Skin care is something that is identified with women, but which is important for men as well. And, of course, that need for care extends to penis skin as well. Unattractive penis skin can mar an otherwise-appealing member, causing potential partners to check out. It can also indicate possible hygienic or penis health issues which may need tending to. For example, sometimes penis skin problems may result from a condition known as lichen sclerosis.

Not just women

Lichen sclerosis is much more common among women (in whom it affects the vagina) than in men, but it does occur in men – probably more frequently than is known. (Many men are reluctant to report problems they have with their penis to a doctor, so it is suspected that lichen sclerosis is underreported among males.)

Also known in men as balanitis xerotica obliterans, lichen sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disorder about which not enough is known. The cause or causes are still being identified and explored, but it is thought to be an autoimmune disorder. What does that mean? Well, an autoimmune disorder occurs when a person’s body mistakenly starts identifying something that naturally exists in the body (usually a protein) as a foreign object, and so starts developing antibodies to fight this supposedly foreign object.

Because some 15% of people with lichen sclerosis have a relative with the condition, it is also thought that there may be a genetic component involved in the disorder as well.

What it does

When a man has lichen sclerosis, it is usually located in the glans (or head) of the penis. It may become inflamed, causing redness. There may also be white patches which appear on the glans, and the skin may get blotchy and wrinkled. It becomes sensitive, so that the skin may tear more easily, causing bleeding, and sometimes there are sores or ulcers that appear in the area. Most men experience severe penile itching as well. The urethra tends to constrict, so that urine streams may thin, crooked or “spattery;” in intact men, the foreskin may become difficult to retract. And sex usually becomes painful while lichen sclerosis is present.

Often, young intact boys with phimosis also have lichen sclerosis. Otherwise, it is more common among middle-aged men, especially if they are uncircumcised; however, many of any age, with or without foreskin, can be affected.


The first step in treating lichen sclerosis is to get it diagnosed, so a visit to a urologist – or at least to a general practitioner – is in order. Since the exact cause of the disorder is still under discussion, treatment tends to involve attacking the symptoms rather than the root cause itself.

The most common, and usually effective, course of treatment is application of corticosteroids via a crème or ointment. In most cases, the corticosteroids will be applied twice a day until the symptoms disappear. Frequently, a patient will be recommended to continue treatment on a much less frequent basis (once or twice a week) to keep the condition from coming back.

If corticosteroids don’t work, the doctor may recommend another medication. In some instances, a doctor may suggest that an intact patient consider circumcision as a treatment option.

Lichen sclerosis can create an unpleasant penis skin situation, so even after treatment a man should apply a first rate penis health creme (health professionals recommend Man 1 Man Oil, which is clinically proven mild and safe for skin) to assist restoring and rejuvenating the penis skin. This will be more easily accomplished if the chosen crème contains both a high end emollient (think shea butter) and a powerful hydrator (such as vitamin E). The penis skin will further benefit from a crème with a potent antioxidant, such as alpha lipoic acid. Powerful antioxidants can fend off excess free radicals, which left unchecked can bring about significant oxidative damage to the skin.