Does Masturbation Cause Acne?

You've heard some of your classmates say that masturbation causes acne. Some people also say that having sex can cause acne breakouts. The truth is that masturbation does not cause acne. File the "masturbation causes acne" under acne myths. There is no connection between breakouts and any type of sexual activity.

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An Acne Myth

Years ago, the older generation would use this idea to encourage young people to abstain from any sort of sexual activity. It was a scare tactic, but one that people most likely believed. Today, though, no studies have shown any sort of link between sexual activity and acne.

This tall tale probably came into being because acne first appears during puberty. This is also the same time of life when sexual feelings arise and people start to explore their sexuality. Although the two may emerge at coinciding times, one is not caused by the other. 

And it's merely coincidence if you've seen your acne get worse after you masturbate or have sex. Acne tends to get better and worse all on its own. 

So, the fact that you've had sex and then woke up to a big breakout of several new pimples is just coincidental. Those blemishes would have appeared regardless. Refraining from masturbating or having sex won't make your acne go away.  

What Really Causes Acne?

Acne is caused by other factors—hormones, abnormal shedding of skin cells, and bacteria. Acne develops from the hormonal changes that occur in the body during puberty. Most teens have at least the occasional breakout; even some adults suffer from acne.

Hormones aren't the only culprit, though. Those prone to acne also shed skin cells abnormally. Instead of the dead cells sloughing away, they become trapped within the pore, creating a blockage. Add in some acne-causing bacteria (called Propionibacterium acnes) and you have an inflamed acne pimple.

None of these factors are influenced by masturbation or sexual activity. If you're the one with acne, it's embarrassing if people suggest this is the cause of your acne. But remember, you didn't do anything to cause your acne. Don't allow people to make you feel ashamed.

And, if you're the one who thought masturbation caused breakouts, now you know better.

Acne Treatment

Now that you know what causes acne, focus on how to treat it. There are many treatment options available to you.

  • Over-the-counter solutions: Some people find over-the-counter (OTC) products effective against their breakouts. If your acne is mild, you'll probably get improvement with these store-bought products. Get one with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, which are the most effective OTC acne ingredients.
  • See a dermatologist or healthcare provider: If over-the-counter products don't work well for you, or if your acne is more severe, your healthcare provider can offer you more powerful prescription medications. Don't wait to call. The sooner you see a healthcare provider, the sooner you will start seeing results and clearer skin.
5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ayer J. Acne: more than skin deep. Postgraduate Medical Journal. 2006;82(970):500-506. doi:10.1136/pgmj.2006.045377

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Acne.

  3. Fox L, Csongradi C, Aucamp M, du Plessis J, Gerber M. Treatment modalities for acne. Molecules. 2016;21(8):1063-. doi:10.3390/molecules21081063

  4. Decker A, Graber EM. Over-the-counter acne treatments: a review. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. 2012;5(5):32-40. 

  5. Rathi, S. Acne vulgaris treatment: the current scenario. Indian J Dermatol. 2011;56(1):7-. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.77543

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.