By Kesiena Boom, M.S.
Kesiena Boom, M.S., is a sociologist and writer. She has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Manchester and a master’s degree in Gender Studies from Lund University.
June 4, 2022 — 16:04 PM
Kissing, making out, frenching, locking lips…whatever you call it, it’s one of the most intimate and thrilling things that two people can do. And while the focus often lies on sex when thinking about how to be a better lover, perfecting your kissing game is just as (if not more) important. Here, we’ve collected a bunch of different tips to help you land your makeouts just right every time.
Why humans kiss.
To understand how to kiss better, it’s helpful to understand why humans kiss in the first place.
People kiss in order to express feelings of closeness and desire, as well as to amplify or intensify the arousal they might be feeling. “Kissing stimulates the brain’s pleasure regions, causing it to release a mix of hormones that leave you feeling oh so fantastic,” explains clinical psychologist Judy Rosenberg, Ph.D. “These molecules include oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, which are pleasurable and promote feelings of affection and bonding.”
There are also a myriad of benefits of kissing, from helping to reduce stress levels to potentially supporting your immune system, according to Texas based clinical psychologist Ana Ortiz-Lugo, PsyD., HSP. And within relationships, kissing serves a vital role in that it can help heal over tensions and promotes closeness. It is also often a vital part of a couple’s sex life and a way to show intimacy outside of the bedroom. While relationships can often go a long time without sex without the intimacy between two people necessarily being lost, Rosenberg says keeping up with kissing is essential for keeping the spark alive.
Interestingly though, while we might think of kissing as something intrinsic to being human, it’s actually culturally specific and only observed in around half of the world’s societies.
Tips & techniques to try.
Focus on your partner.
Great relationships start with great sleep.*
“The number one most important trait of being a better kisser is paying attention to your partner’s response,” says sex and intimacy coach Leah Carey. “Too often we learn a ‘technique’ and become completely dedicated to that way of doing things.” The goal of kissing shouldn’t be mastering one particular “move” but to get to know your partner’s particular desires.
Ask, ask, ask!
“It’s so obvious, but many people are scared to ask their partner what they like because they think it will make them look foolish. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite!” says Carey. “Your partner may be sitting on a few things they want to tell you, but don’t know how to bring it up.”
If it feels intimidating, you can think of it as a sexy and fun way to learn together, instead of something that indicates that something has been “wrong” up until now. You can say, “I want to kiss you even better, so let’s spend 15 minutes teaching me exactly what you like and how you like it. Then we can turn the tables and I’ll do the same for you!”
Often kissing is thought of as a precursor to sex, instead of an intimate activity in its own right. Set time aside where you focus just on kissing. You can ramp up the excitement by telling your partner you can only kiss and not take off any clothes for X number of minutes. By focusing purely on kissing, you’ll become more adept at it.
Make eye contact.
Before going in for the kiss itself, “lock eyes with your partner, give a sensual smile, and slowly lick your lips with a twinkle in your eye,” says sexuality coach Renee Adolphe. By establishing eye contact before making physical contact, you ramp up the anticipation and sexiness. (See also: the viral psychology love eye trick.)
Draw out the anticipation.
“Linger in the stages before the kiss,” adds sex educator Suzannah Weiss. “Run your hands through each other’s hair, touch each other’s faces and bodies. Graze your lips against theirs before going in for the kiss. Kiss other parts of their face before going toward their lips. Try to keep teasing each other like this until you can’t take it anymore.”
Build it up.
Once you get into it, start with the softest, most feathery kisses you can manage, suggests clinical psychologist and sex therapist Lori Beth Bisbey, Ph.D. Then slowly work up to kissing harder and faster. You can also use your hands at the same time to caress and passionately grab your partner for extra emphasis.
Use your tongue.
“Work on your tongue game,” encourages Bisbey. Try different patterns and strokes, alternating pressures and rhythms. See what your partner responds well to when it comes to this so-called French kissing.
Don’t be afraid to bite.
You can tug on your partner’s lips with your teeth if that’s something that they’re into. Just make sure not to bite too hard, too suddenly, says Bisbey. People’s mileage may vary with biting, so ask before diving in.
You can try sucking briefly on your partner’s tongue–bring it deep into your mouth while creating a brief but strong suction action and then gently release it, says sex therapist Lori Lawrenz, Psy.D of the Hawaii Center for Sexual and Relationship Health.
Involve your whole body.
Weiss also recommends making kissing a full-body experience: “Playfully lean forward and away as you kiss your partner. Graze your hands over their arms and legs. Grind your hips against theirs if that’s something you’re both comfortable with,” she recommends. These actions help to increase the desire between the two of you and add an edge to your kisses.
