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Illustration of the male genitals with the foreskin labelled
Illustration of the male genitals.

Male babies developing inside the uterus of their mother are born with a foreskin which is a "hood" of skin that covers the end of the penis (this end part of a boys penis is called the 'glans'). This "hood" has a hole in the end so that boys can pee, and the whole hood is also, in many young men retractable so that it can be pulled back so as to expose the glans of the penis. It is thought that the purpose of this "hood" of skin is to protect the glans of penis from chaffing or other damage. However millions of boys around the world  get circumcised which means that the foreskin is removed usually for religious reasons - and  they don't seem have any problems at all. You should be reassured that this hood of skin cannot always be pulled fully back over the glans (head of your penis). Very occasionally if you do pull your foreskin back too far - it may get stuck back and be difficult to pull back over the head of your penis again. This may be especially difficult or even a bit painful if you get an erection whilst the skin is pulled back. The other problem that can happen is that the end hole in your foreskin gets so tight that you cannot pee normally, and that when you do pee, your foreskin balloons out. If this does happen you need to see your doctor urgently and you may need to be circumcised.

Care of your Foreskin

Foreskins do need regular attention to keep them clean. You probably will have noticed that if you are a boy with a foreskin you will sometimes have a kind of white creamy substance called "smegma" under your foreskin or covering the glans of your penis. This substance is completely normal and is made up of dead cells and mucus. Whenever you have a bath or shower the best way of cleaning under your foreskin is to gently pull your foreskin back as far as it will go and even more gently wash the glans of your penis and around the foreskin yourself. You will find that all this skin is very sensitive so do it with care.