Smegma, also known as “that thing the bully used to call you back in middle school,” is a whitish or yellowish substance found around the genitals of both male and female.
It’s a normal thing to happen, especially if you’re already sexually active (usually around 14 years old and above) because it acts as a natural lubricant before and during sexual intercourse.
If left alone, smegma can accumulate and be a perfect food for bacteria and may become a breeding ground for them, which may result in smelly odor or infection.
How does one get smegma?
Smegma is formed from the oily secretions of the sebaceous glands of both male and female genitalia, which acts as a lubricant to reduce the friction between them during intercourse.
If not used, these oily secretions will accumulate together with dead skin cells and other body moisture such as sweat.
For men, smegma forms inside the foreskin and just below the head of the penis. This is commonly observed in uncircumcised men, yet it can still happen to a circumcised penis.
For women, it forms on the vulva, specifically in between the folds of the labia and around the clitoris or the clitoral hood.
How do you clean it?
For uncircumcised men:
- Slowly pull down the foreskin of the penis ( if you’re still young, ask an adult for assistance, preferably your father.)
- Gently wash your penis using warm water. Using soap is optional, but if you decide to use one, make sure it’s mild.
- Rinse and dry it out.
- Slowly and gently put the foreskin back over the penis.
For circumcised men, using warm water to wash your genitals is still recommended. If you’re using soap, make sure to use a mild one to avoid irritation.
- Gently spread the folds of the labia.
- Wash it using warm water. If needed, you can use a mild soap. Make sure that the soap won’t enter the vagina.
- Rinse thoroughly.
- Gently dry out the genital area.
Why should I care about it?
If left alone for long, smegma is a perfect environment for bacteria to thrive, which can create a strong, smelly odor or may lead to infections.
One example of this is “balanitis” for men. It’s painful and causes inflammation of the whole penis. This is more dangerous to uncircumcised men as it can make it harder to pull back or restore their foreskin.
Although studies have shown that smegma doesn’t cause cancer, the infection one can experience may increase the risk of having one, though it’s a very rare case.
How does one stop smegma?
The best way to reduce the build-up of smegma is to practice good hygiene and a cleaner lifestyle.
Since one can’t stop the production of the sebaceous glands, taking a bath and washing your genital area every day will greatly help in decreasing the formation of smegma.
For men, another way to greatly reduce smegma formation is to undergo circumcision. Since this operation removes the foreskin, smegma will lose its place where it builds up.