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June 18, 2015
By Susan Callahan, Contributing Columnist
" Phimosis" is the technical term for an un-retractable foreskin. At birth,
most infant males have an intractable foreskin but by the age of 3, 90%
have fully retractable foreskins, according to a 1949 study by Dr. David
Gairdner of the United Cambridge Hospitals in the UK. There are no
hard estimates for how many adult men suffer from phimosis but
estimates are that up to 1% of men do. That would mean over 1.5
million men have this problem. When is an un-retractable foreskin a
serious health issue? Are there any techniques or natural remedies that
The Two Types of Phimosis
There are two different types of phimosis, “physiologic” and
“pathologic”. The difference is important because physiologic phimosis
can usually be handled naturally while pathologic phimosis requires
Phimosis has been linked with an increased risk of infection, loss of
sexual stimulation of the penis and penis cancer.
Your Foreskin Is a Complex Eco-system
The foreskin, technically called the “prepuce” covers the mushroom-
shaped head of your penis, called the “glans”.
Your foreskin exists to protect the glans from infection. The foreskin
contains lysozome, a compound also found in tears and breast milk,
which dissolves the cell walls of bacteria that try to infect the glans,
according to a 1998 study led by Dr. P.M. Fleiss of the University of
Southern California Medical Center in Los Angeles. Other compounds
found in your foreskin include cathepsin B, chymostrysin, sytokine and
androsterone, a pheromone. Pheromones are natural hormones which,
in many animal species, attract sexual partners.
In decades past, al doctors used to advised men to wash their foreskins
with soap and water.
However, at least one study suggests that this may do more harm than
The California study noted that trainers who wash the foreskins of
stallions have long known that such washing can cause infections.
Similarly, these scientists advise that washing the foreskin with soap
and water can disturb the natural protective chemical compounds
there, and increase your chance for infection. In fact, the researchers
note that soap and water washing is the leading cause of an
inflammatory penis condition called “balanophostitis”. Balanophostitis
involves the inflammation of both the head of the penis (balanitis) and
the foreskin (postitits). Throw away that soap!
Here are the natural remedies for physiologic phimosis we've found:
1. Gently Retract the Foreskin While Bathing
Uncircumcised penises can be gently retracted during bathing,
according to a 2007 study led by Dr. Thomas McGregor of the
Department of Urology at King’s University in Ontario. Over time,
retracting your penis while you taking a warm bath, without forcing it
to the point of pain, will stretch the foreskin.
2. Gently Retract the Foreskin While Urinating
The Ontario study also recommended that you gently retract the
foreskin when you urinate. Again, over time, this will help to stretch the
3. Should You Use Oil to Stretch Your Foreskin?
You may have seen some sources that suggest the use of vegetable oil
in retracting your foreskin. There are no medical studies advising the
use of vegetable oil on your foreskin. Given the delicate balance of
compounds in your foreskin's ecosystem, it is better to stick with pure
4. Consider Topical Corticosteroids to Treat Phimosis
Using a corticosteroid helped to resolve retractable foreskin in boys,
according to a 2003 study from Academisch Ziekenhuis in the
Netherlands. A total of 1121 boys were treated with a topical steroid
twice daily for 4 to 8 weeks. At the end of the treatment, 75% had
achieved retractable, stretched foreskin. Because of this success rate,
the researchers advised that physicians should try the topical
corticosteroid as a remedy before resorting to surgery.
Other studies have confirmed the effectiveness of the topical
corticosteroid cream in treating phimosis. A 2008 study from University
Hospital UZ Gasthuisberg in Belgium found that the topical sterpid
cream, in combination with skin stretching, had an 86% success rate.
And in 2005, researchers from University of Verona in Italy used a
combination of the corticosteroid betamethasone and skin stretching
(which they hilariously called “preputial gymnastics”) to achieve 96%
success rate in reversing phimosis.
5. Is Foreskin Stretching Without Steroid Cream Effective?
No studies have been done on this issue specifically. However, gentle
stretching of the foreskin, without going to the point of pain will
stretch the skin. Skin is skin, after all, and it is designed to stretch to a
certain extent to accommodate our growth.
6. Treat Diabetes to Reduce Phimosis
Diabetes mellitus (Type 2 diabetes) is strongly linked with phimosis in
adults. In men with lifelong phimosis, there is no link with diabetes.
However, in men who developed phimosis (called “acquired phimosis),
about 28% of them have Type 2 diabetes, according to a 2008 study
from the Department of Urology, Manchester Royal Infirmary,
7. Amp Up Your Hygiene to Reduce Tight Foreskin
If you do not clean your penis regularly, oil from called smegma builds
up and can cause un-retractable foreskin. While you may be tempted to
use soap to remove this smegma, resist the temptation. Instead, use a
combination of warm water and a bit of topical steroid cream.
Should you use soap? Studies go both ways on this one. Recall that
one study from the University of California suggested that washing
horse’s foreskin and washing human foreskin both invite infections. But
the greater weight of authority advises that you should use a mild soap
to clean the foreskin after gently retracting it. Then, rinse with warm
water and never leave suds on the foreskin, because this can invite
infections and irritation.
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|Gently retract your foreskin while taking a warm