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Kissing: Everyone knows how to do it… but do we really?

Most of us first learned about smoochin’ from shows like “Buffy” and movies like “Purple Rain.” We cultivated our skills as tweens with back-of-hand makeouts (just us?).

And after surviving that first real kiss, complete with snagged braces and an accidental transfer of gum, we eventually got confident enough to reach for a bra hook or work in some neck and ear play (so naughtyyy!).

But at what point does one become an expert lip-locker? If your kissing education looked anything like what we just described, it’s no wonder you’re here reading this article. Aside from a general notion of what feels good versus what feels bad, most of us are just winging it out there.

That’s why we put together this guide under the guidance of Dr. Shannon Chavez, a licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist in Beverly Hills. So grab that breath spray and roll on some cherry ChapStick — here’s everything you need to know to kiss like Prince in, well, anything.

Here’s the most important thing about romantic kissing: It’s supposed to feel good. Giving your grandma a peck on the cheek should be a different sensation than playing tonsil hockey with that hot barista at your local coffee shop.

See, kissing and other forms of physical intimacy activate your body’s feel-good chemicals (even if you’re not a hormonal teen). Oxytocin, aka the “love hormone,” is connected to trust and attachment. Dopamine is connected to satisfaction and motivation, and serotonin is a mood stabilizer.

And kissing doesn’t just make sparks fly for new couples. Research shows that making out with a long-term partner can boost relationship satisfaction.

So, whether you’re K-I-S-S-I-N-G a new crush or making out with your partner, what does the anatomy of a good kiss look like?

1. It’s all about consent!

You’ve seen it in every rom-com: An eager beaver leans in, eyes closed, lips puckered in full duck-face mode, and suddenly their love interest leaps up and gasps, “What are you doing?!” Oops.

Don’t be that person. Make sure you get affirmative consent — that is, the presence of a “yes,” not just the absence of a “no” — before you lock lips.

Just a few examples of affirmative consent: Your potential kiss partner is smiling and leaning toward you, puckering their lips, holding eye contact. And of course, you can ask them, “Can I kiss you?”

Once you know your partner is feeling it and they’ve said yes, then proceed with the sexy little lean-in.

2. Slow and steady does it

Slow kissing can feel emotionally loaded and intense. But banging foreheads and smashing teeth can kill the mood. Try to relax and move slowly to avoid those awkward face-crashes.

Going slowly also centers you in your body and allows you to check in with how you feel. That’s all key to being a good kisser.

According to Chavez, it’s important not to think of kissing as just a means to an end. “Don’t rush and think of kissing as just foreplay to sex,” she advises. “Really enjoy kissing as an activity in and of itself.”

3. Be gentle

Kissing doesn’t have to be aggressive to be passionate — i.e., you don’t have to go from zero to “The Bachelor” fantasy suites immediately. Kissing gently lets you crank up the intensity as you go.

Tilt your head as you softly lean in, kiss, come up for air, and lean in again. Like sex, kissing should create anticipation, rhythm, and buildup. If you’re not sure what pattern or rhythm to go with, try mirroring your partner. Pay attention to their pacing and the amount of pressure in their kisses.

4. Be present

It’s not just about your lips. Kissing is a full-body experience, says Chavez. Use your body language — eye contact, placing a hand on your partner’s cheek — to create connection while you’re making out.

Chavez says it’s important to feel “emotionally present” while kissing. However, being too focused on your moves can make you self-conscious. Try to strike the right balance between mind and body.

Now that you’ve got the basics, it’s time to kick it up a notch (BAM!). French kissing is kissing while using your tongue. Your tongue is a super sexy instrument. But this can be a little intimidating if you haven’t learned any French-kissing tips and tricks. We’re here to help.

French kissing 101

Start off by using the tip of your tongue to make soft, sexy swirls around your partner’s tongue. “Think of it as you’re massaging each other’s tongues,” Chavez suggests.

Here are some other French-kissing tips from Chavez:

  • Don’t tense up. Relax your facial muscles so your lips are smooth and open, and allow your partner to feel your breath.
  • Kiss, caress, and suck on your partner’s lips. Notice the sensations and how they vary from upper to lower lip.
  • Work that tongue. Suck and massage your partner’s tongue slowly — but not too hard.

Beware of TMT (too much tongue)

Dial things back if either of you starts to get slobbery. That might be a sign your kisses are going overboard.

Most people report not liking “too much tongue — it feels just overwhelming,” Chavez says. “Try to just slowly and intimately explore using your tongue, your lips, all parts of your mouth.” Noted!

Wanderlust

Break away from your partner’s lips to plant sweet, soft kisses along their neck, shoulders, and jawline. Then go ahead and nibble on their ears (and lobes!) before returning to nibble on their lips.

