A kiss can make you feel about a thousand different ways. From greetings and rituals to expressions of attraction, people have been smooching each other across cultures and history. And while the lips claim a majority of the spotlight, a kiss can land anywhere, from the hand to the neck to the nose.
Anthropologists aren't sure whether humans are born knowing how to kiss or if it's a learned behavior, but one thing is sure — kissing comes naturally to many. How many types of kisses are there? Let's find out.
The Kissing Connection
When two people kiss, something special happens. Your brain does a happy dance, releasing a burst of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. These happy hormones are triggered when you do something that feels good, giving you a euphoric reward.
A satisfying smooch can also kickstart a flood of sex hormones that up your sex drive. Some studies even show that kissing can strengthen your microbiome and improve skin health by boosting collagen production.
Of course, we all know a peck from family is different from a kiss from a lover. So what do the different types of kisses mean? It all depends on the intention and the relationship between the people doing it. Here are a few of the many reasons people peck:
As part of a ritual, kisses have come up in ritualistic ways across the globe throughout history. A kiss on the hand can seal a deal between world leaders, or a religious person might kiss a holy book or icon.
To show respect. Kissing can be an act of respect or subordination. Think of a churchgoer kissing a cross or the floor during prayer or a medieval peasant kissing a noble's ring.
This is likely what you think of when kissing comes to mind as an expression of attraction. A passionate kiss on the lips, neck, or ear can act as a sign that you're physically attracted to someone.
To convey peace. Nothing neutralizes an argument faster than a hug or kiss. A common practice among parents is to have fighting siblings "kiss and makeup" to diffuse a quarrel. This can happen with friends and enemies, too.
- To communicate affection. If you've ever greeted an old friend with an air kiss or given a family member a quick peck on the cheek, you'll know how a smooch can signal affection among family and friends.
How Many Different Types of Kisses Are There?
You kiss for love, luck, desire, and comfort. Enemies kiss to makeup, parents kiss their babies, and officials kiss in respect. Just how many types of kisses exist? It turns out there are dozens upon dozens, with many of them falling under the lover's category. If you ever wondered what the different types of kisses and their meanings are, here's a crash course:
The French kiss
One of the most popular, the French kiss combines tongue swishes with open-mouth kissing for a steamy makeout session. This type of kiss is charged with desire and means you're attracted to your partner. You can turn up the heat with a bit of nibble on your partner's top or bottom lip.
The caring kiss
These are the kisses shared between people who love or deeply care about each other. They include a purposeful kiss placed on the forehead, top of the head, cheek, or eyelids. These smooches mean you're devoted to the other person.
The nose kiss
A nose kiss can involve a lip-to-nose or nose-to-nose combination where you quickly kiss the nose or rub noses together. It's a sweet sign of affection and greeting between couples and friends.
The body kiss
A body kiss means you're sexually attracted to the other person. This is where you tenderly kiss an array of body parts, particularly erogenous zones like the earlobes, collarbone, shoulder, side of the neck, stomach, and more. Body kisses are erotic and serve as an excellent form of foreplay.
Genital and nipple kisses
Those looking to up the ante on the body kiss can go in for a genital or nipple kiss. Kissing your partner on and around the nipples, through their underwear, or straight on their genitals sexually stimulates them. This is a more urgent kiss that indicates you're aroused and passionate.
Short and sweet, the peck is a light, closed-mouth touch of pursed lips. A peck often happens on the lips between a couple sharing their first kiss when they're testing the waters. Family members may also share a peck on the lips or cheek. A peck can signal courtesy, affection, or a platonic relationship.
Read My Lips
A great kiss can impact you for a lifetime, but so can a terrible one. Thankfully, there are a few ways to make sure your kissing is up to snuff. That being said, kissing takes some trial and error, so try to have a sense of humor about it all and relax! This is supposed to be fun.
A kiss that feels like lightning in a bottle always starts with consent. Being on the same page as someone only intensifies the connection between you when you kiss. Take your time and read your partner's cues. It's okay to involve the entire body by holding each other close, tilting up the chin, holding the cheek or waist, or running your fingers through your partner's hair. Feel free to melt into each other like butter.
And never forget — good oral hygiene, fresh breath, and hydration are key. As for the types of kisses that should be avoided, here are a few common missteps. Don't:
- Go too fast or hard unless your partner wants it.
- Break the skin when you bite (unless your partner wants that too).
- Use too much or too little tongue.
- Suffocate your partner.
- Kiss directly after eating.
- Ignore body language.
- Kiss with a dry mouth or chapped lips.
- Kiss someone without their consent.
What type of kiss should the first kiss be? This will be different for everybody, but a prolonged peck is usually a reliable way to take the temperature of your budding relationship without feeling too awkward. Closed-mouth and open-mouth kissing may be on the horizon next.
What type of kisses are there for experts to employ? Someone well versed in kissing might combine French kisses with little nibbles and tugs, working their teeth into the mix. They can lick their partner's lips, gently blow on them, or even playfully puff air into their mouth. They might also perform the iconic "Spiderman kiss," inspired by the movie of the same name. To accomplish this, two people kiss while one person is upside down relative to the other — this one is probably best done over the edge of the bed rather than while hanging off the side of a skyscraper à la Spiderman.
And if you're curious about your kissing style, don't worry —there's a quiz for that.
Sealed With a Kiss
A kiss is worth a thousand words. It offers a way to express your emotions without ever saying anything, strengthen the bond between you and someone else, and feel plain good. Kissing can be considered an art form, so feel free to let your creative side shine.
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Blood flow interplays with elastin: collagen and MMP: TIMP ratios to maintain healthy vascular structure and function. (April 2010). University of Louisville School of Medicine.
20 Types Of Kisses & The Meaning Behind Each One, From Experts. (March 2021). MindBodyGreen.
52 Different Types of Kisses and What They Mean. (July 2020). PairedLife.
What Kind of Kisser Are You?. (March 2020). Seventeen.