What Is Temperature Play?

What Is Temperature Play?

Rose MacDowell

Never tried temperature play? Are you sure? If you've ever run a chilly sex toy under warm water or done something unmentionable to an ice cube, then you may have enjoyed temperature play without even knowing it. 

Temperature play may sound straightforward, but there's more to it than popping a stainless steel dildo in the fridge. Let's take a closer look at this unique type of stimulation and what makes it so popular. I'll discuss the different ways you can practice it, why it's a common kink, and how to enjoy it safely even when you're (literally) playing with fire. 

What Is Temperature Play?

Temperature play is the use of heat and cold to enhance sexual arousal. You can indulge in temperature play during a solo session, with a partner, or with more than one partner. Temperature play is often, but not always, practiced in the context of a sexual relationship.   

Why Do People Like Temperature Play?

Temperature play encompasses a spectrum of sensations, from gentle to intense, making it something many people can enjoy. Erogenous zones like the genitals, nipples, inner thighs, and neck are highly responsive to warmth and cold, as well as sudden temperature changes. 

Types of Temperature Play: Heat

Heat is one of the three common kinds of temperature play. The kinds of temperature play that involve heat might include:

Warming lube

Warming lube is designed to create a warm sensation on the skin and erogenous zones. Warming lubricants typically contain ingredients like cinnamon, clove, or ginger, which are stimulating to the skin and genitals. Depending on the lube you choose, the sensation can be gentle and soothing or tingly and more intense.

Key benefits of warming lubes:

  • They cut down on friction and increase glide
  • They increase blood flow, enhancing arousal and making sex more pleasurable
  • They're a easy way to dabble in temperature play to see if you enjoy different temperature sensations 

Warming lubes can be used for temperature play or just to add extra stimulation during masturbation or play with a partner. 

Learn more: Warming Lubes

    Heated sex toys

    Warming up sex toys is one of the most common forms of temperature play, and can be a great introduction to this type of stimulation.  

    The best toys for temperature play do not contain motors that could be damaged by heat or cold. Stainless steel is highly conductive and may be the best material for temperature play. Borosilicate glass toys are less conductive but can retain heat well. Silicone toys can be warmed but will go back to room or body temperature more quickly than stainless steel or glass.  

    To heat up a waterproof sex toy, run it under water until it's warm but not hot. Be particularly careful of stainless steel toys, as they can become quite hot quickly and even burn the skin. Handle wet glass toys over a towel and be careful not to drop them. 

    Learn more: How To Use A Stainless Steel Sex Toy

    Wax play 

    Wax play involves dripping hot wax onto the skin using candles designed for this purpose. Because of the unique patterns wax droplets make on the skin, wax play can be both a sensory experience and an artistic one. 

    Wax play candles are typically made from paraffin, which has a lower melting point than many types of wax and is less likely to scald the skin.

    Tips for wax play:

    • Use plastic sheets or towels under the area where you'll be dripping wax to avoid any unwanted damage to bedding or furniture and make clean-up easier
    • Start by testing a small amount of melted wax on yourself before applying it to your partner to gauge the temperature
    • Drip from a higher distance so that the heat dissipates before reaching your partner's skin. Gradually decrease the height based on your partner's comfort level
    • Focus on less sensitive areas first like arms or legs before trying more delicate zones like the inner thighs or genitals 
    • Remember that communication is key. Continuously check in with your partner to ensure they're comfortable and enjoying the experience
    Learn more: BDSM Red Flags

    Fire play

    Fire play involves the use of a flame on or near the skin. It can be a thrilling and intense way to explore different sensations as well as trust between partners. Fire play requires careful preparation and understanding of the potential risks, and is best practiced by experienced temperature players. 

    There are specific tools designed for fire play, such as fire wands and fire cups. These tools are designed to allow for safe flame contact with the skin. Make sure to research and invest in the proper tools before attempting any fire play.

    If you're new to fire play, start with simple exercises, like running an ice cube over your partner's body and then following it up with a brief touch of a lit match. Gradually increase the intensity and duration of the flames as you both become more comfortable.

    Fire play should only be practiced in a controlled environment. Avoid using flames near flammable objects, and make sure you have a fire extinguisher on hand in case of emergency.

    As with any type of play, communication about fire play is key. Talk with your partner beforehand about what you both want to explore and establish clear limits and boundaries. Check in with each other throughout the play to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

    Learn more: What Does Safe, Sane, and Consensual Mean?

