For many, sex is all about heat: warm breaths, hot skin on skin, sweat and flushed flesh.

Physiological sexual response creates increased heart rate and blood flow, explaining the warmth experienced during intimacy.

Folks particularly compelled by such temperature changes often find themselves drawn to temperature play, a sensual practice that incorporates hot or cold elements into sexy time.

Changing temperatures stimulates and activates sensitive sensory glands that normally lie dormant, and for some, temperature ties into the popularly titillating combination of pleasure and pain. In order to engage with partners in temperature play, carry out careful conversation and discuss explicit boundaries as well as consent. Above all, play with the utmost caution and take proper safety precautions.

Some like it cold …

Perfect for a hot summer day, playing with ice cubes can send chills down a lover’s spine. If one is not too sensitive to cold, ice cubes can be traced directly along the body, followed with a light exhale to make the skin tingle. Focus on erogenous zones such as the neck, collarbone, inner thighs and the backs of the knees. One may hold the ice in their mouth to decrease intensity of the cold. For a sweet treat, freeze pieces of fruit or vegetables with high water content, such as melon or cucumber, and explore a honey’s body holding the frozen pieces in the mouth. For a cool surprise, try sucking on ice before making out or performing oral; the temperature contrast pleasures all parties.

If those participating don’t feel like getting wet, substances other than water can be chilled for sexy time, such as solid glass dildoes. Simply allow the dildo to acclimate to room temperature, then place it on a clean, dry shelf for 10 minutes. This temperature should intensify orgasms without becoming uncomfortable. Try teasing a partner by running the cool glass along sensitive regions of the bod — around the nipples, up the spine and down the inner thighs.

… some like it hot.

Applying heat to skin brings blood to the surface, increasing sensitivity and often creating pleasant tingling sensations. Several different mediums of heat exist to arouse partners, the mildest of which includes wax.

Massage oil candles melt from wax to massage oil for a warming, erotic massage — some can even be eaten. Simply light the candle for long enough to let the wax pool, extinguish the flame and welcome a different sort of heat by pouring the heated wax over a lover’s body. Drip candles, made specifically from wax that burns at lower temperatures, allows hot wax to drip directly from the wick onto skin. Keep in mind that the pain to pleasure ratio increases the closer melting wax is held above the skin. Before beginning hot wax play, always test a bit of the melted wax to ensure no one will be burned. Try teasing a sweetheart by dripping small amounts of candle up their thighs or back, and be sure to start slow so a submissive partner can warm up to the activity.

Particularly adventurous folks who seek that sweet pleasure/pain combination, along with heat, find the perfect activity in fire play, which uses flame on or very close to the skin. Naturally, fire play is a varsity-level kink that requires extreme care and should not be practiced without an experienced player along for the ride. The drama depicted in fire play scenes, however, mostly do not cause actual pain, and rarely leave marks on the skin. Fuels such as isopropyl alcohol, mousse, hand sanitizer and flash cotton are arranged on the flesh, often in interesting patterns for streaking techniques. The dominant partner lights these fuels using fire wands, flaming gloves or flaming floggers and extinguish them before the skin begins to burn. Partners may also bounce the lit fire wands across a submissive’s skin.