Our bodies do a good job of cleaning themselves, and sometimes that involves creating unusual substances and scents. Sometimes, a change in the smells or substances could be more serious. This can be the case with smegma. Smegma is a buildup of dead skin cells, oil, and other fluids on the tip of the penis or in the folds of the vagina. The buildup can grow over time, and if it’s not taken care of, it can lead to painful side effects.
Smegma is caused by shredded skin cells, dead epithelial cells, mixing with skin oil secretions, such as sweat and naturally-produced lubricants. Smegma may build up if it is not washed away properly. This may cause problems, thus good personal hygiene is necessary to avoid such problems.
Smegma is a secretion of the oil glands around the genitals. For men, smegma often appears under the foreskin of the penis. In women, it’s most likely to appear between the folds of the vagina’s labia or around the clitoral hood. Smegma has several distinct characteristics:
- thick, cheese-like consistency
- white in color (can be darker depending on natural skin tone)
- unpleasant smell
How does smegma the body?
The head of the people has glands under the foreskin that produce fluid, smegma, to allow the foreskin to move over the head of the penis easily. When the head of the penis isn't regularly cleaned, the smegma can start to smell and form white lumpy discharge. Smegma is most frequent among young boys and older men. With young boys it's important they learn at a young age what is important about personal hygiene when it comes to their private parts. When the head of the penis is cleaned regularly and thoroughly with water, it is just as hygienic as circumcision. Because good personal hygiene of genitalia is becoming more and more normal, less and less people have complaints of accumulation of smegma.
Smegma and cancer
Some studies have indicated a possibility that smegma may contain cancer-causing substances. They do state, however, that this link has not been proven. According to the American Cancer Society it is now mainly believed that smegma itself is probably not responsible for penile cancer, but that it could potentially increase the risk of cancer by causing irritation of the penis.
The best way to treat smegma is to wash your genitalia. Following these instructions can help you eliminate any smegma buildup.
- If you’re uncircumcised, gently pull back the foreskin. If you’re female, pull apart your vaginal folds with your first two fingers.
- Use mild soap and warm water to wash beneath the foreskin or in and around the labia. Avoid using perfumed or highly-scented soaps. These products may irritate the sensitive skin.
- Rinse the penis or vagina thoroughly, and dry well.
- For men, pull the foreskin back over the tip of the penis. Be careful to not irritate your penis by using sharp devices or products like cotton swabs to clean the head of your penis.
Smegma can be prevented through good personal hygiene. Clean your genitals daily, and avoid using harsh soaps or products in the area. In women, that includes avoiding douches, or vaginal rinses, which can lead to vaginal infections and other health concerns.
If you regularly have excess smegma accumulation despite good personal hygiene, or if you notice other changes to your genitals, include inflammation, pain, or abnormal discharge, see your doctor.