If ice cubes and burning candle wax are the first things that come to mind when you hear “temperature play,” you’re probably not alone. For reasons that I do not understand (yeah, I’m biased against ice, sorry ice lovers!), ice is a commonly suggested way to play with temperature despite it often being too cold and many are unaware that regular candle wax can cause burns – yikes!

Thankfully though, there is so much more than working with the extremes. Keep reading to learn about how to incorporate temperature play and how versatile it can be!

Talk about it

This might seem obvious (or not!) but discuss what kinds of temperatures feel good and how far each person is comfortable going as a first step. This will ensure that everyone feels safe and secure when experimenting with this type of sexual activity by building trust and communication. As always, you can change your mind and request different temperatures and types of touches to fit your needs, even if they are different than what you discussed originally.

Start slow

Even after you’ve talked, don’t jump right into hardcore temperature play. Start by introducing light touches with different temperatures. This will give you up close and personal observation time to see how you or your partner respond to different stimuli.

Two things to try first:

  • Blow on different parts of your partner’s body using the natural temperature of your breath. If you’d like to increase or decrease the temperature, try drinking some hot tea, eating some mint, or sucking on an ice cube before blowing. Do not blow air directly into the vagina or anus, as this is dangerous.
  • Cup the genitals. This looks like creating a cave shape with your hand and lightly placing this over the genitals to create warmth over the area. This will help increase sensitivity, and, for some, create a teasing sensation.

Experiment with different materials

Use items made from materials that can be warmed or cooled for different sensations on the skin. My favorite cool sensual instrument is a metal spoon. It has enough surface area to offer a satisfying cooling sensation and can double as a spanking implement. Plus, most people already have these in the kitchen, so it doesn’t cost extra to play with them! Check out more examples below:


Not just spoons and other cutlery, try using toys and jewelry, as well as other creative items from your home. Metal is versatile because it can be used at room temperature to offer cooling sensations, put in the fridge for a more intense cooling, or be warmed to create the opposite effect. Metal can’t go in the microwave. Instead, you can run metal under warm/hot water, blow on it, or use your hands to warm the implement.


Just like metal, glass is versatile in that it can be warm or cold. Make sure you’re using glass that is shatterproof and can handle a range of temperatures, such as borosilicate glass.

Lubricants, oils, & wax

There are warming (and cooling) lubricants and oils, which gradually increase or decrease in temperature when applied to the skin. Apply and then softly blow on the skin to deepen the sensations.

While the image of dripping wax from a candle is common, regular candles, like the ones used for birthday cakes, can lead to serious burns. Talk about killing the mood.

Instead, you can try massage candles, which have a lower burning temperature and are perfect for temperature play. Most melt into massage oil, which adds additional yumminess to the skin. However, even with these, people have different thresholds for heat so be careful and check in as you go (I’ll share specific tips in the next section). Also, if you are using latex barrier methods, don’t forget that oil disintegrates latex. Therefore, they shouldn’t be used together.

Be careful with extreme temperatures

Avoid extreme temperatures that could cause burns on sensitive areas of the body like nipples or genitals. This includes both hot and cold temperatures since burning is possible in both directions. When in doubt, test out the temperature on yourself before applying it to your partner. As we just discussed, always maintain communication. For example, if you are using melting wax or oil, let the wax fall onto your own skin on its way down to your partner. That will give you a sense of how hot it is and will give your partner a cooler starting point. If they want hotter, you can let it fall directly onto them. You can also mediate the heat by dripping from higher up to give the wax or oil time to cool on the way down.

If you are interested in the intensity that ice cubes offer, start by using it in someone’s mouth to let it cool their tongue. For direct contact, start with short and light strokes or let the water drip from the ice rather than leaving the ice in one place. This can cause numbness and decrease sexual sensitivity.

Get creative with temperature play

Incorporate temperature play in other activities like bondage or oral favors. For example, you could use a cold item of choice to trace around the nipples during a light bondage session or use a warm cloth on your partner’s genitals before performing oral sex. Spanking is also a great way to warm body parts.

Then there is the option of mixing temperatures. For example, use an ice cube or other cold object to lightly stroke your partner’s skin. Then follow up with a warm cloth or heated massage oil. This will offer instant relief from the ice cube’s bite while bringing blood to the surface of the skin increasing sensitivity.

You can also make it a full-body experience! A hot shower before a sex session can help sensitize the whole body for upcoming pleasure and stimulation.

Have fun with it

Experimenting with different temperatures can be exciting and pleasurable if done safely. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself! Like many types of sensation play, it’s not about bringing about orgasm but creating a more diverse and full-bodied pleasure journey. Let yourself get lost in that journey (but orgasms are great, too!). It’s also ok if you realize something doesn’t feel good or that you don’t like temperature play at all. Exploring is easier when you release yourself from the pressure to enjoy everything you try.

Yael R. Rosenstock Gonzalez

Yael R. Rosenstock Gonzalez

Sex Educator, Researcher, Author, Speaker
I'm a queer, polyamorous Nuyorican (Puerto Rican New Yorker) Jewish pleasure activist (a term popularized by adrienne maree brown) who believes that sexual wellness and sexual liberation involve our WHOLE selves. I center identity, values, and social positioning work, playful exploration, and intimacy with self and others. I am here to support you in finding pleasurable, joyful, embodied experiences with self and sex through intentional practices geared towards your specific needs because sexual wellness and pleasure are for anyone who seeks them.