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Have you been wondering what the "white stuff" that accumulates under your foreskin is, and whether it's bad for you? It's time for a personal hygiene primer — uncircumcised penis edition. 

About That 'White Stuff Under The Foreskin': What Is Smegma?

That white stuff that accumulates under your foreskin is called smegma. Some words just sound dirty, don't they? Smegma is, I think, certainly one of them. As nasty as the word itself sounds and as unpleasant the stuff is to look at and sometimes smell, smegma is also completely normal. 

Smegma is a mixture of dead skin cells, penile discharge, and liquids. Both urine and ejaculatory fluids can be present in smegma. It's generally found under the foreskin, and a rim of the stuff may build up where your foreskin ends and your glans begins. 

Smegma itself isn't bad for you — it's just a fact of life. What is bad, however, is just leaving it there, and that's for the same reason you wash your face, your armpits, your hair, and any other part of your body. Nobody likes to be dirty, smelly, and create a breeding ground for bacteria, in short. A build-up of smegma in the moist and warm environment of your penis can eventually lead to infections, and you don't want that.

How Should I Keep My Uncircumcised Penis Clean?

In countries where a large percentage of the male population is circumcised, you may have missed out on basic personal hygiene instructions. Fortunately, caring for your uncircumcised penis is really not that hard.

As an uncircumcised male approaches puberty, his foreskin should become retractable. From that time on, it's good practice to retract the foreskin and gently wash the glans whenever you wash yourself. This is easy to do in the shower, and using your fingers is better than using a scratchy washcloth. You do not need to use soap, which can upset the pH balance of your penis and even lead to inflammation and irritation. If you like, however, you can use pH neutral wipes especially designed for the purpose. 

After you're done cleaning under your foreskin, return it to its original position and also wash the base of your penis and your testicles.

Do not use body lotions, talcum powder, deodorant, or anything of the sort on your glans, as this only encourages inflammation. 


If your glans becomes painful, sore, red, or swollen, see your doctor — you may be dealing with balanitis, an inflammation of the glans. 

Uncircumcised adolescents who have found that they cannot yet retract their foreskin should also see a doctor, as they may be dealing with phimosis. This is a condition in which the foreskin cannot be retracted, and it can lead to a build-up of smegma that you cannot clean, as well as a whole host of other health issues, including painful erection. 

If you have any questions or concerns about your uncircumcised penis, it is always best to address them to a doctor who has experience with patients who weren't circumcised, as these doctors will give you the most appropriate care and advice. 

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