Dos and don'ts for looking after your penis
Reviewed by our clinical team
The health of your penis can have a big impact on your day-to-day – whether it’s in the bathroom, the bedroom, or in your social life.
If you have a sore or smelly penis, or you struggle with erection or ejaculation problems, you might find this affects your self-esteem and confidence. These sorts of symptoms can also be a sign of infection, or an underlying condition that requires medical attention.
The good news is, it’s easier than you think to keep your penis healthy and happy. For some simple dos and don’ts, read on.
Do keep your penis clean and dry
Like any part of your body, your penis needs to be kept clean, so you should aim to wash it once a day with warm water.
If you don’t clean your penis regularly there will be a build-up of smegma, the natural lubricant that keeps the penis moist. Fungal infections can also affect the groin area so it’s important to towel off thoroughly after showers and baths.
Don’t use too much soap or very hot water
It’s fine to use soap or cleaning products on your penis, but just make sure it’s mild, and avoid anything very strong or perfumed as this might irritate the skin – this includes talc and deodorant.
You’ll also want to steer clear of washing your genitals with very hot water, as this can also cause irritation.
Do clean underneath your foreskin
Not all men have a foreskin, but if you do, you’ll need to make sure you clean underneath it. Smegma builds up under the foreskin and, when left there, can start to smell unpleasant and cause difficulty pulling the skin back. A build-up of smegma can also cause redness, itching, and swelling – this is known as balanitis.
You can clean under your foreskin by gently pulling the skin back, and washing underneath with warm water.
Don’t wear dirty underwear
Skipping laundry day isn’t a good idea if you want to keep your genitals clean and healthy. Dirty pants carry traces of faeces, bad smells, and all kinds of germs. Wearing the same pair for longer than one day may leave you prone to infections like “jock itch”.
Do check for lumps
A lump in the testicles can sometimes be a sign of testicular cancer – although most of the time it will be something harmless. You don’t have to check for lumps every day, but make sure you know what your testicles feel like normally i.e. their weight and shape, and how they feel in your hand (3).
Every now and then, you can give your testicles a proper check, using the technique described here – it’s a good idea to do this after you’ve taken a warm shower and you’re feeling relaxed.
Don’t forget to use condoms
One of the best things you can do to protect the health of your penis is wear condoms! This is really important whenever you’re having sex with someone new, a casual partner, or anyone whose STI status isn’t clear.
Condoms are the best way to avoid sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and HIV. They can also help reduce your risk of other STIs like genital warts and genital herpes. Remember: you can use condoms for oral sex and sex toys, not just penetrative sex.
Read more for advice on wearing a condom.
Do get STI symptoms checked
Ignoring STI symptoms can lead to serious complications, so make sure you get checked as soon as you spot something new. The following can all be a sign of an STI:
- Unusual discharge from the penis or anus
- Pain when urinating
- Lumps, sores, warts, or growths on or around the penis, testicles, or anus
- Rash around the penis
If you notice any of these symptoms, visit your nearest sexual health or GUM clinic for an STI test.
Don’t be embarrassed about ED or PE
If you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED), premature ejaculation (PE), or any other issues with erections or ejaculation that are having a negative impact on your sex life, it’s a good idea to speak to your GP. There are many ways to tackle these kinds of problems, and they affect most men at some point during their lives, so you’re not alone and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed.
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