How To Get Rid Of Smegma: Causes, Prevention, And Treatment

Look for the symptoms because leaving the skin condition untreated only aggravates the situation.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Saba, BHMS, MD Dr. Saba Dr. SabaBHMS, MD facebook_iconinsta_icon
Written by , BCom, Certificate In Natural Medicine Sanchari Bhattacharya BCom, Certificate In Natural Medicine Experience: 10 years
Edited by , MA (English Literature) Ramona Sinha MA (English Literature) Experience: 11 years
Fact-checked by , MA (English Literature) Swathi E MA (English Literature) Experience: 3 years

Smegma is a substance naturally produced by the body in both the male and the female genitalia. It is not considered a sign of a sexually transmitted disease and does not cause any serious complications. However, when left untreated, it can lead to the development of a foul odor and infection. If you want to know more about smegma, you have come to the right place. In this article, we explore how to get rid of smegma and a few simple tips to prevent it.

What Is Smegma And Its Symptoms

Smegma comes from a Latin word which means soap. It is a natural secretion produced by the oil glands in our genitals which results in the buildup of dead cells, oils, and other fluids in the genitalia. It is commonly found at the tip of the penis or inside the folds of the vulva and clitoral hood.

The following are easy ways to identify smegma:

  • Thick, cheesy substance called smegma cheese
  • Foul or bad odor
  • White or yellow in color
  • White-colored bumps called smegma pearls
protip_icon Did You Know?
The term ‘smegma’ was first used in 1819. It originates from the Greek word ‘smekhein,’ which means ‘cleanse.’

These are some common symptoms of smegma. But is this condition contagious? Let’s find out in the following section.

Is Smegma Contagious?

No, smegma itself is not contagious. However, there is a chance of infection or disease transmission if a person with smegma comes in close contact with another person’s genitals. However, one can prevent the buildup of smegma and infections by cleaning their genital area regularly.

Smegma is quite a common occurrence in men and women. In the next section, we explore what causes it.

Causes Of Smegma

Smegma becomes a problem when it is not washed away and is allowed to build up. The moisture inside your genitals provides a place for the bacteria to breed (1). This results in a noxious odor and inflammation of the genital area. Smegma is commonly found under the foreskin of the penis which traps the bacteria and fluids, indicating that it may be commonly found in uncircumcised males (2), and those who have not yet performed circumcision. Our bodies create lubricants such as smegma that keep the genitals moist and prevent itching. Smegma also aids in sexual intercourse and prevents the skin from feeling itchy or dry. In the next section, we will read about preventing smegma buildup.

Tips To Prevent Smegma

Since smegma is a naturally-occurring substance in our body, there is no way to completely stop it from building up. But the following are some tips that can help keep smegma in check and provide smegma prevention.

  • Avoid using scented soaps, powder, and deodorants.
Scented soaps and deodorants
Image: Shutterstock
  • Wash off the soap you use completely to avoid irritation.
  • Wear cotton underwear to allow the genitals to breathe.
Cotton underwear to avoid smegma
Image: Shutterstock
  • Avoid thongs, leggings, or pantyhose to prevent the buildup of sweat and oil.
  • Avoid fabrics such as nylon, acetate, and synthetic fabrics.
  • Avoid vaginal douches as they may irritate the skin and lead to infection.
Woman with a vaginal douche
Image: Shutterstock

Despite following preventive measures, your smegma build up may become unmanageable and the accompanying symptoms can help you decide when to seek medical attention. Let’s explore what they are in the next section.

When To See A Doctor

Woman consulting a doctor
Image: Shutterstock

While the combination of oil and smelly odor is not a cause for concern, leaving it unattended may sometimes lead to health complications. Consult a doctor if you develop any of the following symptoms in or around your genitals:

  • Skin irritation
  • Itchiness
  • Painful urination
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Bleeding

In the next section, we will discuss the possible health complications of untreated smegma.

Possible Health Complications Of Smegma

While smegma itself is not a serious condition, these are the possible complications you may develop:

  • Balanitis – Balanitis is the inflammation of the tip of the penis. This condition develops due to the buildup of smegma, which hardens on the tip. This can lead to swelling, pain, redness, and inflammation (3).
  • Phimosis – It is a condition where the foreskin of the penis is tight and cannot be pulled back over the head of the penis (4). This condition may cause discomfort and difficulty in urinating, and can lead to an increased risk of infections and inflammation (3).
  • Clitoral Adhesion– In females, once the smegma builds up, it sticks to the head of the clitoris. This results in the clitoral hood sticking to the shaft, leading to pain and clitoral adhesion.

