If you don’t wash underneath the foreskin correctly, a cheesy-looking substance called smegma may begin to gather.
Smegma is a natural lubricant that keeps the penis moist. It’s found on the head of the penis and under the foreskin.
If smegma builds up in the foreskin, it can start to smell, stop you easily pulling your foreskin back and become a breeding ground for bacteria. This can cause redness and swelling of the head of your penis, called balanitis .
Patrick French, a consultant physician in sexual health, says: “It’s really surprising how many men don’t clean underneath their foreskin. Not only do they regularly develop complications from poor hygiene, but it’s also very off-putting for a sexual partner.”
Don’t try to forcefully pull back the foreskin of a baby or young boy as this could be painful and cause harm. Their foreskin might still be attached to the head of the penis and will therefore not retract fully. At this stage of their development, there’s no need to clean inside the foreskin.
While regular personal hygiene is important, too much washing with soap and shower gels can cause soreness. Gently washing your penis once a day with warm water is sufficient to maintain good hygiene. If you want to use soap, choose a mild or non-perfumed soap to reduce the risk of skin irritation.
It may be tempting to use talc and deodorants on your penis, but these are best avoided because talc will get under the foreskin, where it may cause irritation.
Circumcised men have to be just as careful about cleaning their penis. Gently washing the penis with warm water once a day is sufficient.
Testicles and pubic area
Don’t forget to clean the base of the penis and the testicles, where sweat and hair can combine to produce a strong smell, just as unpleasant as in your armpits.
These areas need frequent washing to stop sweat from accumulating, especially as they are enclosed in underwear for most of the day.
Make sure the area between the base of the testicles and the anus is also clean and odour-free.
While you’re down there, it’s a good idea to check your testicles for lumps once a month after a warm bath or shower.
Look out for any unusual lumps or swellings that were not there before. Find out what testicles should look and feel like.