Think back to your first kiss. Was it deeply romantic or seriously awkward? Now, think back to your last kiss. What’s changed? Has kissing become more enjoyable for you, or less? Smooching may seem foundational, something that just comes naturally, but there are actually a few techniques you can put into practice in order to kiss someone well.
The truth is, even if you're already pretty great at it (or think you are), there’s probably something more you can learn about how to kiss. And the fact you’re interested in expanding your horizons is a great place to start. “So many people overlook kissing, especially once they’ve moved on to other ‘bases,’” Vanessa Marin, a licensed sex psychotherapist, tells Bustle. “But kissing is a ridiculous amount of fun and is fully deserving of your attention and effort.”
Not only is it fun, but kissing plays a key role in building relationships. In fact, kissing frequency is a strong indicator of relationship connectivity, according to a 2020 study published in the journal Sexual and Relationship Therapy. So, the more you kiss, the happier you and your partner will likely be in your relationship. And as Marin says, it's “super important to intimacy, foreplay, and attraction in general.” With that in mind, here are eight steps to up your kissing game according to experts, since we could all use a kissing refresher.
Take Your Time When Kissing
Arguably the best tip on how to kiss, according to Marin, is to go slow and ease your way into every smooch. If you’re feeling anxious about your kissing abilities, that anxiety is likely spurring you into rushing your way through it. But no one likes kissing someone who is hyperactive and all over the place.
The most important thing is that you’re present in the situation and paying attention to what feels right in the moment with someone, as sex coach and founder of Ignite Your Pleasure Amy Levine tells Bustle. “It’s connection and being present,” she says. “It’s the perfect way to show, ‘I’m here with you.’”
If you still feel completely lost and nervous (and hey, it happens), remember that the best kisses are usually the ones that are relaxed and sensual, Marin says. So if you feel yourself pecking away, remember to go nice and slow until you feel yourself start to settle down and get into the groove.
Use The Right Amount Of Pressure
One of the most basic ways that people mess up kissing is by going to extremes with the amount of pressure they use, according to Marin. Some people are way too forceful with their kisses and wind up bumping teeth, pushing their partner backwards, or coming off as aggressive. Other people are shy and timid, and their kisses end up feeling lifeless.
Think about handshakes: It feels strange when someone squeezes your hand way too tightly and kinda creepy when you get a limp handshake. Marin explains that you have to use some pressure but not too much, and land somewhere in the middle.
“It may sound ridiculous, but practicing on the fleshy top part of your hand where your index finger meets your thumb can mimic the sensation your partner is experiencing,” says Levine. “Kiss this area and see what resonates most.”
That'll cover your basic kiss. But it can also help to keep in mind that any good makeout session includes various types of kissing. There very well be a moment when you go for a light touch, like when you first start kissing, and then press in harder as things heat up. It's all about reading the moment. “Some people like relaxed lips, firm or even wide and soft,” says Levine. “Once you have a few styles, you can try them out with your partner.”
Use Your Tongue Wisely
Another common characteristic of “bad” kissing is using way too much tongue. When you first start kissing someone, Marin recommends that you keep the tongue out of it until things start to get more intense. Again, focus more on all the different ways you can kiss with just your lips — keeping your mouth closed, opening it slightly, intertwining your lips with your partners’, pouting your lips, and so on. “In terms of skill, kissing is about the lips first,” says Levine. “Once you master pressure and lip technique you can then figure out tongue motions.”
When it feels like time to add some tongue, be gentle. Your tongue is an incredibly strong muscle, so you need to be careful not to go overboard. Try just gently touching your tongue to your partner’s at first. Imagine that your tongues are softly caressing each other, says Marin.
Don’t jab at your partner like a “darting snake tongue,” as Levine seconds, and try not to put too much of your tongue into their mouth. Just gentle caresses. “Be sensual,” says Levine. “It could be passionate and more robust in the heat of the moment and that’s okay too.”
If you feel unsure about how to kiss someone while getting your tongue involved, Marin advises practicing on the back of your hand again. Give your hand a firm jab with your tongue, just so you can see how strong your tongue is (you might be surprised). Then play around with different ways of moving your tongue across your skin. It may feel silly to “practice” on your hand, but it really is an easy way to get a sense of how things feel.
Get Your Whole Body Involved
The best kisses involve your entire body, not just your lips! While kissing on the lips is a great place to start, it’s important to remember that the lips aren't the body's only erogenous zone, which are the places on your body that are scientifically proven to be sexually arousing when touched. “Use your hands to caress your partner’s hair and face,” says Levine. “Match the kiss to the moment: soft if it’s tender, harder if it’s more intense.”
