What is Smegma?
In uncircumcised males, smegma is a sebaceous matter made up of oil and dead skin cells, which accumulates under the foreskin. In females, it accumulates around the folds of the labia. It is not a serious condition and not a sexually transmitted infection. However, a smegma buildup can harden, smell, and cause genital irritation.
Smegma is whitish in color and has an unpleasant smell with a cheese-like consistency. It can also appear darker depending on the person's skin tone. It often appears under the foreskin of the penis in men and in the folds of the vagina's labia in women. If smegma starts to build up, the genitals need to be regularly washed. It is perfectly normal even though it may sound and look disgusting.
Noticing a smegma buildup can be alarming, but it is natural for smegma to form. It can be removed through proper genital washing. However, smegma may build up in the genitals due to poor hygiene or difficult washing under the foreskin.
The buildup of smegma normally helps to lubricate and clean the genitals, but a large build up can cause problems and is unhealthy. It is normal and natural in small quantities. However, a larger buildup can cause inflammation, irritation, foul odor, and can increase the risk of cancer.
Symptoms of Smegma
Sometimes, smegma may not be visible but is present under the foreskin. It may appear as a whitish material between the glans and foreskin in the form of tiny balls. If left untreated along with poor hygiene, smegma may develop into smegma stones, which is hardened smegma. Smegma stones can be highly uncomfortable. Eventually, bacteria under the foreskin will increase and the risk of infection and disease will increase. It is important to seek medical help if other symptoms along with smegma buildup persist.
Smegma is not permanent and can be treated very easily. Washing the genital area properly and following good hygiene practices can remove smegma buildup. It is recommended to wash the area with water until visible particles are gone. Washing with soap may aggravate the problem. Wash your genitals thoroughly and consistently once the condition is under control. There are also products available to hasten the removal of smegma buildup.
Getting Rid of Smegma in Males
- Adjusting one's personal hygiene will help remove smegma. It means proper cleaning around and under the genitals. To help the foreskin retract, the body produces a lubricant. Along with dead skin cells, natural oils, dirt, and bacteria, this lubricant may accumulate under the skin. For this reason, smegma in circumcised males is less common. To remove smegma buildup, the penis needs to be properly cleaned.
- If the smegma has hardened, pull back the foreskin. However, it might not be possible to pull it all the way back. If you apply force, it might cause the skin to tear and may cause pain, which could further cause an infection.
- The area that is covered by the foreskin needs to be washed with mild soap and warm water. The delicate skin may get irritated if you scrub it very hard. Apply oil on that area if the smegma has become hard. The application of oil will help you clean the area.
- After cleaning, rinse off all the soap and gently pat the area dry.
- Over the tip of the penis pull the foreskin back.
- Do this daily until the smegma is gone.
- Do not use sharp tools or cotton swabs to scrape the smegma. It might further irritate the delicate skin. Consult a doctor immediately if there is still no improvements after a week of cleaning or if you feel that the smegma is getting worse. You may have an infection or you may have other problems if your penis has become red or inflamed.
Epsom Salt Bath and Saline Rinses
Saline rinses were used under the foreskin in a medical account in 1997. The saline rinses helped remove the smegma within a week. It also reduced genital inflammation. According to some anecdotal reports, soaking in an Epsom salt bath gave some people relief. Saline solutions and Epsom salts are available and can be purchased at drugstores. Ask your doctor for more information or follow the package instructions.
Hygiene Instructions for Uncircumcised Babies and Children
Under the skin of the foreskin in infants, smegma may look like white dots or pearls. At birth, the foreskin of most babies will not fully retract until the age of five. In some boys, it may happen much later. When bathing your son, do not force the foreskin back since it might cause skin damage, bleeding, and pain. You can sponge bathe the genitals with water and soap. There is also no need to use cotton swabs under the foreskin.
Smegma can be reduced by occasionally cleaning under the foreskin, but this should only be done once the retraction occurs. After puberty, the child should develop the habit of genital cleaning under the foreskin. He can develop a good personal hygiene if you teach him how to do it. The risk of smegma accumulation will also reduce. The steps for smegma cleaning in adults are also the same for uncircumcised children.
- If your son is older, let him do the cleaning. From the end of the penis towards the shaft, gently pull the foreskin away. You can help your son do this if your son is younger.
- Rinse the area with soap and warm water. Since the area is sensitive, avoid hard scrubbing. After you have rinsed off all the soap with water, pat the area dry.
- Over the tip of the penis pull the foreskin back.
Treating Smegma in Females
Vaginal odor may occur due to smegma in women. Smegma may accumulate around the clitoral hood or in the folds of the labia. Smegma buildup in women can be removed through proper personal hygiene.
- Pull back the vaginal folds gently. To help spread the folds, position the two fingers in a V-shape.
- Use a gentle soap and warm water to clean the folds. Be careful not to get the soap inside the vaginal opening.
- Rinse the area thoroughly and pat the area dry.
- Avoid wearing very tight underwear. Make sure that your underwear is made of breathable materials such as cotton. To help reduce the risk of smegma from accumulating, avoid wearing tight pants.
- An infection may be present if there are changes in the vaginal discharge along with an unusual odor. If the smegma does not go away or becomes worse, consult a doctor immediately. If you experience genital itching, pain, or burning sensation, or if there are yellow-green vaginal discharges, seek immediate medical attention.
- Washing - Smegma may accumulate when there is poor personal hygiene. Through regular and proper genital washing, dead skin cells can be removed and prevents them from accumulating. As a preventive measure, a good hygiene should be followed every day, especially in men.
- Medications - Medications may help in some cases where poor hygiene or phimosis is not the reason behind the smegma buildup. Consult a doctor to find out whether you need antibiotics to get rid of smegma.
- Health Creams - Penis health creams can be used moisturize the penis. Many men may experience dry skin due to a high amount of soap used for the removal of smegma buildup on the penis glans and foreskin. For this reason, topical health formulas may be recommended. Health creams may contain vitamins A, C, and E. Some may also contain shea butter to promote normal skin regeneration.
By getting a daily shower and by cleaning the area, smegma treatment really works. Ignoring it can lead to serious problems such as itching and redness. Sometimes, it may even lead to infections.
Prevention is fairly easy. Children should be taught to thoroughly wash their genitals at a younger age. They should be exactly taught how cleanliness can be achieved by developing a good hygiene. Regardless of circumcision, younger boys should be taught how to keep themselves fully clean. This condition may occur in circumcised as well as uncircumcised boys. It should be explained that when they are cleaning their genitals, their hands and water should be clean. They should as much as possible retract their foreskin but not force it back. Avoid using soap and pat dry once cleaning is done.
- Smegma is formed by the accumulation of dead skin cells and fluids secreted by the sebaceous glands in the foreskin.
- Smegma is present for a particular reason and cannot be completely removed since it keeps forming. However, its buildup should be avoided.
- Smegma can be prevented by following good hygiene practices.