the right acne treatment is paramount to healing your skin condition. Gels, creams, and lotions are available over-the-counter that can help treat your acne. If these products do not work, your doctor may prescribe prescription (stronger) versions of them for your acne. It is important that these treatments contain benzoyl peroxide and/or salicylic acid. 

Most doctors recommend that people with acne try a variety of products to determine which one(s) work best. Remember, that acne can have different causes that require different treatment approaches. Try one or two products, and if there is no improvement by the 6th week, contact your doctor for guidance. 

In some cases, acne is caused by a bacterial infection. In this case, your doctor will likely prescribe a cream or pill antibiotic. The goal of the antibiotic is to help your body fight off the inflammation-producing bacteria causing acne. An antibiotic may be added to OTC benzoyl peroxide cream. The most common antibiotics used to treat acne are clindamycin and erythromycin.

Isotretinoin capsules may be prescribed if your doctor determines that you are suffering from cystic acne (nodular acne). This medicine is usually prescribed for serious cases of acne. Isotretinoin side effects may include dry skin, dry eyes, dry skin, skin rashes, anxiety, severe abdominal pain, difficulty urinating, constipation, jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes, bloody diarrhea, depression, headaches, or sore throat.

When acne has a stress-related component, the key to clearing the acne may stem from treating the underlying condition. For instance, to heal the acne, you may need to receive counseling. This is especially true if your masturbation practices involve excessive or chronic porn use and are causing you to experience high levels of stress, angst or anxiety, depression, shame and guilt, etc. If chronic masturbation or porn addiction is causing your stress-induced acne, then the goal is to treat the addiction. 

There are a number of masturbation and porn treatments available that can reduce your stress and thereby, aid in the healing of your acne. The first line of treatment for masturbation and porn addiction is psychotherapy, specifically, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) which is designed to alter the way you view masturbating and porn so they lose their power over your life. Other psychotherapies may be added to your treatment plan depending on your triggers and what is causing your stress. 

If therapy alone is ineffective or unsafe, and if you are experiencing anxiety or depression, you may be prescribed medications like antidepressants, namely SSRIs. These antidepressants are designed to restore your serotonin levels (your “happy hormones”) and reduce your oxidative stress (bodily stress) with the hope that lower levels of stress will reduce or clear up your acne. 

Self-help tools may also be included in your treatment plan, such as mindfulness meditation, NoFapping, NoFap Reddit support, installing porn blockers on your devices, setting time limits for masturbating and/or watching porn, sharing your masturbation/porn issues with your partner, adopting a healthier diet, getting more sleep, and becoming more active (i.e., exercising), semen retention, and Stop Together, an online porn addiction recovery treatment program, can help reduce or stop masturbating or masturbating to porn, thereby, reducing the stress causing your acne.

References

  • Zimmer, F., & Imhoff, R. (2020). Abstinence from masturbation and hypersexuality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49(4), 1333-1343. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01623-8
  • Exton, M. S., Krüger, T. H., Bursch, N., Haake, P., Knapp, W., Schedlowski, M., & Hartmann, U. (2001). Endocrine response to masturbation-induced orgasm in healthy men following a 3-week sexual abstinence. World Journal of Urology, 19(5), 377–382. https://doi.org/10.1007/s003450100222
  • Dall’Oglio, F., Nasca, M. R., Fiorentini, F., & Micali, G. (2021). Diet and acne: Review of the evidence from 2009 to 2020. International Journal of Dermatology, 60(6), 672–685. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijd.15390
  • Ayer, J., & Burrows, N. (2006). Acne: More than skin deep. Postgraduate Medical Journal, 82(970), 500-506. https://doi.org/10.1136/pgmj.2006.045377

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