Smegma: What is that white build-up under the foreskin?

Human genitals can produce very foul and pungent smells if the correct hygiene routine is not practiced frequently enough.

what is smegma?
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what is smegma?

Have you ever noticed your penis smelling particularly bad after, say, having gone for a run under the sun or perhaps during your first wee of day after waking up from a long night out? And if you have, did you also notice that what accompanies this bad smell is a little white, cottage cheese-like substance around the neck of your penis?

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Chances are that if you're circumcised you probably haven't. But if the foreskin on your penis has remained intact, then you probably are familiar with the aforementioned experience. And if you haven't, then not only are you severely lacking in the hygiene department, but one of your sexual partners probably has (and was most likely thoroughly put off by it).

So what exactly causes this smell to occur and substance to form? The culprit in question is called smegma and it can make for a very uncomfortable and awkward sexual experience to be had but it does have its use, believe it or not.

What is it good for?

Smegma is a thick, white cheesy substance that collects under the foreskin mostly by men who are uncircumcised. However, it can also be found in men who are circumcised. Director of men's health for the Jersey Urology Group, Brian Steixner, explains:

Interestingly enough, many circumcised men also can produce a little bit of smegma. Circumcision is never perfect, so there’s usually a little foreskin left, and in that area, a little smegma does form. But most men shower and clean it off and never even notice it. They don’t produce as much, but for some, it will be there.

And as it turns out, women can also produce smegma around their vaginal area, usually around their clitoris and labial folds. This substance is produced as a result of accumulated bacteria due to secretions by sebaceous glands mostly consisting of fatty oils, shed skin cells, and sweat.

It is completely normal to produce some, and it can actually be beneficial in helping to keep your penis moisturized while also contributing to the lubrication necessary during intercourse.

How to deal with smegma?

However, too much of it and it will cause the bacteria to start smelling bad. If left unwashed for prolonged amounts of time, it can even turn into an infection that will swell the head of your penis, causing pain and general discomfort.

But worry not, as there is a very simple way of keeping fresh and avoiding this very natural process to degenerate into a very unnecessary genital infection: hitting the shower. For those who are uncut, especially, remind yourself to gently wash up down there daily, and you should be good to go!

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