Pay attention to your partner’s reactions.
“Look at how your kissing partner reacts when you kiss their neck, nibble their ear, do a playful lip bite, or slip your tongue in,” says sex therapist Aliyah Moore, PhD. By being mindful of these things, you’ll know whether or not your partner is into what you’re doing and then you can make adjustments.
Kiss places other than their mouth.
Kissing doesn’t have to be limited to mouth-on-mouth. Play around with other places to kiss on your partner’s body. Try their eyelids, their nose, the crook of their arm. (Here’s our full guide to erogenous zones, too.)
Be a tease.
Another fun way into a make-out session: “Play a game where you lick your partner’s lips, but as soon as they try to reciprocate, you pull away. Don’t let them know what you’re doing, just keep pulling away until they finally understand that if they want your kissing, nibbling, licking, and teasing, they have to lay back and receive it,” suggests Carey.
“Kiss mindfully,” suggests body coach Sarah Bick. “Notice everywhere your lip touches theirs. Hone into the sensation.” When you force yourself to be in the moment instead of letting your mind wander, the pleasure you feel from the kiss will be intensified.
Get into the groove.
Certified sex therapist Janet Brito, Ph.D., LCSW, recommends that you practice relaxation techniques so that your body isn’t tense while making out. A few stretches can ground you in your body and make you a little looser so that you can really find your rhythm and have fun without feeling tight or stressed.
Pamper your lips.
Before you actually get to the kissing, AASECT-certified sex therapist Jessica Kicha, LMHC, recommends making sure that you always have a soothing lip balm on hand to ensure your pout is silky smooth. “No one likes kissing chapped lips!”
It’s also important to stay on top of your oral hygiene, says Kicha. Make sure you brush and floss at least twice a day. A quick swill of mouthwash before a kissing session is also considerate. You want your date to focus on how good it feels to kiss you, not on how much your mouth tastes like noodles.
Keep it fresh.
“If you are planning on kissing after a date scheduled around a meal time, have mints on hand to refresh your mouth,” Oakland-based psychotherapist Julia Simone Fogelson, LCSW, adds. “This demonstrates to the person you are kissing that you care enough to do a little extra to make sure they have a positive kissing experience with you.”
“There’s nothing sexier than consent,” Fogelson says. “There will not always be the Hollywood movie moment where the two people dive in for a passionate kiss. A simple ‘Can I kiss you?’ with eye gazing and a smile shows that you are into clear communication and respect.”
Follow their lead.
When you are moving your tongue into their mouth, check to see if they seem to be responding in kind. If so, keep going. If you feel like they are pulling away at all, bear that in mind and correct course, says Bat Sheva Marcus, LCSW, MPH, PhD.
When you go in for the kiss you and your partner might turn your heads in the wrong directions, you might bump heads, or glasses, etc. Instead of getting flustered and pulling yourself and your partner out of the moment, try to keep it lighthearted. Laugh gently at yourself and then try again, says therapist Renetta Weaver, LCSW.
Don’t forget to breathe!
“Take breathing breaks. Everyone needs to breath,” says Marcus. It can be really easy to get swept up in the moment and not focus on your bodily needs. But if you don’t breathe regularly and deeply whilst making out, you risk getting dizzy and having to take a break.
Close your eyes.
“Closing your eyes increases the sensual nature of the kiss because it forces both parties to anticipate what will happen next. Not knowing exactly what will happen next is part of the excitement!,” says marriage and family therapist Janine Piernas M.A, LMFT. If you accidentally open your eyes to see your partner staring at you, it can be a little off putting. Eyes closed is safest unless otherwise specified.
Use your hands.
Kissing is obviously mouth-centered, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your hands in on the action too. Use your hands to gently pull your lover’s hair, or grab their butt, or cup their face. Ask your partner where they most like to be touched while being kissed.
Positive feedback is everything.
“Want a kiss booster? Tell your partner they’re a good kisser. If that’s not how you feel, you can still give them compliments with some constructive critique in the middle,” says Moore. When giving constructive criticisms, use “I” sentences so it won’t look as if your kissing partner failed at kissing you. These statements soften the blow and make it easier for the other person to overcome.
Use your words.
Kissing is a way of expressing desire or affection without words, but the pleasure that you can derive from a kiss can be intensified if you also tell your partner how you feel about them before the kiss.
Being a more thoughtful kisser can lay the foundation for a better, more satisfying experience for everyone involved. Increase the intimacy and create moments of real connection by treating kissing like something worthy of attention, rather than just a step on the way to sex.