Oh, yes. Osculation, the scientific term for kissing, in many ways says everything about your compatibility with your mate and the health of your relationship.
Curious to know what happens inside our brains and bodies when we do it? Wondering whether a kiss means more to you than to your guy, or whether you can make your make-out session even better? Read on.
Kissing Isn’t Just About Chemistry
While two strangers might serendipitously find themselves chemically compatible, more often the best kisses grow out of an emotional connection and ambience, Kirshenbaum says. “So much of a great kiss is understanding the needs and desires of another person — there’s no one-size-fits-all formula to it,” she says. How-to guides “focus on where to put your hand or how to set the mood, when so much of it is intuitive that you make the person comfortable, secure and safe. It’s an ultimate expression of how you feel about them.”
Even a Light Lip-Brushing is a Huge Turn-on for Our Brains
“It probably depends on who you ask — it’s culturally influenced,” Kirshenbaum says. The famous Indian sex text the Kama Sutra advises going for the lips, of course, as well as the inside of the mouth, the breasts, the throat and most places on the face. Science also provides some clues: It turns out that a disproportionate amount of brain space is taken up with processing information from the lips compared to the rest of our bodies. “Just a light brush on them stimulates a very large part of the brain — an area even more expansive than would be activated by sexual stimulation below the belt,” Kirshenbaum writes.
It’s an Essential Ingredient for a Long-Lasting Relationship
If you’re looking for longevity with your honey, make time for kissing. Regular lip-locks signify a healthy relationship and perpetuate affection and attachment, Kirshenbaum says. Oxytocin, the same hormone that makes us bond to a new love, also helps keep us attached. “Once the novelty wears off and romance wanes, it’s that commitment that keeps a couple together, it keeps that loving feeling alive,” Kirshenbaum says. “Kissing is such a good way of stimulating oxytocin and can really do the trick.” Among long-term couples, kissing drops off over time, she adds, so make a point of including it your day.
How We Smell Matters
On a superficial level, our schnoz tells us whether we’re dealing with Pig Pen or Old Spice Man. But it’s also looking for clues about whether we’re kissing a potential baby-making match — in the DNA department, opposites attract and our noses seem to discern genetic compatibility from a partner’s natural scent. “Hygiene is important for everyone because it’s the first indicator of whether this is worth pursuing or not,” Kirshenbaum says. “Beyond that, scent seems to be an unconscious way someone’s genetics and immunity are expressed.” If you are worried that you’re missing crucial info in your man’s haze of aftershave (or that you’re covering up your own with perfume), fear not, Kirshenbaum says: “If you spend enough time with someone, you’ll notice their natural scent over time.”
Want to Make Your Lips More Alluring? Wear Red
There may be something to women trying to make their lips look like Angelina Jolie’s. A woman’s lips begin to thin with age as her estrogen levels decline, so full lips could signal fertility, Kirshenbaum writes. But too much plump could backfire: “If they get too big or out of sync with the rest of your face, there’s a chance of having the opposite effect.” To avoid turning off the very people you want to attract, Kirshenbaum suggests playing up your natural assets with bright, red lipstick — the color is consistently rated the most alluring in research.
Kissing Can Be Addictive — at Least Initially
Ever kiss someone and can’t get enough? Chalk it up to dopamine. This feel-good brain chemical kicks into high gear during a kiss, making us elated and even obsessed with our partner. While that feeling is similar to addiction, dopamine is more abundant in the early stages of a relationship, and declines as the novelty of our partner wears off. But because dopamine is more plentiful when we’re with a new love, it may play a role in the addictive nature of adultery, Kirshenbaum says. “It can be part of the reason why some people stray: The novelty has such a big role in the feelings associated with [the affair],” she says.
Kissing While (Mildly) Intoxicated Can Up the Passion
To drink or not to drink? On the one hand, drugs and alcohol stimulate some of the same brain chemicals as a kiss, so you could mistake your substance-induced high for passionate feelings about your partner, Kirshenbaum says. But, that said, if you’re looking for something casual, kissing can be better after a drink or two (and alcohol can release your inhibitions, making a kiss more likely). “It can wind up feeling better or worse — it depends on how drugs affect your sense of reality,” Kirshenbaum says. “Kissing acts as a drug on top of everything else, so when there’s a lot riding on it, go with most accurate impression of what you feel,” which is probably more obvious when you’re sober.
Kissing Can Actually Help You Make Up
Forget chocolate and flowers — just plant one on her lips. Though a woman may profess to be unmoved by a kiss from the man she’s fighting with, research has found that a smooch (or a few) paves the path to forgiveness, Kirshenbaum writes. The effect may come from the oxytocin that’s released during kissing. Kissing may reduce levels of cortisol — the stress hormone — coursing through our bodies during a fight. “Reducing stress is a pretty good way to amend a fractured relationship,” Kirshenbaum says.
Kissing Never Gets Old — Even When We Do
While there hasn’t been much study of kissing and longevity, there’s reason to think that kissing is vital — and enjoyable — throughout our lives, Kirshenbaum says. “Kissing is so important to long-term bonds,” she says. ”It helps to maintain a relationship.” So she suspects kissing plays an important role from birth to death.