Have fun wandering around a bit. You’ll learn which zones are the ah-mazing ones for your partner (crucial to know, since we’re all different!). Use that intel to your advantage in the future.

Be a tease

Kissing is all about the steamy back-and-forth. Incorporate some breakaway moments from your makeout to steal a sultry glance, flash a sexy smile, and stroke your partner’s face or lips. Playful teasing only fans the flames of l’amour.

A word on whiskers

Kissing a partner who has facial hair will feel different from smooching someone with a smooth face. While most facial hair contact is harmless, stubble can scratch against your chin or cheeks and cause redness, also known as beard burn.

Speak up if the stubble is painful, and see if you enjoy kissing elsewhere (neck, chest) instead. You can also soothe mild beard burn with a little moisturizer or Vaseline.

So you’ve mastered Frenching. Ready for some expert-level tips? Get that affirmative consent and let’s begin.

Touching and caressing can heighten stimulation for both parties. “There’s a lot of arousal with kissing,” Chavez says. “When there is deep mouth kissing, it actually signals to the brain sexual pleasure. There’s a connection to our genitals through kissing. It’s a very important part of sexual pleasure.”

If you want spicier kissing tips, here are some other suggestions:

  • Make some noise (read: soft moans). “It can trigger sexual desire and be arousing to a partner,” says Chavez.
  • Get handsy. “Run your fingers through your partner’s hair, grasp their face, and be fully embodied as you kiss and caress,” she suggests. “Make it a whole-body experience so that it is easier to transition into sexual play.”
  • Suck on your partner’s tongue and lips. It feels good, and — as Chavez points out — certain moves just echo sex.
  • Nibble or bite. Gently, of course, and use precaution. You’re not looking to draw blood!
  • Move your kisses down lower. Are shirts (and more) coming off? Trail your partner’s body with kisses as you move the focus from their mouth to other areas. This gives you both a strong transition to what comes next.

Ummmm, what do I do with my hands?

There’s no right answer for what to do with your hands while you’re kissing. Different strokes for different folks, OK?

You could try:

  • holding hands or linking pinkies
  • tossing your arms around their neck or waist, if you’re kissing face-to-face
  • cradling their face in your hands
  • running your fingers through their hair
  • stroking their arms and shoulders

Most importantly, do whatever feels natural and comfortable — don’t overthink it.

How do I know when to kiss someone?

If you’re on a traditional first date, kisses usually happen at the end of the date. But romantic moments can occur anytime.

If your partner’s body language seems open and positive, that’s a good start. If they have crossed arms or there’s an arm’s-length distance between you, that can be a sign they’re not interested.

Test out how comfortable they’re feeling with some light touching, like a hand-on-the-forearm maneuver. If there’s even a hint of recoil, get outta there. If they lean in, smile, and gaze deeply into your eyes, there’s a good chance they’re ready for you to go for the kiss.

And even if it feels intimidating, stating your desires directly is the best way to get consent. It can be as simple as saying, “You’re so beautiful/handsome/amazing, and I’d love to kiss you right now.” If you get a yes, then proceed and enjoy!

How do I show someone I want to be kissed?

Pay attention to the vibes you’re giving off. A warm presence and an inviting smile can go a long way. Strong, flirty eye contact, mixed with some light touches, gets the point across pretty quickly.

To hammer home your makeout initiative, draw attention to those smackers. Lightly lick your lips, pop a breath mint, or even swipe on some gloss or balm to signal your readiness. Staring at their lips really makes an impact too.

And of course, you can always say, “I’d love for you to kiss me right now.”

How do I get kissed the way I want?

If you had the greatest makeout session ever, say so! Some couples only talk about intimacy when things aren’t working. Encourage your boo by being proactive with your positive feedback. Who doesn’t love a compliment?

But if your feedback is not-so-positive? Criticism without a solution can leave your partner feeling rejected or insecure. “Sensitive,” “constructive,” and “mindful” are the key words for having this conversation.

“You don’t want to be critical or blaming,” Chavez says. “You want to be open and honest about it and also maybe offer a solution.” You can solicit their feedback and solutions as well. Chavez suggests scripts like “Here’s something that definitely works for me…” or “That was great. I’d also like a little bit more of this…”

Yeah, it can be hella awkward to bring up kissing critiques. However, a partner who’s worth your time will be willing to hear you out — and will want to please you more.

We’ve covered a lot here, but these are the main points to remember:

  • Get consent before initiating a kiss.
  • Start slow, be gentle, and stay in the moment.
  • Think of French kissing as massaging your partner’s tongue.
  • Whatever you do with your hands, be comfortable.
  • If the kisses aren’t doing it for you, don’t be shy about giving your partner feedback — and asking for feedback yourself.