Does the word “smegma” make you feel uncomfortable? Well, it makes sense. Smegma isn’t very pleasant, and it has many slang nicknames.
What is Smegma?
Smegma is a cheesy fluid that’s secreted by both male and female genitalia. It’s slimy and made of dead skin cells, fat, and protein. Smegma also contains the bacteria Mycobacterium smegmatis, which is the reason for its name.1 Unsurprisingly, smegma is common in uncircumcised men. The foreskin, after all, doubles as the perfect home. It’s also made by specific sebaceous glands along the foreskin’s inner surface. Smegma is made to protect and lubricate the area, especially during sex.2 However, to most people, it looks like pus.3
Thanks to the bacteria, smegma has a distinctive odor. The scent is considered normal in countries where uncircumcision is standard. Yet, in America, most men are circumcised. The smell might be off-putting to some people, depending on who you ask.4 If smegma builds up, your risk for infection will increase. It encourages the growth of harmful germs. The most common infections are posthitis, infection of the foreskin, and balanitis, infection of the foreskin and glands.5 Good hygiene is key for avoiding problems.6 Not sure where to start? Here are five ways men can stop smegma from turning into an infection:
1. Bathing Prevents Smegma Buildup
Regularly cleaning your body is a big part of personal hygiene.7 It doesn’t matter if you’re female or male, uncircumcised or not! But if you are uncircumcised, bathing is even more crucial. In a rush? Wash your penis, at least. It’s a must for uncircumcised males. Poor hygiene is a major cause of balanitis. By keeping yourself clean, you can reduce the risk.8
2. Pulling Foreskin Helps Clean Smegma
When you shower, carefully pull back the foreskin of your penis. Clean thoroughly with your hands. Keep in mind that the smegma glands are under the foreskin, so it’s important to wash the area. Don’t tug at the skin too hard. You don’t need to stretch it all the way down! Instead, be gentle.
3. Not Using Soap Can Help With Smegma
Ladies are always told to avoid scented soaps “down there”9 and it’s no different for men. These products are often full of chemicals, alcohol, and coloring. The
genitals are sensitive, so be careful. If you choose to use soap, wash it off completely. Go for an unscented soap when possible.10
4. Clean The Smegma And Dry It Well
Always dry yourself after washing. Otherwise, the foreskin will trap moisture. It’s the perfect set-up for bacterial build-up. You don’t need to be aggressive with this part. Pat it, don’t rub. Use a clean towel at all times.
5. Loose Underwear Can Slow Smegma Buildup
When possible, wear boxers. They’ll give your area room to breathe. At night, consider sleeping without underwear. If you choose to wear boxer briefs or briefs, opt for 100 percent cotton. It’s the best fabric to keep things cool.11 If the area gets hot and moist, fungus and bacteria will thrive and cause posthitis.12
Do you have smegma? Don’t panic. It’s normal and common for uncircumcised men. By keeping the area clean, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
|↑1||Fahmy, Mohamed. “Smegmoma “Smegma Collection in Health and Disease”.” In Congenital Anomalies of the Penis, pp. 237-240. Springer International Publishing, 2017.|
|↑2||Hunter, JOSEPH S., and M. A. R. K. Saslawsky. “Penile mass in a 53-year-old patient. Obstruction of smegma-producing glands.” American family physician 72, no. 6 (2005): 1093.|
|↑3, ↑5, ↑12||Foreskin care. BetterHealth Channel, Victoria State Government.|
|↑4||Scent of an uncircumcised penis. Go Ask Alice! Columbia University.|
|↑6||Anyanwu, Lofty-John Chukwuemeka, Emmanuel Kashibu, Chinagozi Precious Edwin, and Aminu Mohammad Mohammad. “Microbiology of smegma in boys in Kano, Nigeria.” Journal of Surgical Research 173, no. 1 (2012): 21-25.|
|↑7, ↑10||Personal hygiene. BetterHealth Channel, Victoria State Government.|
|↑8||Foreskin care. BetterHealth Channel, Victoria State Government.|
|↑9||Vaginal smegma. Go Ask Alice! Columbia University.|
|↑11||Bacterial vaginosis. Women’s Health.|