Raise your hand if you remember your first real kiss. A kiss so passionate, so deep, it sent shivers throughout your body and changed your life forever. Without being consciously aware, that kiss had chemistry written all over it. That’s because when our lips lock, it sets off a series of chemical reactions in the brain. Believe it or not, there’s a lot riding on a kiss—well at least according to the Scientists of Smooching. Despite its obvious evolutionary and personal significance, there’s a lot more than meets the lips.
It Feels Nice
Our lips are the body’s most exposed erogenous zone. Unlike in other animals, human lips are uniquely everted, meaning they purse outwardly. They are packed with sensitive nerve endings, so even the slightest brush sends a cascade of information to our brains, which can feel intoxicating.
Pleased to Meet You
We learn a lot about each other by engaging our sense of smell, taste buds, and sense of touch. All sorts of signals are being passed back and forth, indicating a lot about the person you are lip smacking. Because kissing puts you both in nose-to-nose contact, the scent of another can provide subconscious clues about their DNA. If there is indeed “chemistry,” that one kiss will set the stage for a new romance and the prospect for procreating.
Aside from helping us find the perfect match, kissing has other perks too. It ignites our neural impulses which bounce between the brain and the tongue, lips, facial muscles, and skin. Billions of tiny, little nerve connections distribute information around the body, producing chemical signals which instantly alter the way we feel. Going beyond that, the nerves of the lips and tongue have direct connections to our limbic system—the part of the brain responsible for emotion and sex. These connections tie into the pituitary gland, often called the “master gland.” The result is a decrease in stress hormones and an increase in oxytocin, the bonding hormones which allow for warmth and attachment.
Kissing is the prelude to passion and fosters sensations we often describe when falling in love. In this way, a kiss can herald in a new relationship, or can be used to solidify the strong bonds we share with family members and friends. Kisses come in many varieties and are inherently tied to the most meaningful and significant moments of our lives by providing a means to communicate beyond what words can convey.
Kissing is more likely to be initiated by men. That’s because male saliva contains testosterone, which then stimulates the female (and male) libido. This makes it more likely she will give into the passion, which leads the chance of swapping another biologic matter. Admittedly, this is not the stuff of Dr. Zhivago, but it is sexy in a very primal way.
Now that you know you’re doing something really important while kissing, grab a partner and start swapping biological information. It will lower your stress level and increase your chances for finding the perfect mate, not to mention being a great way to spend a few stolen moments.1