While circumcision, or ablation (cutting away) of the foreskin has become something of the norm in Western culture, the rest of the world does not share in this practice and the majority of males worldwide have an intact foreskin. In the US, the benefits of circumcision are increasingly questioned and fewer parents are opting for this surgery at birth. In fact, there are few medical benefits in removing the foreskin and recent research has shown that this stretchy piece of skin actually plays an important role in the function of the penis. Understanding its functions and maintaining foreskin health may improve the experience of sexual pleasure.

What is the foreskin?

The foreskin, also known as the prepuce, is a double layer of skin which serves as a covering for the glans, or head, of the penis. Contrary to popular belief, the foreskin is not redundant or useless and actually serves a number of important functions. The structure of the foreskin is as follows:
• An outer layer of skin which extends from the skin covering the shaft of the penis.
• An inner layer of mucocutaneous tissue.
• A frenar band which joins the inner and outer layers of the foreskin; this band tightens when the penis is flaccid to narrow the opening of the foreskin as it covers the penis and widens to allow retraction of the sheath during an erection.
• The frenulum, a thin band of connective tissue on the underside of the head of the penis.

The functions of the foreskin

There are a number of known functions of the foreskin, which are described as follows:
• The development of the mucosal tissue that covers the glans and the inner layer of the foreskin.
• To protect the infant penis from the damaging effects of ammonia and feces.
• To serve as a protective barrier against friction and chafing.
• To keep the glans from drying out through the production of natural emollients (skin moisturizers).
• To serve as a natural lubricant and produce a waxy protective covering for the glans;
• To facilitate masturbation.
• To aid in foreplay and penetration.
• To stimulate the g-spot of a sexual partner.
• To provide feelings of sexual pleasure through its large number of erogenous receptors.

Foreskin problems

It is clear that the foreskin is more complex than generally believed, and as such, it is prone to a number of issues that can cause pain and discomfort and interfere with sexual function and the enjoyment of sex. Some of the more common issues that affect the foreskin include:

• Balanitis - an infection of the head and foreskin, which can result in swelling, itching and burning, a cheesy discharge, and painful intercourse.
• Phimosis - this condition occurs when the foreskin is too tight to be pulled back over the head with ease. Phimosis can be painful, and it may impair the ability to engage in intercourse. Stretching of the foreskin over time, with the assistance of gentle moisturizers, may help to alleviate this condition.
• Paraphimosis - similar to phimosis, paraphimosis refers to the condition where the foreskin may be retracted, but then tightens at the crown of the penis and cannot be pulled back over the head. Because this can restrict blood flow to the penis, it is generally treated as an urgent care issue.

Keeping it healthy

Men with an intact foreskin have the advantage of a greater number of nerve receptors than their circumcised counterparts, but proper attention to foreskin care is important to prevent problems and keep this important penile tissue healthy. Vitamins that provide support for connective tissue and maintain the moisture and suppleness of the skin are an important part of a penis care regiment. Applying a specialized penis vitamin formula (most health professionals recommend Man1 Man Oil) can help to ensure that the foreskin is adequately nourished, stimulate blood flow to the area, and maintain the elasticity and responsiveness of the skin.