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Last updated December 20, 2019. 6 minute read

Please don't harvest solar energy with your butthole, say scientists

An Instagram user went viral for posting a picture of her practice of exposing her perineum, the space between her vulva and anus, to the sun (the same term can be used for men, referring to the area between the scrotum and the anus). She claims it can boost energy, enhance the libido, and even give you better sleep.

Linnea Zielinski Written by Linnea Zielinski
Reviewed by Dr. Mike Bohl, MD, MPH

There’s probably a joke here somewhere, something about getting a tan “where the sun don’t shine.” But the real question is, is it a laughing matter that people have taken up perineum sunning, or is this something serious? Perineum tanning, for those unfamiliar, is exposing the area between the anus and the scrotum or vulva to direct sunlight. It’s also called “butthole sunning” by those who want to get right to the point. And yes, if social media photos are to be believed, it generally requires you to expose the area by holding your legs up in the air while you sunbathe.

Vitals

  • An Instagram user went viral for posting a picture of her practice of exposing her perineum, the space between her vulva and anus, to the sun (the same term can be used for men, referring to the area between the scrotum and the anus).
  • She claims it can boost energy, enhance the libido, and even give you better sleep.
  • The evidence? T’ain’t convincing.

The Instagram post that seems to have started it all is from a woman who goes by Metaphysical Meagan. She claims that “perineal sunning” is actually an “ancient Taoist practice” and that just 5 minutes a day leaves her “energized for hours.” So much so, in fact, that she’s given up coffee. But that’s just one of the many health claims the caption of her photo listed for this practice. She claims it can give you not only a boost of overall energy but also better sleep, improved creativity, and a more regulated circadian rhythm.

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To get the low down on exposing your down low to the sun, we talked to Dr. Evan Goldstein, the Founder, and CEO of Bespoke Surgical, the leading private practice specializing in an elite standard of sexual health and wellness care for the modern gay male. He is also the Co-Founder of Future Method, an entirely new step-by-step approach to sex care with formulations backed by science. Dr. Goldstein doesn’t shy away from “taboo” issues or dispelling stigmas around sexual health and has become the go-to anal expert in mainstream media. If any real benefits to what is essentially the opposite of bleaching your asshole exist, Dr. Goldstein would know about them.

How did perineum sunning become a “trend”?

It’s unclear whether this is actually a wellness trend that’s taking off—the hashtag #ButtholeSunning that micro-influencer Meagan used herself only has 189 photos, not all of them relevant. If it were actually an “ancient Toaist practice,” as Meagan claims, it could be said to have been followed by many people ages ago. But everyone seems unsure about that, too.

One of her Instagram followers, Ra of Earth, followed up with a screenshot of a page from The Tao of Sexology by Dr. Stephen T. Chang, Qi Institute founder, suggesting that sunlight “has excellent germicidal qualities” that “will help keep the anal and vaginal areas healthy and free of germs.” The book also claims the practice is “excellent for the treatment of hemorrhoids” (Chang, 2000).

But the book, complete with a silhouette of someone mooning the sun in a move dubbed the “Sun Worship Exercise,” was originally published in 1986. And there’s very little text in this section entitled “The Use of Sunlight,” and no mention of it being an ancient practice. Meagan later followed up with another post and claimed: “Perineum sunning is an ancient Taoist practice that originated in the Far East. In Taoism, the perenium [sic] or Hui Yin is called the ‘Gate of Life and Death.’ This is a gateway where energy enters & exits the body.” She goes on to explain that she learned about this “through my studies of Taoism and Tantric practices,” and that “Mantak Chia speaks about this in his work.”

The post did go viral. But the “trend” doesn’t seem to have any traction. Even the reports of actor Josh Brolin attempting the practice have been questioned. Brolin reposted MetaphysicalMegan’s image on Instagram, adding a caption about his own disastrous attempt that ended with a severe sunburn. “My pucker hole is crazy burned,” he wrote, adding, “I was going to spend the day shopping with my family and instead I’m icing and using aloe and burn creams because of the severity of the pain.” We did ask, but Dr. Goldstein reports no patients coming into his practice asking about sunning their bits.

