How to Get Rid of Hardened Smegma Buildup (Males & Females)

Smegma is a thick, whitish substance composed of oil and dead skin cells that can accumulate around the genitalia. 

It is a natural secretion that is meant to keep the genital area moist.

When smegma is left to accumulate due to poor hygiene, it can become an issue. 

Hardened smegma buildup has a noticeable cheese odor that many people may find unpleasant.

It can also serve as a breeding ground for bacteria, which can cause inflammation.

In this article, we tell you everything you need to know about smegma, including its symptoms, causes, and how to get rid of it in men and women.

How to get rid of smegma in females

If you are a woman with smegma, the simplest way to get rid of it is to properly wash your vulva until the condition clears up. 

Here’s how to go about getting rid of hardened smegma buildup:

  • Gently draw back the vulva’s outer lips to have full access to the area.
  • Wash the area with warm water and soap. You can use a fresh washcloth or your hands. To avoid irritation, use only mild, unscented soaps. Do not put the water or soap into your vagina. Focus only on the areas around it.
  • Rinse the area well after washing.
  • Gently pat it dry with a clean towel or tissue paper. You should never leave your genital area moist, as this can create an ideal environment for various germs to grow.
  • Follow up with breathable underwear made of material like cotton or linen. Also, avoid wearing tight clothing. Doing this discourages the growth of bacteria and yeast.

How to get rid of smegma in males

Properly washing your penis is the best way to remove smegma. Here’s how to do it:

  • Draw the foreskin as far back as you can toward your body with gentle pressure.
  • Gently wash the skin underneath your foreskin with soap and warm water using a clean washcloth or your hands. Use only mild unscented soap, as harsh ones can irritate the delicate skin around your penis and cause more problems.
  • If you’re circumcised, focus on the area around the ridge that separates your penile head from the shaft.
  • Rinse off all of the soap and then gently pat the area dry.

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How long does it take for smegma buildup to go away?

If you clean your genitalia in the appropriate way regularly, smegma should go away within a few days.

While you may be eager to get rid of the smegma buildup, remember that you should not roughly rub your genitals while cleaning. 

Doing this will not make it go away faster. Instead, it may irritate and tear the skin, which can result in an infection.

Signs of smegma

Smegma has various distinctive qualities, including:

  • Thickness
  • Appearing like shredded cheese
  • White/yellow color
  • Unpleasant smell

What causes smegma?

Smegma is caused by a mixture of the following:

  • Oils from your sebaceous glands
  • Dead skin cells
  • Sweat and other fluids

Complications of hardened smegma

In females, smegma can build up between the labial folds and beneath the clitoral hood. 

Smegma can also dry out and harden, causing the clitoral hood to stick to the clitoris. 

This results in a condition known as clitoral adhesion, which reports show can lead to irritation, pain, and sexual dysfunction.

Smegma is usually not a serious condition in males. However, if bacteria start to grow in it, it can cause inflammation of the penis head, a condition known as balanitis

It may also make it hard or impossible to retract the foreskin, a condition known as phimosis. Studies show these can increase the risk of penile cancer.

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How to prevent smegma build-up

Practicing proper genital hygiene is the best way to prevent smegma buildup. Once every day, wash your penis or vulva area with warm water and then pat dry.

A man who has a foreskin should gently pull it back to clean the area under it.

Using soap is not necessary when cleaning your genitals. But, if you must, use a mild, unscented one.


What does smegma look and smell like?

Smegma usually looks like a white, cheesy substance with a thick consistency. 

It can attract bacteria that are naturally present on the skin, which can produce a characteristic odor. 

This strange smell irritates a lot of people. But don’t be alarmed; it is perfectly natural and easily sorted.

Smegma and its smell should disappear after regularly washing the area with soap and warm water.

Who does smegma affect the most?

Anyone can have smegma buildup. However, it is more common in uncircumcised males. 

The foreskin can collect oils, skin cells, and other liquids, which makes it the perfect place for smegma to accumulate. 

Before puberty, most people don’t produce a lot of smegma because the sebaceous glands are not very active. 

Smegma also becomes less common with age when oil production decreases.

Is smegma contagious?

No, smegma is not contagious. It is not a sexually transmitted disease. 

Skin-to-skin contact or unprotected sex cannot transfer smegma from one person to another.

What can too much smegma cause?

Too much smegma can encourage bacterial growth and cause a foul odor. It can also result in complications like balanitis and phimosis in men and clitoral adhesions in women.

How can I prevent smegma permanently?

To be free of smegma for good, you must take your personal hygiene very seriously. Regular and proper genital washing is the best defense against smegma. To avoid smegma buildup, it’s very important to wash your genitals every day.

Is it safe to engage in sexual activity when experiencing smegma?

Smegma with no complications should not cause any problems during sex. 

Because it can cause a displeasing odor, talk to your partner if you have smegma and haven’t completely washed it away – no matter how unpleasant the topic may be. 

Or better still, wait until you’ve gotten rid of it before resuming sexual activities.

Can smegma go away naturally?

If you wash your genitals properly, smegma should go away within a few days.

What happens if you don’t remove smegma?

Smegma accumulation is dependent on personal hygiene for both men and women. If the buildup is not addressed, it may progress over time and cause complications.

Does smegma contain sperm?

No, smegma does not contain sperm. Sperms cells are found in semen, which is a fluid released from the male urethra during ejaculation. Smegma mostly consists of natural oils and dead skin cells.

When should I see a doctor?

In females, be sure to seek out a medical professional if you notice any lumps, burning with urination, or changes in vaginal discharge. These point to a yeast infection, UTI, or STI and not just smegma.

In males, speak with your doctor immediately if you notice any redness, penile discoloration, swelling, penis pain, or difficulty retracting your foreskin.


Smegma is a harmless mixture of oils, skin cells, sweat, and other fluids. It may resemble crumbled cheese and have an unpleasant odor. 

Smegma helps in lubricating your genitalia and preventing dryness or itchiness of the skin. It can begin to accumulate if it is not routinely removed by washing.

It is more common in uncircumcised men, where it accumulates beneath the foreskin of the penis. 

In women, it can build up under the hood of the clitoris and/or between the folds of the labia.

Regularly washing your genitals and the areas around them with soap and water is the best way to ward off and treat smegma. 

While it is usually harmless, it can cause an unpleasant odor and lead to complications like balanitis, phimosis, and clitoral adhesion.

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  1. Myers MC, Romanello JP, Nico E, Marantidis J, Rowen TS, Sussman RD, Rubin RS. A Retrospective Case Series on Patient Satisfaction and Efficacy of Non-Surgical Lysis of Clitoral Adhesions. J Sex Med. 2022 Sep;19(9):1412-1420. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2022.06.011. Epub 2022 Jul 20. PMID: 35869023.
  2. Engelsgjerd JS, LaGrange CA. Penile Cancer. [Updated 2022 Jul 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-.

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