From figuring out the right amount of tongue to use to remembering to breathe, there’s a lot that goes into how to French kiss. Whether it’s your first time or 1,000th French kissing is an art—you can always improve your technique. Whether your looking for a basic outline of how to French kiss or pro tips to take your make out game to the next level, we’ve compiled the ultimate guide to French kissing, with expert tips from sex therapists and dating experts.
Don’t be afraid to make the first move. “We are all responsible for our own pleasure, and shouldn’t always wait for the other person to turn us on or kiss us,” says Marissa Nelson, a certified sex and relationship therapist in Washington, DC. “Perhaps start off with a forehead kiss, and then a kiss on the tip of the nose—then go in for a kiss on the lips. Pull your love close to you by the waist and tell them how good their lips taste on your tongue.”
It might seem obvious, but it still needs to be said: no one wants to French kiss someone with bad breath. “I can’t tell you how many couples privately complain about their partner’s bad breath,” says Nelson. To do your part, keep a pack of mints or a mini-bottle of mouthwash handy if you know you’re going to be getting up close and personal.
If your partner is the bad breath culprit, Nelson suggests using the “sandwiching technique” to gently suggest a mint—first praise something you like about their kissing, then suggest a mint would make it even more enjoyable, and finally close with another compliment.
When it comes to french kissing, there’s no need to rush. Rushing, actually, can do more harm than good. “Ease into it,” says Claudia Six, Ph.D., a clinical sexologist and counselor in California. “Sometimes people are anxious and jump into the kiss. It’s not smooth and it can get awkward. Make sure it’s mutual and start with meaningful eye contact.”
Nelson advises keeping your mouth relaxed, keeping your kisses soft and tender. “Kiss the top of the lips, the bottom of the lips, then graze your tongue between the lips and slowly add a little tongue,” she says. “You can play and chase your partner’s tongue for a couple of seconds and then suck on the top and bottom lip. When you start getting into the groove, you can increase the pressure and intensity.”
Try not to overthink your kissing technique—that’s the number one mistake most people make when their kissing, says Chris Donaghue, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and sexologist in California. “What makes French kissing good is being present but also being passionate,” he says. ” Just be in the moment. When you’re French kissing with someone you’re saying ‘I have passion for you. I want to connect deeper. I want to build intimacy with you.’ You’re trying to communicate to someone that you care about them; don’t be so obsessed with technique.”
If you’re paying attention to your partner, you pick up on things. If they’re going slow and not using tongue yet, it’s a signal to you to keep things slow and simple (for the moment). All along the way it’s important to read their energy. “Make eye contact once in awhile and pay attention to what’s happening,” says Six. As passion builds and momentum increases, you can kiss them with more urgency.
French kissing all about passion, and that means using your tongue. But there’s a fine line between the perfect amount of tongue and too much tongue. “It’s that really beautiful gray area where you’re using tongue thereby making it more impactful and hot and sexier than just a closed mouth kiss or a peck on the cheek,” says Donaghue. “But don’t overwhelm with thrusting and tongue power—it’s about a gentle use of your tongue to communicate interest or passion.”
Don’t leave your hands in your pocket or limp at your sides—use them. “Where your hands are communicates something,” says Donaghue. “If your hands are wrapped around your partner that naturally adds another layer of passion and intensity.”
Try running your fingers through your partner’s hair, gently scraping your nails along their back and neck, holding their hand in yours, or cupping their face in your hands.
When most people think of kissing, they think of closed eyes but making eye contact before the kiss and during the kiss can make the experience more intimate.
“Unfortunately, the longer a couple is together the lazier they get about how much work they put into French kissing. They tend to think it doesn’t matter as much, that it’s not as needed,” says Donaghue. “I think couples need to prioritize kissing more because that is one of the first things that diminishes. Sex will keep going, but kissing slows down and stops.”
But for many couples, kissing can be more meaningful than sex. Keep prioritizing the good old-fashioned make out session, especially in long-term relationships.
Everyone kisses differently—all that matters is that you and your partner work together to make French kissing a positive experience for both parties. If you’re not into something your partner is doing, let them know what you like and what turns you on—just avoid being critical. “Instead of saying ‘You use too much tongue’ or ‘I don’t like the way you kissed me,’ it’s better to say ‘Hey, I love when people kiss me with a lot of tongue,’ or ‘I love when people use less tongue,’ etc.” says Donaghue.