Listen to this playlist that can give you ‘skin orgasms’

3 mins
09 Jun 2022
Listen to this playlist that can give you ‘skin orgasms’

Have you had one before?

image When Harry Met Sally

words Louis Staples

We’ve all heard of orgasms. (Well, hopefully).

But what about “skin orgasms”? This is the process of your hairs standing on end, which can often happen when listening to music. (Who remembers growing up watching a trembling Cheryl turning to Simon Cowell and saying, under her breath: “I’ve got chills” on The X Factor?) Well, that’s a process called piloerection: an involuntary contraction of small muscles surrounding follicles causing hairs to stand on end.


Now, scientists think they’ve managed to pinpoint the formula for skin orgasms and have made a playlist of 715 “Songs To Give You Chills” to prove it. The research was covered by Quartz, who used the study to create the playlist of songs which are most likely to make our skin “orgasm”. The playlist includes tracks by Kanye West, Pixies, Prince, and Kate Bush (whose music has been experiencing a new lease of life thanks to Stranger Things).

you are missing out on some content here because you rejected our cookies. want to change that?

Why do ‘skin orgasms’ happen?

When we’re listening to music, most of us have a sense of where we expect the song’s rhythm and melody to go next. But when this is unexpectedly defied by a change that we like – such as a big high note, a dance drop, or key change – this can elicit piloerection. As IFLScience reports, one theory about why we have this reaction to changes in music is that it’s related to our “drive to understand and explore our environment,” which goes way back to the first humans on Earth.

Are you more likely to get a skin orgasm while listening to a happy or sad song?

The emotions of songs which give us chills was analysed in a paper from PhD candidate Rémi de Fleurian and Senior Lecturer Dr Marcus Pearce from the music cognition lab at Queen Mary University of London.

It really depends on the person, but they found that sadder and slower music was more likely to bring on chills. Still, a deviation from our musical expectation of what comes next was the most important stimulus-driven predictor of piloerection. (So, it would seem like songs must lose their chill-power over time, when we know what’s coming next?)

“We found convincing evidence for an effect of musical expectation on chills,” said Fleurian to IFLScience. “This effect had been hypothesised for more than 30 years, but we were finally able to set up a study to formally investigate the question.”

What else can trigger skin orgasms?

The research also found that different social situations, forms of art and experiences can have a similar effect. So, really, describing things as “orgasmic” isn’t as much of an exaggeration as it might seem.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to listen to… a Very Serious Podcast… in peace.

more stories

keep reading