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Smegma - causes and help

Smegma - causes and help

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Remove Smegma - is this necessary?

Smegma is a whitish, sebum-like substance that accumulates in men between the foreskin and glans, in women in the skin folds between the clitoris, inner and outer labia. Most of the time, the term is used by laypersons exclusively to refer to the smegma in men, which is known in the art as Smegma praeputii. The formation of the smegma is a natural process, but larger clusters can usually only be detected with inadequate personal hygiene. Since bacteria or pathogens can also accumulate in the smegma, men and women should regularly remove the smegma.

Colloquially, Smegma is also called "acorn cheese" or "greasy cheese" in men, which on the one hand indicates the consistency and on the other hand the unpleasant smell. The secretion consists of sebum of the prepuce glands, tissue remnants of the acorn epithelium, bacteria, urine and remnants of sperm. Smegma is usually only visible when the foreskin is pushed back. The foreskin sebum collects between the foreskin and the glans. As such, smegma is not a disease, but a natural secretion of the body that is present in all men and women (less pronounced). With strong secretion or poor hygiene, this creates a foul, sweet smell - similar to bad breath - and it can increase the risk of certain diseases.

Smegma as a trigger of inflammation?

In principle, smegma causes no complaints. However, if the foreskin sebum is not removed by daily washing, the bacteria it contains can cause inflammation. If there is a long-term accumulation of the secretion, for example, an acorn infection can result. Sufferers typically develop symptoms such as itching, burning, swelling and redness on the glans. If the inflammation has progressed, purulent outflows are also a possible consequence.

Recurrent glans inflammation can also promote the occurrence of phimosis (foreskin narrowing), in which the foreskin can no longer be retracted or only to a limited extent. In addition, the symptoms often collect large amounts of smegma between the foreskin and glans, which can lead to an increased colonization with bacteria, which in turn favors further inflammation.

For phimosis in adulthood, the therapeutic agent of choice is usually circumcision to reduce foreskin sebum accumulation. In most cases, the operation is performed with a local anesthetic. Even after removal of the foreskin, continuous cleaning of the penis is still necessary. Children often try to resolve phimosis with cortisone ointments before considering surgery.

Remove Smegma - This is how it works

Smegma can be seen with the naked eye if the foreskin is carefully pushed back or the labia are slightly pulled apart. The Smega should be carefully washed off with lukewarm water - special intimate wash lotions are not necessary, but they do not harm either. Soap, on the other hand, can impair the natural skin flora, which is why it should be avoided. It is important that the smegma is removed during daily showering without being overly clean. Because this could in turn have negative effects, since the skin is heavily degreased and damaged.

Difficulty cleaning the penis

Cleaning the penis can be difficult due to various circumstances. If the foreskin has not been cleaned for a long time, it can happen that the smegma cannot be removed by simply showering. A full bath is helpful in such situations. Bathing softens the stuck sebum and this can now be carefully removed by hand or with a washcloth. For this, the foreskin should be pushed back completely.

If the sebum remains for a very long time, retraction of the foreskin can be difficult. Here it sometimes helps to first pull the foreskin back a little and wash the glans carefully and loosen any glue between the glans and foreskin. In no case should pain arise. If it is not possible to pull the foreskin back painlessly, a medical examination is urgently advised, since adhesions between the foreskin and the glans can also occur, for example, with the autoimmune disease lichen sclerosus et atrophicans.

If inflammation has already developed, those affected should also urgently seek medical help. Here, for example, a swab can be used to try to determine the pathogen and, if necessary, treatment with antibiotic ointment is prescribed. At the same time, special baths can help to stop the inflammation.

Cancer caused by smegma

It has long been assumed that insufficient cleanliness and the accumulation of smegma entail an increased risk of developing penile cancer (cancer). However, a study from 2006 clearly clarified that smegma does not lead to an increased risk of cancer. To what extent inadequate intimate hygiene could still play a role remains a matter of debate. (fp)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters


  • Frank-Michael Köhn, Hans-Christian Schuppe: Skin disorders of the male genitalia; in: Braun-Falco’s Dermatology, Venereology and Allergology, page 1493-1506, Springer, May 2018, springer.com
  • K.-D. Sievert, D.-L. Dräger, F.-M. Köhn, S. Milerski, C. Protzel, O. W. Hakenberg: Penile carcinoma: diagnosis and staging; in: The Urologist, Volume 57, Issue 4, pages 418–422, April 2018, springer.com
  • R. S. Van Howe, F. M. Hodges: The carcinogenicity of smegma: debunking a myth; in: Journal of The European Academy if Dermatology and Venereology; Volume 20, Issue 9, pages 1046-1054, October 2006, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/
  • Hans-Georg Schnürch: Lichen sclerosus - underdiagnosed and undertreated; in: nahnah dermatologie, Volume 34, Issue 4, pages 50–58, July 2018, springer.com
  • Jae Min Chung, Chang Soo Park, Sang Don Lee: Microbiology of smegma: Prospective comparative control study; in: Investigative and Clinical Urology, Volume 60, Issue 2, pages 127-132, March 2019, icurology.org

Video: Infection of the Penis u0026 Foreskin Balanitis (December 2022).