Do You Need to Wash Up After Having Sex?

You probably should — but you can make time for cuddles first.

Man washing face in sun-lit bathroom.

Do You Need to Wash Up After Having Sex?

Sex has the potential to be astonishingly dirty, and while I mean that figuratively, I also mean that quite literally. Look, fervently bumping bodies involves producing and swapping a hodgepodge of bodily fluids that inevitably linger around your nethers until the next shower. Which, for many, has inspired the question, should we wash up immediately after having sex?

It’s a question that has motivated many a Reddit thread, with some online preachers emphasizing the importance of urgent post-coital washing and others possessing a more nonchalant attitude toward being covered in sensual juices, claiming they wait until the next morning before even considering a shower.

The right move, meanwhile, is somewhere in between these approaches, according to dermatologist Anthony Rossi. For starters, as he previously explained to us in regards to washing after a workout, “You want to hop in the shower or, at the very least, wash your face immediately after a workout or any heavy bout of perspiration, or else you’ll be looking at a pretty nasty breakout.” While sex is admittedly less exercise than everyone wants to believe, most people find themselves at least somewhat sweaty after some action, so washing that perspiration away should help inhibit the development of odor and pimples.

Moving on to the more erotic sauces, despite some pervasive rumors claiming semen can alleviate acne and wrinkles, the truth is, allowing man juice to settle onto your skin is an open invitation to irritation. As Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in the Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, told Allure magazine, “The fluid contains a combination of sperm, enzymes, acids, and lipids. Judging from these ingredients, despite any potential to help exfoliate dead cells from the skin, it is more likely to cause irritation more than anything else if applied to the face and left there for any extended period of time.” Whomp, whomp.

Meanwhile, while vaginal fluids hold antimicrobial properties that have the capacity to help protect the urinary tract, letting them soak into your skin can have a similar effect to semen. In general, Rossi says any sexual bodily fluids, given enough time — and especially if you happen to have any open wounds around the area — can contribute to skin irritations and genital infections if not washed away within a “regular timely manner.” For the sake of clarity, this does not mean women should wash all up in there — the vagina is a self-cleaning organ that requires almost no maintenance. This advice is more in regards to cleaning excess fluids lingering around the area.

None of this means you need to rush into the shower right after having sex, though, nor does this mean you should pressure your partner into doing so. “You don’t want to make someone have guilt, where they feel the need to run into the shower,” Rossi says. Instead, just consider giving your nethers a good washing after a couple minutes of pleasant cuddling and post-coital bliss.

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In fact, depending on the intensity of the bang session, you might not even need to take a full-on shower. Clinical sexologist and certified sex coach Sunny Rodgers once shared her post-bang cleanup routine with me, and it has the capacity to be both incredibly quick and super easy: “The first step I always suggest for after sex is to pee. This ‘clears the pipes’ and can help dispel any bacteria. After that, I suggest using a clean washcloth, gentle soap and warm water to quickly wash your sticky nether region. This essential hygienic step will do a lot to keep you comfortable for the rest of your day, and it helps protect against infections.”

Another thing you might consider is whether cleaning up is more necessary after having sex with a new partner, rather than a long-term partner. The answer is, well, if it makes you feel better. “Whereas cleanup after sex with a long-term partner is usually a moist towel and perhaps clean underwear, sex with a new person may make you feel better if you add more soap to the cleanup situation,” Rodgers says. “Most people use condoms or a preventative barrier when having sex with a new partner, so this can ease a lot of the worry as well.”

To sum things up, cleaning up after having sex — even with just a damp washcloth — is a good idea for the sake of your skin and the well-being of your genitals. That said, being an antsy germaphobe about it is both unnecessary and annoying. Cuddles first, then cleaning. Or to put it another way: Repose before hose, bro.