Remember mood rings? Sex flush is kind of like that. Except it’s your body changing color because of a very specific mood: Arousal.

Sex flush is a normal part of the arousal cycle. It can happen during solo or partnered sexy times to all genders. There’s no need to feel shy about it. In fact, it can be quite hot! What’s better than being so attracted to your partner(s) that the warm and fuzzies show up on the outside?

Here’s the full scoop on nature’s rosiest reaction.

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Design by Maya Chastain

Usually, sex flush becomes noticeable when skin reddens or becomes more pigmented as you get aroused. In some, this change in color appears in blotches, and for others, it looks like a full-body, get-down glow.

Sex flush can happen anywhere on your body. But your face, back, and chest are the most common places for it to make an appearance.

Those with a lighter complexion are more likely to experience sex flush, as well as folks who have been diagnosed with rosacea. Sex flush is often less noticeable in those with olive-to-darker skin tones.

It can also be referred to as “sex rash” because, well, it can look like a rash. Don’t worry, though! It usually fades after an hour or so. If your rash is painful and long lasting, though, you should consider visiting a doctor.

You might be too distracted to notice, but we all go through a predictable set of emotional and physical changes when we get turned on. The fancy name for these changes is the sexual response cycle.

The stages of the sexual response cycle don’t exactly have to go in order, and some are completely absent (ahem, I’m looking at you, “orgasm”). Sex flush can happen at any point during this cycle, but it often intensifies during orgasm.

Here’s how the sexual response cycle breaks down.

Phase 1: Desire

You ever watch your partner(s) get dressed in the morning, eyes skimming the curves and contours of their body? Then, suddenly, you’re wondering how bad it would be if they were late to work just this one time…

Welcome to phase one! Desire sets in when you get that little tingle in your nether region, pointing you towards the object of, well, your desire. That could be a partner(s). It can also be your not-so-secret stash of sex toys.

The physical signs of desire are:

  • an accelerating heart rate
  • self-lubricating genitals
  • hardening nipples
  • skin flushes
  • breathing heavily
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Phase 2: Arousal

Phase two typically entails the action. It’s also called the “plateau”. Despite the less than scintillating name, here’s when the buildup begins. Phase two typically lasts the longest, especially if you get creative. Arousal leads directly to phase three, the orgasm.

The physical signs of arousal are:

  • the previous phase sustaining or amplifying
  • sex flush
  • muscle spasms in the feet, face, and hands
  • muscle tension increasing
  • vaginal walls swelling and darkening
  • testicles withdrawing further up into the scrotum
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Phase 3: Orgasm

Ah yes, the big O. Some say they see stars, some accidentally profess love. This phase is the shortest of the four, typically lasting anywhere from a few to 30 minutes.

The physical signs of orgasm are:

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Phase 4: Resolution

And with all crescendos, there must be an ascension. This is when your body begins to return to business as usual. Erect genitals begin to settle, your heart rate goes down, and you’re delightfully fatigued, torn between the need to run to the bathroom and pee or enjoy all of your post-sex bliss.

Absolutely nothing! As mentioned, sex flush goes away in an hour or so. If you’re feeling self-conscious about it, put on a robe, keep the lights dim, or consider taking a shower to cool off.

If your partner(s) points it out (hopefully out of concern, not judgment!) reiterate that it’s totally normal and non-contagious. Actually, they were likely the cause of it!

If you continue feeling insecure about the redness, talk to your partner(s) about it. Getting your feelings out in the open increases understanding, and can bring you closer. Plus, a caring partner(s) will ease your worries.

If you’re experiencing more than just redness of the skin, or any skin discoloration that lasts longer than 2 hours, you might not actually be experiencing sex flush, and it may be time to book an appointment. It’s better to be safe than sorry, after all.

While your mind may naturally leap toward common sex-imposed situations like STIs and pregnancy, you’re not likely to show signs of either of those immediately after sex.

You might be having a negative reaction to lube, sex toys, or latex condoms (or, maybe your partner(s) has a cat, and your body is not happy about it.)

If it is something other than a sex flush, be on the lookout for any concurrent symptoms, such as:

  • irritation
  • hives
  • burning/stinging
  • swelling
  • blisters
  • bleeding
  • unusual discharge
  • fever