How to get rid of smegma

Smegma is normal and natural, but it can cause problems if it starts to build up. Cleaning your genitals regularly is the best way to deal with it.

What is smegma?

Smegma is a thick, white substance that you might sometimes notice on your penis. If you have not been circumcised, then you’ll probably notice it in the area under your foreskin.

It’s made from dead skin cells, oils produced by your skin and body fluids like sweat. It’s natural, nothing to worry about, and actually helps give a natural lubrication to the genitals.

The problem is, if it’s not cleaned away regularly it can start to build up. This causes problems like a bad smell, irritation or trouble pulling back your foreskin. Sometimes the bacteria in smegma can make the head of your penis swollen and painful.

These issues are easily avoided by regularly washing your penis. This clears away any build-up of smegma before it can become a problem.

How to clean your penis (and get rid of smegma)

It's best to wash your genitals every day. And keep it simple - you only need warm water, a plain emollient cream or mild soap. Scented soaps and washes, even those sold as genital hygiene products, can irritate the delicate skin in this area.

Wash every day in the bath or shower. Gently clean around your testicles, anus and penis. If you have a foreskin, carefully pull this back to clean underneath.

If you’re washing your penis regularly, and you still notice a discharge, bad smell or pain in the area, then speak to your GP or contact your local sexual health clinic to find out what’s causing the problem.

Written by Hel Burrough. Senior Content Designer, SH:24 and Fettle
Reviewed by Helen Burkitt. Senior Sexual Health and Contraception Nurse
Last updated at: 02 February 2024
Published on: 07 November 2023