What Is Smegma?

confused woman surrounded by question marks

Don’t know what smegma is? We’ve got the info. Source: Shutterstock.com

Last week, we talked about what amenorrhea is and how it’s kind of tricky to say and spell, but very important to know. Today, we’re continuing talking about health topics with terms that may be less familiar. In fact, I’ll admit that this is a word that even I’d never heard used until quite recently.

The subject of the day: “smegma.” So what is it? Well, smegma is a bodily substance that comes out of your sebaceous glands.

The substance is a mix of something called “sebum” (a mix of fats, cholesterol and more) and also old cells. The term smegma is typically the word used to describe the secretions and gathering of this substance in the genital area.

Both men and women can have smegma. For women, smegma can gather around the clitoris and labia. For guys, it gathers between the head of the penis and the foreskin.

Guys who are uncircumcised (meaning that their foreskin is intact) may have a hard time cleaning under the foreskin and thus smegma could accumulate.

The adjective that I saw dictionary definitions and medical sites often use to describe smegma is “cheesy,” and it also is characterized by a specific odor. Besides having a scent, how else does it really impact the body?

Well, smegma is a lubricant for guys. That said, a gathering of smegma could actually cause irritation and inflammation of the penis known as balanitis.

If you notice that you have smegma accumulating, it can generally be addressed by rinsing it with water and then just making sure you stay on top of your down-there hygiene. If you have general questions or concerns, as always, you should reach out to your doctor so that she can address your specific needs.

Had you ever heard of smegma before? What other health topics would you want us to cover? Tell me in the comments!

Your Complete Guide To Birth Control Options

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter!

Posted in: Just the Facts
Tags: , ,
  • mzpablo

    Hey Jane,

    A lot of doctors tell you to use a warm, wet wash cloth just to wipe off down there but I personally use either a loofa or a cloth with whatever body soaps I can find. I don’t find any irritation down there because of it so it works for me because I don’t stink or anything. The doctors warn against placing anything directly inside your vagina (like soap or foreign objects) because it also can cause infections and plus your vaginal juices are able to cleanse the vagina by itself. I hope this helped. I am 20 by the way, in case you were wondering.

  • Jane

    Okay this is bad, I’m fourteen and have never really had a lot of guidance for “down there” hygiene… So I don’t like shave and stuff or trim, but what I’ve been doing for like ever is just rinsing and wiping with a loofa. Can someone help me I don’t really have anyone to just ask about stuff like this.

    • Bree

      Hey Jane, I’m Bree and I’m 17. I hope that this helps. First off it can be pretty confusing at first but eventually you will work out what is best for you when it comes to shaving/trimming down there. As for hygiene simply do what you are doing, warm water and a cloth or loofa is perfectly fine, I personally don’t bother with douches or chemical sprays etc. because I wouldn’t want to unbalance the pH (acidity) levels. You can however get feminine washes and wipes that won’t harm the delicate environment “down there.”

      Here is some info on hygine i.e cleaning “down there”:


      At your age I wouldn’t be too worried about shaving etc all too much just yet however if you want to get started then go for it.

      As for shaving/trimming:
      You can leave it completely natural some women do that, others shape it, some wax certain areas and others completely remove it. It’s a personal preference, for example I shave the hair completely off and have been doing so for a few years, sometimes however I’ll leave a strip. Where as my friend leaves hers neatly trimmed however natural.

      When and if you shave it:
      Use a razor blade specifically designed for that area as other razor blades can leave irritation etc. And use soap or shaving cream. Or you could wax although it hurts, however the results last way longer than just shaving.

      Use NEW toenail scissors or very small scissors and simply cut any straggly hairs, don’t go too close cut or you might end up nicking the skin. I’d say about 5mm is the “regular length” but again do what feels best for you.

      Some common shapes:
      -Landing strip
      -Lightning bolt (I still find this one funny)
      -Bikini waxing-if you had bikini bottoms on you would wax or shave the apex of where the thighs connect and keep the area free of hair so that if you wore a bikini things wouldn’t hang out like Hairy Mclairy.
      -Brazilian-waxing/shaving it all off
      Don’t panic about it, you will find what is best for you and what makes you the most comfortable.

      Some Youtube Videos about shaving/trimming down there:


      Hope it answers a few questions at least.