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Let’s get real: Kissing can be totally awesome or super cringeworthy.

Without a doubt, a great kiss or make-out session can leave you feeling pretty darn amazing.

Science even suggests kissing can actually be great for your health. A small 2009 study found that kissing can even reduce perceived stress.

Of course, it must be admitted that some kisses just aren’t great. If you’ve had a few of those yourself, remembering them might make the idea of swapping spit with another human seem a little less than ideal.

Wondering where you fall on the kissing spectrum? No need to worry — these 26 tips and tricks can help improve your lip game.

We can’t always control when the mood for a kiss strikes, but a little preparation can go a long way.

If you know that kissing might be on the agenda, for example, you might want to skip the garlic bread and onions at dinner.

It also helps to:

  • Make sure your lips aren’t dry or cracked. Regular lip scrubs, especially during the winter, can help you avoid chapped and peeling lips.
  • Keep lip balm on hand for a pre-kiss touch-up.
  • Rely on a breath mint or piece of gum to keep your mouth feeling (and tasting) fresh.

Worried about your breath? There’s nothing wrong with taking a quick trip to the bathroom to brush your teeth.

It might go without saying, but a full-on make-out session on a packed subway train may not be the best choice.

Once you have consent from your partner (more on that below), make sure your situation is kiss-appropriate.

Not everyone is comfortable with a kiss on the lips in front of a family member, but a smooch on the cheek might be perfectly sweet.

Think about when you’re going in for a kiss, too — not just where.

Did your partner just tell you their pet fish died or admit they failed their final exam? Probably not the right time for making out, but a kiss on the forehead could offer some comfort.

Movies and TV shows might make sudden, surprise kisses seem romantic, but it’s essential to have someone’s consent before you touch or kiss them.

The mood might seem just right, sure. You can’t know for sure whether someone actually wants to be kissed, though, unless you ask.

People often think asking for consent makes a situation awkward or stilted, but that doesn’t have to be the case at all.

Imagine the two of you cozy in the corner of your favorite, dimly lit hangout, talking about how long you’ve been crushing on each other.

Your knees keep touching, you have to move in close to hear them talk, and you can’t look away from them. Suddenly, they break off mid-sentence to ask, “Can I kiss you?” The tone in their voice tells you that’s all they’ve been thinking about.

Pretty steamy, right?

You don’t have to stick with, “May I please kiss you?” — though that can absolutely work.

A few other ways to express your desire to lock lips:

  • Look them in the eyes and say, “I’d really like to kiss you right now. How do you feel about that?”
  • “I’ve been thinking about kissing you. Do you ever think about kissing me?”

Prefer to keep things fun and casual? In some contexts, “Do you want to make out?” might work just fine.

Just be sure you’ve got a clear answer before you lean in for the kiss.

Respect comes hand-in-hand with consent. They might say, “No,” “I’d rather not,” or “Maybe another time.” Whatever their answer, accept it gracefully instead of asking for an explanation or trying to convince them to change their mind.

In a relationship? You might feel perfectly fine with your partner surprising you with kisses. Just let them know they’re A-OK to kiss you at any time.

Want to show affection in public without full-blown PDA? Try a quick peck on the shoulder while waiting in line at the movie theater.

Ready for some foreplay? A lingering trail of kisses on their neck can leave them trembling.

Remember, you don’t have to plant a kiss on the lips every time. Starting slow and building up tension can often be a better option than coming on strong from the beginning.

Kissing doesn’t have to be stressful. If you’re worried about getting it right, always start with the basics.

Always ask

If you’re about to kiss someone for the first time, make sure you’re reading the situation correctly by asking verbally.

From there, you can set the moment with your body language — moving in a bit closer, cupping their cheek — or use both words and actions.

Consent isn’t just important. It can also be pretty sexy.

Lean in

Feeling a little nervous? Don’t rush it, especially if you aren’t sure which way to tilt your head.

Dip your head — or gently guide your partner’s face to the side — if you’re worried about banging foreheads.

You don’t need to stare them down, but a little bit of eye contact can help make the initial movement less awkward.

Ease into it

Start the kiss out simply, with slow, gentle, and light pressure.

Want to continue the kiss? To build it up and lengthen it, try varying pressure slightly. You can also shift your focus from their top lip to their bottom lip.

Remember: A little pressure goes a long way.

Keep your mouth relaxed

Try not to force your pucker or kiss too hard.

When in doubt, mirror what your partner is doing, since most people tend to kiss in a way they enjoy.

Think of a good kiss as an exchange, not one person running the show.

Use your hands

Hand placement can feel a little awkward at first, but do what feels most comfortable for you.

Try slipping your hands around your partner’s neck, using one to stroke their hair, or moving one hand to each place.

If there’s a height difference, you can always rest your hands on your partner’s hips or lower back (but don’t overthink it).

Once you’re ready to kick it up a notch or two, these tips can help you transition from closed-mouth to open-mouth kissing with practically zero effort.

