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Smegma is a white, creamy mix of exfoliated (shed) epithelial cells, transudated skin oils, and moisture that occurs naturally around the genitals.

Both males and females produce smegma. In males, smegma is produced and accumulates under the foreskin; in females, it collects around the clitoris and in the folds of the labia minora (also called the clitoral hood). Smegma is an emollient which is benign, beneficial and necessary because it moisturizes the glans and keeps it smooth, soft, and supple. It also facilitates sexual intercourse by acting as a lubricant. It has antibacterial and antiviral properties which keep the penis clean and healthy.

If smegma is allowed to become stale, it can have a pungent aroma (commonly compared to cheese in males or fish in females). It is moist in its texture until it is allowed to accumulate, when it takes on its characteristic appearance, which can be best described as ‘cheesy’. Smegma is easily removed with regular washing using water, and perhaps a bit of mild soap.

One of the main reasons why there can be such an adverse reaction to the foreskin is due to the issue of smegma, which is the secretion that can accumulate in the preputial space if allowed. Smegma is common to all mammals both male and female and is probably the most misunderstood and most unjustifiably maligned substance in nature. It is only in male humans however that smegma seems to be so offensive as to warrant circumcision to prevent it from existing.