Smegma is the thick, white, cheesy substance that collects under the foreskin of the penis.smegma It’s more common in uncircumcised men who don’t clean that area well enough. Women can also get smegma in their vaginal area.
It’s normal to have some smegma. And it usually isn’t a health problem, but bacteria can grow in it and smell bad. Those bacteria can also make the head of the penis swell up and hurt.
Keeping your penis or vagina clean is the best solution.
Tiny glands called sebaceous glands in the penis and vagina release smegma to lubricate these areas. It’s made from a combination of fatty oils, shed skin cells, and moisture like sweat.
In men, smegma collects between the foreskin and the head of the penis. In women, it can build up between the folds of the vulva and around the clitoris.
It’s normal to have some smegma. But if you don’t wash carefully, it can start to build up under the foreskin and head of the penis, as well as inside the vagina.
Bacteria can build up in the and turn the head of the penis red and swollen, which doctors call balanitis. Sometimes balanitis tightens the foreskin and makes it hard to pull back, or retract. If there is any redness, swelling, or foul smell, contact your doctor right away. Also call your doctor if it’s difficult or impossible to retract the foreskin.
Experts used to think substances in caused cancer of the penis. They now know this isn’t true, but the irritation causes might raise the risk for this cancer. Still, this type of cancer is rare in both circumcised and uncircumcised men.
Good hygiene is the best way to prevent buildup. Wash your penis or vaginal area with warm water once a day. Men who still have their foreskin should gently clean underneath it.
You don’t need to use soap, but if you do, use a gentle one to not irritate the sensitive skin on your genitals. Don’t scrub, use harsh cleansers, or apply soap more than once a day. Also avoid scented cleansers or talcum powder, which can be irritating.
Because young boys can also get smegma, parents should wash the penis gently with warm water every day. Don’t try to clean underneath the foreskin in a baby or young boy. For the first few years of life, the foreskin is attached to the head of the penis by a membrane. Pulling too hard could cause pain, and it might damage the penis.
In Latin, “smegma” means “detergent or soap.”
In Greek, it comes from the word “smēchein,” which means “to wash off or clean.”
can occur naturally in everyone. However, it most commonly appears in people who are uncircumcised. The foreskin can trap oils, skin cells and other fluids, creating an ideal environment for to accumulate.
It doesn’t usually appear before puberty. During puberty, your body starts going through physical changes to reach sexual maturity and produces more oils.
It also doesn’t occur as often after menopause in women and people AFAB, and around age 60 in men and people AMAB, when oil production starts to decline naturally.
Smegma is common because it exists naturally. It may accumulate if you don’t clean your genitals regularly.
What are the symptoms of smegma?
As builds up, it may:
Look like crumbly cheese.
Smell foul, like sour milk.
Cause irritation or swelling.
Cause discoloration (red, pink, purple or gray).
Be difficult to pull back (retract) your foreskin, which may cause pain when you’re erect.
Cause your clitoral hood to stick to your clitoris (clitoral adhesion).
A combination of oils, dead skin cells, sweat and other fluids causes smegma.
Is smegma contagious?
Smegma isn’t contagious. It isn’t an STD or STI. You can’t spread to another person through skin-to-skin contact or unprotected sex.
How is smegma diagnosed?
Smegma is easy to recognize, so you don’t necessarily need a healthcare provider to diagnose it. However, it’s natural to be nervous if you notice . A healthcare provider can diagnose and rule out an STD or STI.
How is smegma treated?
The best way to treat is to regularly wash your genitals and the surrounding areas until it goes away.
If you have foreskin, gently pull your foreskin as far back as you can toward your body. Use a clean washcloth or your hands to wash the skin under your foreskin with soap and warm, clean water. If you’re circumcised, clean your penis with soap and water.
If you hav a vagina, gently pull apart your labia. Use a clean washcloth or your hands to wash the area with soap and warm water. Be careful not to get water or soap in your vagina.
The skin in these areas is sensitive, so it’s a good idea to use a mild soap free of perfumes, dyes or alcohol.smegma Look for products labeled “fragrance-free,” “hypoallergenic” or “for sensitive skin.”
After you wash and rinse the area, thoroughly dry it with a clean towel. Put on clean, breathable underwear to help prevent bacterial growth.