Start with the tip of the tongue

Less is more, especially when it comes to anything tongue-related. Most people don’t enjoy saliva all over their face. Try briefly and gently touching the tip of your tongue to theirs.

Definitely don’t try shoving your entire tongue into their mouth

An unexpected tongue in your mouth isn’t just a ticket to a drool fest. It’s also pretty unsexy — and sometimes, you might end up getting bitten.

Find a natural rhythm

Make sure to breathe (obviously), and find what feels good for both you and your partner. Not quite sure if they’re ready for a break or want to keep going? It never hurts to ask.

Depending on the situation, it doesn’t take much for kissing to get pretty heated. If you and your partner both feel comfortable doing more, go for it!

Pay attention to body language

Physical cues — moving closer, pulling away — can tell you more about what your partner likes and doesn’t like.

Not everyone uses verbal cues, especially when their lips are otherwise occupied. That means you can learn more about what is (and isn’t) working by paying close attention to your partner.

Don’t drive the kissing party to where it only benefits you. The best kiss is one where both partners are happy.

Gradually increase the intensity

There’s no need to go full steam ahead into a heavy make-out session. At the same time, you may not want to drag a single kiss out too long.

Gradually build up the kiss into something more. Don’t be afraid to use your body language to tell your partner what you like and don’t like. Communication, even nonverbal, is key.

Make eye contact between, or even during, kisses

It’s pretty common to kiss with your eyes closed, but you don’t necessarily need to keep them closed the entire time.

Don’t be afraid to sneak a peek at your partner between kisses. If you do make eye contact mid-kiss, it’s better to keep it short unless you know your partner prefers intense eye contact.

Take a break from their lips

As the kiss is heating up, don’t be afraid to switch up locations.

A good kiss might involve a series of kisses along their jawline, collarbone, or even on their earlobe.

If you’re going to bite, be gentle

Not everyone is comfortable with teeth during a kiss, so it’s generally best to stick to a gentle tug on the lips. Anything more than that might be worth a conversation to touch base on what you both feel comfortable with.

Whether you’re kissing as a part of foreplay or simply enjoying the act, it’s always a good idea to talk with your partner about different forms of intimacy and what you hope to build with them.

Not every kiss needs to lead to oral or penetrative sex. Sometimes a kiss is just a kiss — and that’s OK.

Interested in a sexual relationship but not sure how to bring that up? We’ve got a few tips.

If you haven’t already, get closer

Once you’re ready to take your kiss further, eliminate the space between you and your partner.

Just don’t forget that while physical proximity can feel incredible, emotional intimacy can help bring you even closer together.

Explore other erogenous zones

There are a lot of “feel-good” places on the body, but they aren’t necessarily the same for everyone.

Get to know your partner’s different erogenous zones, like their ears or neck. Pay attention to their reactions to see where they’re most sensitive and responsive.

You can even move to different parts of the body if you feel like gradually building it up to something more.

Start using your hands more

Kissing can absolutely be a full-body experience.

Consensual touching can feel great. A 2018 review shows that it can also benefit your health.

So, don’t be afraid to hold your partner close, run your hands through their hair, or stroke their arms or back.

Communication is a key factor in every kiss. It helps you understand your partner (and vice versa), so you can enjoy kissing in a way that’s pleasurable for everyone involved.

While you can give feedback during a kiss either verbally or nonverbally, you can gently give or receive feedback afterward by saying things like:

  • I really liked when you did…
  • [Blank] felt really good…
  • Next time, we should try more/less of…
  • Did you like it when I tried…
  • Is it OK if we do…
  • I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with [blank]. Can we try less of that?

Maybe you’re not sure what to say, but still want to express how much you enjoyed yourself. Remember, you can always show affection in other ways, too — squeezing your partner’s hand, stroking their hair, or giving them a long hug.

Maybe your partner wants to wait on kissing, or your lips have gone numb after an intense make-out session.

In either case, it never hurts to convey your interest and affection in less physical ways.

A few ideas to try:

  • Offer an honest compliment. “I love being around you. You always make me laugh, and I feel great just spending time together.”
  • Express your desire for a kiss in words. Time and place not quite right for a kiss? Build anticipation by telling them you can’t wait to kiss them later, or writing it down in a note.
  • Take a walk together. If they’re headed home, off to work, or out for a snack, you might offer to keep them company.
  • Find a place to rest your head. Maybe you want to keep touching, but you also want to pay attention to the movie. Leaning your head on their shoulder (if you’re shorter) or head (if you’re taller) allows you to maintain some contact without being totally distracted.
  • Hold hands. Handholding might seem a little tame once you’re ready to move on to kissing, but just think back to the first time you held hands. Remember that tingle when your fingers touched, the shiver when they rubbed their finger along your hand? Your hands can speak volumes about your feelings, too.

We kiss for plenty of reasons, but mostly because it can feel fantastic. You’d probably agree, then, that the best kisses are ones both you and your partner enjoy.

Keep in mind that these tips are just suggestions. You can use as many — or as few — of them as you like. As long as you communicate with your partner, there’s really no right or wrong way to enjoy an amazing kiss.