Are you not sure about what to do next? Head onto the next section to get a better understanding of how to get rid of smegma in males and females.

How To Get Rid Of Smegma Buildup In Males And Females

Mild soap and dry towel help get rid of smegma
Image: Shutterstock

The following are the simplest ways on how to get rid of smegma.

  • In Males

The lubricant produced by the body helps retract the foreskin of the penis. Poor hygiene practices allow the lubricant along with dead skin, bacteria, and oils to build up under the foreskin. You must follow these steps while cleaning the penis.

  1. Completely pull back the foreskin. If the smegma has solidified on the foreskin, it might not be possible to completely pull back the foreskin. Doing so may lead to pain, bleeding, and possible infection.
  2. Use lukewarm water and mild soap to wash the area. Avoid harsh scrubbing as it may irritate the skin.
  3. Gently rinse off the soap and dry using a clean and dry towel.
  4. Draw back the foreskin back and follow this routine daily till smegma disappears.

Smegma may develop in male infants in the form of white pearls under the foreskin. A parent must follow these steps for proper smegma removal.

  1. Do not completely pull back the foreskin as it may hurt the child. Pull back as much it allows.
  2. Gently wash the area using mild soap and lukewarm water. Avoid harsh scrubbing as it may cause pain and irritation.
  3. Gently rinse off the soap and dry with a clean towel.
  4. Draw back the foreskin back and repeat this routine till smegma is gone.
protip_icon Quick Tip
It is recommended to avoid the use of Q-tips or any antiseptic cream to clean the foreskin of an infant.
  • In Females

Smegma is commonly found inside the vulva or hood of the clitoris. You must follow these steps to remove smegma. They are:

  1. Position two fingers in a v-shape and gently pull back the vaginal folds.
  2. Use lukewarm water and mild soap to wash the folds. Do not allow the soap to get inside the vaginal folds as it may cause irritation.
  3. Thoroughly rinse and pat dry the area with a clean towel.

Infographic: How To Prevent Smegma

Smegma is a buildup of dead skin cells or oils found on the genitals. This substance occurs naturally as a part of the cleaning process. But left uncleaned, it can lead to several adverse reactions. However, this condition can be avoided by following some simple tips.
Check on the infographic below to learn a few tips on how to prevent smegma.

how to prevent smegma (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Now that you have understood the various ways to get rid of smegma, you can prevent the build-up and the resulting itching or infections. Practicing proper personal hygiene and genital care, avoiding scented soaps or cleansers, and wearing breathable non-tight fabrics, can help keep your vagina clean and dry. Follow the tips and instructions cited above for best results.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can smegma cause UTI?

Yes. Since smegma accumulates due to the buildup of sweat and oil, it increases the risk of contracting urinary tract infections (1).

Can smegma cause ED?

There is currently no evidence that suggests that smegma can cause erectile dysfunction.

How do you get rid of smegma smell?

You can get rid of the smegma smell by washing yourself with warm water and mild soap. If the smell still persists after a few days, please consult a doctor.

What is the difference between discharge and smegma?

There is a key difference between discharge and smegma. Smegma is a cheesy-colored natural secretion that is produced by the genitals that leads to the buildup of oil, fluids, and dirt in the genitals. It is commonly found inside the vulva or the tip of the penis. Discharge is a white fluid that keeps the genitals moist and clean.

Key Takeaways

  • Oil glands produce smegma in the genitals to lubricate and moisturize them.
  • It may result in a build-up of dead cells, fluids, oils, a foul smell.
  • Sometimes, the build-up of smegma causes infection and itching.
  • Practicing genital hygiene, using unscented soaps, and wearing breathable underwear can prevent smegma.

Smegma is a white, cheesy substance that can build up under the foreskin. Check out the video below to learn more about what it is and how to manage it.


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Microbiology of smegma: Prospective comparative control study
  2. Penile Inflammatory Skin Disorders and the Preventive Role of Circumcision
  3. Balanitis
  4. Phimosis: Overview
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Dr. Saba

Dr. SabaBHMS, MD

Dr. Saba is a gold medalist with 6+ years of clinical experience. She specializes in treating both chronic and acute illnesses of all kinds. She also has three years of experience as a homeopathic editor, instructional designer, and subject matter full bio

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