This Is What Really Makes You 'Glow' After Sex

Once that post-sex feeling washes over you, there's no need to reach for the blush. Sex can give you a natural flush and a feeling of deep satisfaction that's called, appropriately so, the afterglow (via Psychology Today).

What is afterglow? It's generally defined as a pleasant feeling that lingers after something is done, experienced, or achieved. More specifically, it's that lingering satisfaction following sexual activity, according to researcher Andrea Meltzer in the journal Psychological Science. After orgasm or a satisfactory sexual encounter, the brain releases potent hormones — dopamine and oxytocin in particular. These "feel good" chemicals make us feel closer to our partner and contribute to those feelings of deep gratification (via Refinery29).

Meltzer and her research team at Florida State University wanted to find out more about afterglow. In their 2017 study, they followed over 200 newlywed couples, asking each couple to keep a daily journal for two weeks, noting when they had sex and how satisfied they were with their sex life each day. The couples were also asked to note before the study started, and then again four and six months afterward, how satisfied they were with their relationship in general.

Afterglow may mean a stronger bond

Based on the couples' diaries, Andrea Meltzer found that after one sexual encounter, the couples reported a high level of sexual satisfaction — and that satisfaction, or afterglow, lasted 48 hours. Why 48? Meltzer believes it has to do with optimizing the chances of conception. For instance, sperm levels build back up to their peak one to three days following ejaculation, while other studies have shown that conception is more likely to occur two days after intercourse (via HuffPost). The conclusion, according to Meltzer, is that afterglow has to do with reproductive advantage. Indeed, it's been found that young married couples have sex every two to four days, which is in direct synchrony with how long afterglow lasts, according to Psychological Science.

What's more, the couples who said they still felt afterglow 48 hours after sex were more satisfied with their marriage overall than those who felt low afterglow — evidence, Meltzer believes, that afterglow leads to stronger pair-bonding.

Afterglow has more benefits beyond sex

Besides its connection with reproduction, afterglow has been shown to have benefits beyond the bedroom. No one wants to bring work home, but bringing your afterglow to work may yield some benefits. A study published in the Journal of Management revealed that when employed adults had sex the night before going to work, they felt better at work the next day, with increased job satisfaction as well as job engagement.

And what about your skin and that flush of satisfaction and pleasure that covers your face after sex? It has to do with a couple of things. First is the rush of blood that delivers extra oxygen to the skin. Dermatologist Melissa Piliang told Business Insider that oxygen boost gives skin an immediate glow. There's also the reduction of cortisol, what's known as the "stress hormone." High levels of cortisol can damage the collagen in skin, leading to wrinkles. Sex lowers cortisol and produces estrogen (in women), both of which help to keep skin supple and smooth. Extra points for an orgasm: Dermatologist Ted Lain told Business Insider that climaxing is the most beneficial for skin, as it leads to better circulation — and increased hydration. Oh yes!