What Is Smegma?
Smegma is a thick, white, substance made up of fatty oils, dead skin cells, and other bodily fluids that can collect under the foreskin of the penis in men or around the clitoral hood or in the folds of the labia around the vagina in women. Smegma is produced by the body to lubricate these areas of the genitals.
Smegma buildup is more common in uncircumcised men who don't clean the head of the penis thoroughly. Some smegma is normal, but if bacteria start to grow it can produce a foul odor and irritation, redness, or swelling.
What Are Problems Caused by Buildup of Smegma?
If there is a buildup of smegma, bacteria can grow. This can cause problems such as:
- Redness and swelling of the head of the penis (balanitis)
- Difficulty retracting the foreskin of the penis
- Foul smell
- Clitoral adhesion which can make clitoral stimulation painful
How to Get Rid of Smegma Buildup
The best way to prevent smegma buildup is to practice good hygiene.
- Wash the penis or vaginal area with warm water at least once daily.
- Use a mild soap if desired. Avoid scented soaps or cleaners, and don’t use talcum powder which can irritate the area.
- Men with foreskin should gently clean underneath it. If the smegma has hardened, apply oil to soften it before washing.
- Young boys may get smegma, and the child’s penis should be washed with warm water daily. Don’t attempt to clean under the foreskin in babies or young boys. In babies and young boys, the foreskin may not retract fully and trying to pull it back could be painful and may damage the penis.
- If you wash notice discharge, odor, pain, itching, a burning sensation in your genitals, or if you have abnormal discharge (in women), see a doctor.
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