But even if Brolin isn’t adding some time spreading in the sun to his routine, Meagan does have famous company. In 2014, Shailene Woodley told Into The Gloss: “Another thing I like to do is give my vagina a little vitamin D.” So Meagan’s not the only one with her yoni out in nature. “I was reading an article written by an herbalist I studied about yeast infections and other genital issues,” the Big Little Lies actress continued. “She said there’s nothing better than vitamin D. If you’re feeling depleted, go in the sun for an hour and see how much energy you get. Or, if you live in a place that has heavy winters, when the sun finally comes out, spread your legs and get some sunshine.” Which leads us to the million-dollar question here:

Is perineum sunning safe, and does it have any benefits?

“Sun exposure clearly has its benefits, as it relates to vitamin D production. But does someone need to rear their rear to reap those benefits? Clearly not,” Dr. Goldstein says. Recent concern about sun exposure and its connection to skin cancer risk has many people cutting down their time in direct sunlight, though, and many healthcare providers simply don’t feel comfortable claiming any time exposed to UV light is safe (especially without sunscreen)—and that’s when we talk about your thicker skin.

One of the major concerns with perineum sunning is that your skin in this area is thinner and more sensitive, especially for women. (Meagan, can you hear us?) “This type of sun exposure, without adequate protection, can lead to significant burning and irritation, with long term complications of possible cancer formation,” Dr. Goldstein warns. We’re going to go out on a limb here and say burning and irritation aren’t things that lead to a healthy libido. Across countless articles that have talked to a wide variety of specialists, one thing is clear: Even if it’s trending, perineum tanning is not recommended by physicians or dermatologists.

Metaphysical Meagan claimed, though, that just 30 seconds of sunlight on the area daily is enough to reap the rewards. So how much damage could be done in just 30 seconds? “Direct sun exposure to anyone’s body can cause effects, especially in regions that have fragile and thin skin, along with limited (or no) protection,” Dr. Goldstein clarifies. “Can 30 seconds of sun cause damage to your hole? Probably not. Prolonged exposures to an area that’s normally out of sight can lead to damage. But like any area, with appropriate SPF protection and gradual exposure, anything is possible.”

Perineum sunning can exacerbate STIs

There is one clear side effect of sunbathing these sensitive areas: it could make some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) worse. “Studies have quoted herpes simplex virus being exacerbated by sun exposure,” Dr. Goldstein explains. “The stresses of anything can cause an outbreak, and if local trauma is noted in that region, as this tanning may induce, then, in theory, the virus may re-appear.”

And there are studies that suggest that having HPV can increase your risk of developing skin cancer regardless of sun exposure. Dr. Goldstein emphasizes that adding sunlight to the mix could potentially make things worse: “Just like any cancer formation, DNA alterations may be enhanced from tanning. The asshole is no different.” The question here is time spent in the sunlight, but we really don’t have enough information to say for sure that any is safe. “Now, what duration causes what damage and for how long, that’s still unclear,” he summarizes. So even if 30 seconds seems harmless enough, no one can safely say Meagan’s 5 minutes of perineum sunning are without health concern—especially since they’re areas of the body that aren’t typically exposed to sunlight.

Health benefits of vitamin D

So if there are any health benefits of perineum sunning at all, they come down to vitamin D. And those are absolutely worth discussing since many of us in the United States aren’t getting as much of this crucial vitamin as we should. A considerable 41.6% of adults in the United States are at risk of vitamin D deficiency because they don’t get enough of this “sunshine vitamin” (Forrest, 2011). And the health benefits of vitamin D span your entire body, from potentially protecting against the flu to maintaining your bone health as you age. But even vitamin D isn’t shown to boost your sexual energy or help you get better sleep, so there’s truly no basis for saying this practice delivers those benefits.

But many medical professionals don’t feel comfortable suggesting time in the sun, even to get your daily dose of vitamin D. Boosting your intake with dietary sources and supplementation, if necessary, is standard medical advice. Any time spent in the sun should be anticipated, and sunscreen should absolutely not be skipped. (Your dermatologist would suggest sunscreen daily to keep your skin looking young, anyway.)