Although circumcision rates have been plummeting over the last few decades, the majority of adult men in the U.S. don't have foreskins. Because of the prevalence of circumcision, there isn't a lot of education around how to take proper care of uncircumcised penises. If your foreskin is intact, here's what you need to know to keep it happy.
What is Foreskin Anyway?
If you're the owner of a foreskin, you (hopefully) know what it is, but let's go over the basics anyway. The foreskin is a flap of skin that covers the head of the penis and attaches at the base of the head. Baby boys are born with the foreskin fully attached to their penis, but it gradually loosens as they age. By the time boys reach puberty, the foreskin can usually be retracted down to the base of the glans (the head of the penis) with ease. All men are born with a foreskin, but about 60% of baby boys in the US undergo circumcision, where the foreskin is removed.
How to Keep Your Foreskin Healthy
Foreskin ownership is generally uncomplicated, but it does require some basic care. You'll need to clean underneath your foreskin when you bathe. Gently retract your foreskin and rinse it with warm water whenever you're in the shower. It's generally not advised to use soap, as harsh chemicals can dry out the delicate skin tissue (potentially even leading to infection or irritation). Foreskin has the tendency to build up smegma, a delightfully-named mixture of dead skin cells and body oils, so cleaning is essential.
The tissues of the foreskin are more fragile than other parts of the penis, so you'll want to exercise a bit of care. Don't ever forcibly retract your foreskin. You may also want to consider using lube to masturbate, to ensure that you won't be tugging on your foreskin. Just make sure to wash the lube off afterwards, since you don't want it getting trapped underneath your foreskin.
What Foreskin Owners Should Watch out For
There are a couple of medical conditions specific to foreskin owners. Infections are somewhat common, and can often be confused with sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Posthitis is an infection that creates redness, swelling, and discharge. Balanoposthitis is accompanied by inflammation and irritation. Both have the tendency to recur, and can lead to serious complications. TL;DR: wash your foreskin, and see your doctor right away if you notice redness, irritation, or a change in discharge!
Foreskins can also get caught in zippers a little more easily than circumcised penises, so make sure to exert extra caution when closing your barn door, especially if you're a fan of freeballing.
Phimosis is another foreskin-specific condition. It occurs when the foreskin is especially tight. If you remember from the first section of this article, boys are born with attached foreskins that loosen over time, but about 5% end up developing phimosis. If you're the owner of a penis and know for certain that you don't have phimosis, I suggest skipping the rest of this paragraph. We're about to get really graphic, and we don't want you cupping your junk in sympathy-induced pain. Phimosis can lead to a whole host of problems. If you're not able to retract your foreskin, you can't clean it, meaning you're more likely to get infections. You can also get urine trapped in there when you're trying to relieve yourself. In severe cases of phimosis, getting an erection can be painful, and can even cause tearing and bleeding in the foreskin itself.
Fortunately, there are treatments for phimosis. It's important to work with a doctor, who may prescribe you a steroid cream to help loosen the skin. He or she may also recommend a manual stretching routine (don't attempt this without medical supervision!), which should help gradually loosen up the skin over time. In the most extreme cases, adult circumcision may be necessary, but this is rare.
Finally, let's round it out with Paraphimosis. This condition occurs when the foreskin gets stuck in a retracted position (you may want to avert your eyes here again), essentially choking the penis and cutting off circulation. In some cases, it can require emergency intervention. Sometimes men with Phimosis (too-tight foreskin) can get overly-aggressive with their foreskin-stretching routines, leading to a case of Paraphimosis.
How to Introduce Your Partner to Your Foreskin
There's a good chance that you'll have at least one sexual partner who has never been with an uncircumcised guy before. Just like any other person sleeping with someone new, you'll have to show your partner the ins and outs of what works for your body. In particular, it's important to tell your partner not to forcibly retract your foreskin. Just say something simple, like, "let me show you how I do it", and masturbate for your partner a bit.
There's no elegant way to put this: some uncircumcised guys experience odor issues with their foreskin (to be fair, some circumcised guys experience odor issues too). It's a fold of skin in an area that doesn't tend to get a lot of air, so it makes sense. If you're ever aware of or concerned about your odor, try giving yourself a quick rinse before being sexually active with a partner. It would be especially appreciated if you'd like your partner to perform oral. There's nothing to be ashamed of here; we're just talking about taking a few extra seconds to be a thoughtful partner.
If you're ever penetrating your partner, you'll need to take one extra step when you're putting on a condom. Gently pull your foreskin back to the base of the glans, then put the condom on. This method should increase your foreskin's ability to move within the condom. Adding a drop of lube to the tip of the condom helps things glide even better. There are some men who prefer to keep their foreskin stretched out over the glans, then apply the condom, typically because they don't enjoy having the glans so exposed. I recommend giving the former method a try first, since it tends to keep the condom anchored a little better. If you're not using a condom, there's no need to pull your foreskin back.
Love Your Foreskin
Since circumcision is still considered the "norm" in the US, a number of circumcised men feel some level of self-consciousness about their penises. One shocking demonstration of this dynamic: 5% of adult circumcisions are done for purely cosmetic reasons. In particular, some men are concerned about their partner's reaction to seeing foreskin. While some people might say they prefer the "look" of a circumcised penis, it's the same thing as someone saying they like big boobs or a round butt. We all have our preferences, but if someone makes you feel ashamed for being uncircumcised, they're not someone deserving of your time.
While we won't get into the debate over whether or not to circumcise in this article, it's worth noting that some of the roots of the modern popularity of circumcision lay in the anti-masturbation movement. Circumcision was seen as a way of preventing "self-abuse". If you ever find yourself at odds with your uncircumcised penis, think of yourself as a rebel against this anti-pleasure movement! Consider the fact that you enjoy up to 40% more nerve endings than circumcised men. Some have made the argument that less sensitivity equates to lasting longer in bed, but having more nerve endings does not make you orgasm faster. Perhaps the best way for you to develop a better relationship with your foreskin is to revel in the added sensation you're able to feel. Try different ways of masturbating with your foreskin. Use lots of lube to help your foreskin glide back and forth over your glans. Try keeping your foreskin pulled over the glans and focusing your efforts on just the head of your penis. Enjoy your foreskin in all of its nerve-filled glory!