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

On one hand, a great kiss or make out session can leave you feeling amazing.

Science even tells us that kissing can actually be great for your health by increasing life satisfaction and reducing stress, which are two definite wins.

On the flip side, some kisses just aren’t great — especially if done incorrectly — making the idea of swapping spit with another human less than ideal.

If you’ve ever wondered where you fell on the kissing spectrum, these tips and tricks are here to help improve your game.

We can’t always control when the mood for a kiss strikes, but a little preparation goes a long way. You don’t need to overthink it!

If you know that kissing might be on the agenda, make sure your lips aren’t dry or cracked, and maybe skip the garlic bread.

A good rule of thumb is to do regular lip scrubs to keep chapped and peeling lips at bay — especially during the winter — and keep lip balm on hand.

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

You can also rely on a breath mint or a piece of gum to keep your mouth minty fresh.

In case it isn’t obvious, a full on make out session on a packed subway train maybe isn’t the best choice.

Once you have consent from your partner, you want to make sure your situation is both kiss-appropriate and going to be well-received.

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 share that their pet fish died? Probably not the right time for making out, but a kiss on the forehead could be comforting.

A little bit of planning goes a long way. Once you know what situation you’re in — or want to be in — you don’t need to overthink it.

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

Ready for some foreplay? A lingering trail of kisses on their neck can be shiver-inducing.

Remember, you don’t have to plant a kiss on the lips every time. It’s better to start small and build versus coming on way too strong.

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

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 also use your body language — moving in a bit closer, cupping your partner’s cheek — or try both. Because, yes, consent is 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 your partner down, but a little bit of eye contact can help make the initial movement less awkward.

Ease into it

Start the kiss with slow, gentle, and light pressure. A single, soft kiss is simple and sweet, and it’s easy to build it up.

Want to stretch it out longer? Try varying pressure slightly, or shifting your focus from their top lip to the bottom lip. Less is definitely more.

Keep your mouth relaxed

Don’t force your pucker or kiss too hard. Keep it simple!

When in doubt, mirror what your partner is doing. Most people tend to kiss in a way they enjoy, and it should always be 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, putting one in their hair, or one of each.

If there’s a height difference, you can always rest your hands on your partner’s hips or lower back — 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. Nobody likes saliva all over their face. Instead, start with brief, gentle touches with the tip of your tongue to theirs.

Seriously, don’t attempt to shove your entire tongue into their mouth

Not only is it a drool fest, an unexpected tongue in your mouth is the least sexy thing ever. Plus, it’s a recipe for getting bit. And not in a sexy tug-on-the-lip kind of way.

Find a natural rhythm

Make sure to breathe (obviously), and find what feels good for both you and your partner. When in doubt? Ask!

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

Pay attention to body language

This is how you can learn more about what your partner likes and doesn’t like.

Not everyone uses verbal cues, which means you have to pay attention to see what’s working.

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

You don’t have to go full-steam ahead into a heavy make out session, but you also don’t want to drag it out too long.

Gradually build up the kiss into something more, and don’t be afraid to tell your partner what you like (or don’t like), too. Communication, even nonverbal, is key.

Make eye contact between, or even during, kisses

OK, staring at your partner during a make out session is super creepy, but that doesn’t mean you need to have your eyes 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 using teeth during a kiss, which means it’s better to stick to a gentle tug on the lips. Anything more than that might be worth a conversation to see what you and your partner are comfortable with.

Not every kiss needs to lead to oral or penetrative sex.

Whether you’re kissing as a part of foreplay or simply enjoying the act, make sure you talk to your partner about different forms of intimacy and what makes you comfortable.

If you haven’t already, get closer

Once you’re ready to build your kiss further, eliminate the space between you and your partner. Physical proximity can be amazing, and it helps make the next few tips even better.

Explore other erogenous zones

There are a lot of “feel-good” places on the body, and everyone is different.

Get to know your partner’s different erogenous zones, like the ears or neck, and 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 is a full-body experience! Not only does consensual touching feel amazing — it’s great for your health, too.

Don’t be afraid to hold your partner close, run your hands through their hair, or stroke their arms, back, or whatever body part(s) they like.

Communication is a key factor to 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, here are some ways to gently give or receive feedback afterward:

  • 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 I’m comfortable with [blank]. Can we try less of that?

We kiss for a lot of reasons — mostly because it feels great — but the best kisses are ones where both you and your partner are comfortable.

You can do as much — or as little — as you like, and these tips are just suggestions.

As long as you’re communicating with your partner, there’s no right or wrong way to enjoy an amazing kiss.

No matter what form of intimacy you’re engaging in, the important thing is to stay protected and have fun!