The Facts About Men's Grooming and Hygiene
Despite what many men may think, health issues related to your penis extend well beyond sexual function. Basic hygiene is a critical part of the upkeep needed, and ignoring hygiene can lead to health problems that affect the whole body. So let's start with the basics!
Keeping your penis clean
Your penis, testicles and scrotum are magnets for bacteria and microbes. Men with uncircumcised penises may have a little more work to do in some cases, but the need to keep this area clean does not change. Either way, men sweat a lot between the legs, and sweat, along with dead skin and microbes, can result in irritation, odor, bacteria and fungus. The best thing to do is use mild soap and water to clean the head, shaft and base of the penis as well as the scrotum.
When cleaning an uncircumcised penis, gently pull the foreskin back and wash with warm water. You can also use soap, but make sure it is mild and unscented so that you do not irritate that part of your penis.
Once you have effectively washed your genitals, make sure you dry yourself thoroughly to keep any moisture from being trapped. Drying all parts of the penis completely helps to prevent fungal or bacterial growth.
Daily washing also provides the opportunity to perform testicular self-checks to confirm there are no lumps or growths that could be signs of cancer or other potentially serious health issues.
Managing pubic hair
The practice of pubic hair grooming, sometimes referred to as "manscaping," has become more common in the last two decades. Some men see it as a way to feel more confident, some do it because of a sexual partner's preference, and some simply want to feel clean and in control.
The Mayo Clinic reports that there is no significant medical purpose for pubic hair grooming, but if it is something you choose to do, there are some health risks to be aware of. If you are using a blade to groom, you are susceptible to nicking yourself unintentionally, creating an opportunity for bacteria to infect your open cut. Cuts and abrasions also put you at greater risk of sexually transmitted infection (STI). Another issue to consider is that shaving often creates the discomfort of ingrown hairs or simply of skin irritation. Lastly, although rarely, grooming products can cause contact dermatitis.
Keeping those warnings in mind, the first step in your grooming regimen should be sanitizing your hands and tools. Your choice of the latter will depend upon your comfort level in managing them:
- Scissors – Old-fashioned comb and scissors can be used to trim pubic hair. Use the comb to stretch out the length of hair you wish to cut, and snip off those locks. You might want to do so in the shower, over the toilet or a trash can for easier cleanup.
- Razor – This is a much riskier way to go, so take great care. Shaving with a razor is best done in the shower, where the hair will be softened and the shave will be less irritating to the skin. Apply an oil or cream and use small strokes. Be sure to shave in the direction the hair grows, take care and go slowly. Doing so will limit the probability of ingrown hairs and minor cuts.
- Clippers – Some men use trimmers for better consistency, and a clipper trim leaves less work to do with a razor. There are specifically designed trimmers with ceramic blades that are best suited for trimming near sensitive areas. It is recommended that you sanitize after use and refrain from using trimmers on your genital area that you also use on your face.
- Creams – There are hair-removal creams you can use to apply to areas of growth that kill hair-growing proteins. You can wipe these creams away, and the hair goes with them.
If you haven't kept up with the pubic hair shaping trend, you may be interested to learn there are many popular styles. Two of the more creative styles include sculpting a landing strip that creates a square or rectangle shape above the base of the penis, and crafting a "lion's mane," where all penis and scrotal hair is shaved while the pubic patch above the penis grows more fully with the intent to make the penis look bigger. Simpler choices include a completely shaved pubic area, uniformly short pubic hair all over or trimming or shaving hair on the inner thighs or from the testicles. Other men focus on manicuring only the hair that will be seen while wearing swimwear.
Because the genitals are made of very sensitive skin, keeping up with skin care while grooming is another part of maintaining good hygiene, and any drugstore offers a variety of oils, creams and lotions to choose from. Oils are designed to go on before shaving to reduce friction between your skin and the razor. Creams are useful for men who have to treat smegma, which occurs when dead skin and oils accumulate, allowing bacteria to potentially fester, mostly in uncircumcised men. Lotions are designed to treat the areas of your body where sweat commonly accumulates. These lotions go on wet but dry quickly to prevent any unnecessary wetness or chafing.
If you've never given much thought to genital hygiene and this is all new information for you, it might be best to start by talking to your family doctor or a dermatologist about your specific skincare needs and health concerns.
Risks of poor hygiene
Poor hygiene is a bad practice in general, but sexual hygiene also impacts your partner and can have some serious consequences for both of you. Transferred bacteria can cause STIs, yeast infections and urinary tract infections in both men and women. Uncircumcised men are at particular risk for a condition called balanitis, which causes swelling, redness and inflammation of the penis due to an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria when the area is not cleaned properly.
Now that you know some of the possibilities of different hygiene practices—both good and bad—take stock of your daily routine and of your medicine cabinet. Clean out old items, including dull razors and scissors, and spend some time checking out new possibilities at the drugstore or online. Take some time to try new practices and products and see what works for you. Then get ready to present a fresh and confident side of yourself to your partner, or just enjoy feeling secure in the knowledge that everything down there is in control.