As cliché as it sounds, a kiss can feel like a Michael Bay-level explosion, or it can make you feel absolutely zilch, zero, nothing. There’s more nuance to a simple kiss than just an equation of lips and tongues, and there are easy ways to set the pace even if you’re not exactly the most experienced kisser. Below, a handy guide on how to take the reigns on a make-out session like you’re a seasoned pro.
1. Freshen Up
It goes without saying that when you’re inches from someone’s face, no one wants to inhale whiffs of stale coffee or a mouthful of garlic and onion. A little self-awareness goes a long way—avoid overly pungent foods or pack a teeny pack of mints, just in case.
2. Time the Moment Right
Follow the other person’s body language cues to know when it’s the right time to initiate a kiss. Consent is key, so it never hurts to ask before leaning in for a smooch if you’re not sure. Just don’t insist on forcing a kiss if it doesn’t feel right, or leave the other person waiting so long that they start questioning whether you’re interested in them.
3. Work Your Eyes
When you’re leaning in for a kiss, you can’t use your mouth to speak, so why not say it through eye contact? When you’re actually mid-kiss, though, dial it back a bit since it can be unnerving to find someone straight-up staring at you in close range (see: Bruno Mars’ “Grenade”). Temporary blindness during a kiss can intensify the way it feels—the sound of another person’s breathing or the gentle touch of their hand.
4. Stay in the Moment
You’re guaranteed to feel more connected to the other person if you stop feeling anxious about your kissing skills or something you said 10 minutes earlier by tuning out any extra mental chatter and giving into the moment.
5. Take Your Time
Kissing is a team effort. Don’t squelch someone’s spirit by going on the offensive (AKA getting too heavy-handed with tongue) or trying too hard to control the situation or lead the way.
6. Pack Some Balm
No, no one expects your lips to be “kissably soft” all the time. But it does help to pack some lip balm in your bag if your lips are a dry, flaky mess in winter.
7. Mind Your Tongue
. Remember, it’s a kiss, not a facial wash. No one likes to be doused in saliva, or have their entire mouth filled by someone’s tongue. Try starting out slow and small with no tongue and cranking up the intensity as a kiss gets more passionate.
8. Pay Attention to Surroundings
Whether it’s candlelight, a tent under the stars, in the ocean, or in a sudden rain storm, special new surroundings make a kiss interesting. Because your eyes are closed most of the time during a kiss, you’ll hear and even feel the things that are happening around you more clearly.
9. Be Spontaneous
Kissing is all about the about the back-and-forth exchange, so feel free to loosen up and experiment with different styles of kissing to keep things interesting. Try gently—key word, gently—tugging on his lower lip with your teeth during a kiss. Do the upside down Spiderman! Try using more tongue or transitioning sides during a kiss or gentle biting, so long as both of you are into it.
10. Follow Each Other’s Lead
Good kissers will mirror each other’s movements, so that they’re both on the same page. Take note of what your partner’s doing and imitate it. Or, take the lead if you want to try something different. Feel out each other’s impulses and kissing styles, and go from there.
11. Make it a Full Body Experience
A kiss will feel even deeper if you’re holding the other person close during a kiss or.
12. Learn Your Erogenous Zones
On that note, don’t forget the grazing potential of the ear lobes, nose, collarbone, and the neck—just think of all those nerve endings. Hickeys aren’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea, so don’t bite down or latch on unless your partner indicates that they’re into it.
13. Give Each Other Positive Feedback
To kill the anticipation and nerve-wracking vibes of a kiss, give the other person positive feedback so that your partner feels good after a kiss. If they’re not the best kisser in the world, gently guide them in another direction by slowing down, pulling back, and demonstrating a different technique.