Wrap your arms around your partner, or stroke their arms, shoulders, and back with your hands. Press your body up against theirs. Hold their face in your hands, or run your hands through their hair. You can also take little breaks from their lips to kiss their neck or ears, says Marin. Use your body to create some variety — the possibilities are basically endless.
Be A Tease Between Kisses
Teasing your partner between kisses can be a ton of fun. For example, it's pretty sexy to pull your lips away and gently stroke their lower lip with your thumb, says Marin. Breaking away from the kiss and looking your partner in the eye, with a sly smile on your face, can also be a flirty way to gauge if they’re also into it, as Heather M. Claus, the founder of DatingKinky, previously told Bustle.
“I have a favorite trick that has always worked for me,” Claus said. “Pull back the tiniest bit. Not even a half inch. If your partner follows you, or pounces, they are having a good time. You can try this a few times throughout the evening, but don't make it a game of chasing you down.”
And while it sounds weird, breathing is also another component of kissing. Marin recommends keeping your slightly-open mouth close to theirs and breathing in and out together, or breathing in through your nose. You could also try brushing your lips against your partner's without actually kissing them.
Adapt Your Technique
You can work on kissing techniques all you want, but the reality is that figuring out how to kiss someone will be different with each person, because everyone has a unique kissing style. When you’re kissing someone, pay attention to what your partner is doing and what they seem to respond to best. “Kissing is like dancing: One person leads and the other follows,” says Levine. “If you apply what you practiced, see how your partner responds and adjust as needed to be in sync.”
Are they moving their tongue very slowly? Do they let out a little moan each time you bite their lower lip? Use these cues to cater your kissing to them, and try to adapt. If you’re unsure of what your partner likes, ask them what they do like, and then follow their lead. That way, you’ll know exactly what they’re looking for. “You have to learn how to dance together,” says Levine. “No matter what the song is, you match it.”
Don’t Judge Yourself
Even with these various techniques to experiment with, Marin encourages everyone not to think about technique too much as they’re kissing. Instead, she recommends trying to get out of your head and stop analyzing what you’re doing in the moment — just feel what's happening. If you still feel anxiety, it also doesn’t hurt to just talk to your partner about it.
“To calm our anxiety about kissing, we will have to feel trust with our new partner,” licensed psychologist Dr. Kelly Donohoe previously told Bustle. “We grow trust by talking and spending time together without pressure to make anything physical. It can also happen through open conversations about how safe we will each be when we aren't together. When we trust our partner to be safe, we can feel as safe as possible kissing."
It’s also worth keeping in mind that you’re not going to have great chemistry with everyone you meet. Sometimes it’s just going to feel “off” or awkward. That doesn’t make you a bad kisser, it just means you haven’t found the right kissing partner!
“Kissing tells a whole lot about chemistry in bed. If kissing isn’t so great people may feel judged or may find they are not sexually compatible with the person,” says Levine. “To combat this, you can work together [with your partner] to find a middle ground in a playful way to see what works for both of you.”
Communicate With Your Partner
As Donohoe says, open communication can make you feel a lot more comfortable with your partner, and when it comes to kissing, specifically, the same is true.
Tarryn Dier, a relationship expert, says that “sexy communication is key.” Dier recommends that you open up the lines of communication by looking deeply into your partner’s eyes, whispering positive affirmation when they’re doing something right, and gently guiding them with your words (and your mouth!) if they’re doing something that you’re not into.
Communicating in this way (rather than having a sit-down conversation about the fact that you don’t like how much tongue they use), is effective in building trust and communication, while allowing a natural chemistry to continue between the two of you while staying in the moment.
Find What Feels Good To You
Above all else, try to focus on finding the kissing styles and techniques that you enjoy the most. “There is no one way,” says Levine. “You figure out what feels good to the two of you!”
Remember, kissing is supposed to be fun! Follow what feels good, pay attention to the signals your partner is sending you, and chances are, you won’t be doing it wrong.
Busby, D.M., Hanna-Walker, V., & Leavitt, C.M. (2020) A kiss is not just a kiss: kissing frequency, sexual quality, attachment, and sexual and relationship satisfaction, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14681994.2020.1717460
Maister, L., Fotopoulou, A., Turnbull, O., & Tsakiris, M. (2020). The Erogenous Mirror: Intersubjective and Multisensory Maps of Sexual Arousal in Men and Women. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(8), 2919–2933. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01756-1
Vanessa Marin, licensed sex psychotherapist
Amy Levine, sex coach and founder of Ignite Your Pleasure
Heather M. Claus, founder of DatingKinky
Dr. Kelly Donohoe, licensed psychologist
Tarryn Dier, a relationship expert
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