    Other warming methods

    Any method of bringing warmth to the skin or genitals can be considered temperature play. You can warm your fingers under water, heat up your mouth with a hot beverage, or even warm up your genitals with a warm towel or heating pad. 

    Heat play safety

    • Communicate. Make sure both partners are aware of each other's limits and consent to engage in heat play
    • Avoid alcohol-based products. Steer clear of lotions or oils containing alcohol since they can ignite easily around open flames
    • Maintain distance. Keep fire torches at least six inches away from the body and never leave them unattended
    • Cool water. Have a bowl of cool water close by to soothe skin and balance warm temperatures
    • Know first aid. Both partners should be knowledgeable about basic first aid in case of any accidents or injuries

    Types of Temperature Play: Cold

    Looking for ways to chill out by yourself or with a partner? Here are some easy to incorporate cold play into your repertoire. 

    Ice cubes

    When it comes to temperature play, it doesn't get more classic than ice cubes. Try gently rubbing an ice cube on your partner's skin, or drip cold water from a melting ice cube onto sensitive areas. You can also try:

    • Frozen massage oil bars. These melt upon contact with warm skin and offer a chilly but soothing experience
    • Icy oral sex. Sucking on an ice cube before performing oral sex adds another level of sensation for both partners involved
    • Glass toys. Glass toys feel a lot like ice cubes but don't melt! Glass dildos and butt plugs can be chilled in the refrigerator for added stimulation during penetration 
    • Condom cubes. For a more intense experience, fill a condom with water and freeze it before using it vaginally or anally (with plenty of lube)

    Learn more: Are Glass Sex Toys Safe?

      Other cold play methods

      • Outdoor winter play. If you enjoy exhibitionism or the thrill of being exposed to the elements, a snowy night can provide an exhilarating backdrop for BDSM scenes
      • Frozen clothing or accessories. Placing underwear, blindfolds, or handcuffs in the freezer beforehand adds an unexpected chill when they come into contact with your partner's skin
      • Lube. Try cooling lubes that include ingredients like peppermint or menthol, or put your usual lube in the fridge before using it

        Cold play safety

        Safety comes first with temperature play, and that includes playing with cold as well as heat. To play safely, remember:

        • Communication is key. Discuss boundaries and comfort levels beforehand and establish safewords
        • Maintain body warmth. Keep blankets nearby to warm up quickly after engaging in colder activities
        • Avoid direct contact with sensitive areas. Wrap ice in a thin cloth to prevent frostbite or tissue damage
        • Experiment with different sensations. Combine cold and warm elements for an exhilarating experience

          Temperature Play and BDSM

          Temperature play in BDSM refers to incorporating hot or cold elements into  power dynamics. In a BDSM relationship, temperature play is about more than just a fleeting sensatory experience and may incorporate other dynamics, including:

          • Bondage and discipline. One partner may be restrained during temperature play as part of a bondage scene, adding an elements of control and submission
          • Mindfulness. Temperature play can help partners focus on the moment and be present as they notice how the body reacts to different sensations 
          • Pain and pleasure. Incorporating extreme temperatures can add another layer of intensity when combined with other forms of pain-play
          • Trust. Perhaps the most important element of temperature play in a BDSM relationship is the trust required to explore these sensations safely

          Learn more: Dominant and Submissive Relationships

            Negotiating Scenes for Temperature Play

            Before engaging in any form of BDSM play, it's essential to negotiate with your partner or partners about limits, expectations, and safewords or signals.

            Clearly communicate which sensations and areas of the body are off-limits. For instance, you might like the feeling of ice cubes on your skin but find hot wax too painful. If you're more experienced, you might be open to more extreme types of play like fire or snow exposure, or be more comfortable with milder sensations.

            For more about negotiating BDSM scenes and consent: BDSM Safety 

            Temperature Play Aftercare

            Temperature play can be intense and exhilarating, but proper aftercare is a crucial part of the experience. After temp play, check in with each other about how you're feeling, tend to your physical needs, and offer the caring and connection that can make this type of play particularly fulfilling.

            Temperature play aftercare essentials

            • Blankets. Keep blankets nearby for immediate warmth
            • Cool showers. Lukewarrm or cool water can be a refreshing way to come down from heat play
            • Fuzzy socks. Slip on warm fuzzy socks to keep feet cozy
            • Beverages. Sip on hot tea or cocoa to slowly increase body temperature. After heat play, ice water or other chilly drinks can feeling particularly restorative
            • Gentle massage: Soothe sore muscles with a gentle massage using warmed oil