Dry skin on the penis often occurs when the penis shaft is lacks moisturize. Dryness can also occur on the penis head and the foreskin, and it can cause the appearance of flaky or cracked skin.

Although it is not a concerning finding in most cases, as it may just be a temporary irritation, it may be a sign of an infection or chronic skin condition. 

If your skin dryness causes constant discomfort or if it takes over a week to resolve, you should see your doctor for assessment to identify the underlying cause. Treatment can involve the use of ointments, antifungals or changes to hygienic routine. 

1. Skin irritation

Skin irritation around the penis is a relatively common finding and it can happen due to a variety of reasons. The most common causes of irritation are the use of synthetic-based underwear, underwear that is too tight, hygiene products with strong chemicals (like parabens or glycerin) and using latex condoms. 

Along with irritation, you may also notice redness in the area, swelling or itching. 

What to do: To decrease the risk of an allergic skin reaction, you should opt to use more natural fabrics, like cotton underwear, and wear looser-fitting clothing. If you need to use a cleansing product when showering, you should use appropriate products that are mild and made for external genital use. Organic and chemical-free products are always best. If you have a known allergy, like an allergy to latex for example, you should avoid triggering products. 

2. Use of soaps

Some soaps can cause dryness in the genital area, as it is a very sensitive skin that reacts easily to chemicals. When this occurs, you may notice a mild inflammation. It may not be visible to the eye, however dryness along the shaft and foreskin can occur. 

What to do: Most times, you can adequately wash the genital region with just warm water. If you require a soap, use one that is mild and specifically for sensitive skin. 

3. Prolonged sexual activity 

The production of natural lubrication from the penis can decrease with prolonged sexual activity, whether through sexual intercourse or masturbation. Decreased lubrication and cause friction and lead to dryness. Frequent sexual activity can also lead to a similar problem. 

What to do: You should ensure that the penis is adequately lubricated, especially if you are not using a condom. Water-based lubes are best, as they are least likely to contain chemicals that may cause irritation and skin damage. 

4. Penile infection 

Infections can occur due to the excessive growth of fungus or bacteria, which happens with poor hygiene in the area. Infections can also emerge following skin irritation, or from exposure to a sexually transmitted infection, like chlamydia or gonorrhea. 

Similar to irritations, infections almost always cause symptoms like redness, swelling, itching, flaking skin, pain with urination and discharge from the urethra. 

What to do: If you suspect an infection, or if you experience pain with urination or discharge, you should see your doctor for assessment and treatment. Treatment will depend on the type of infection present, and can involve the use of oral or topical antibiotics or antifungals. Learn more about how yeast infections are treated

5. Other skin conditions

Although this is more rare, skin conditions that occur systemically can also affect the penis. Common dermatological problems that can lead to dryness are eczema and psoriasis. These conditions usually affect other parts of the body, however, making them easy to identify and diagnose.  

Skin conditions that affect the penis are more common in men with sensitive skin or men with a family history of skin conditions. 

What to do: Chronic skin conditions should be monitored by a dermatologist so that appropriate treatment and symptom relief can be provided. Read more about how genital psoriasis is treated

6. Tight clothes

Using tight clothing and using synthetic fabrics can cause increase moisture in the genital regions. This can promote the growth of fungus and lead to dry skin as well as redness and itching in the area. 

What to do: You should use cotton-based underwear to prevent excessive moisture and opt to wear looser-fitting clothing and pants. This can help improve airflow to the genital region. 

7. Balanitis

Balanitis is an inflammation of the head of the penis that can cause symptoms like redness, itching, redness and dry skin. In most cases, balanitis is caused by the Candida albicans fungus, and is not considered to be sexually-transmitted infection. In addition, balanitis can occur in younger boys, and is most frequently seen in uncircumcised penises, as there is a greater potential for the accumulation of discharge, moisture and bacteria beneath the foreskin. 

What to do: Ensure adequate hygiene practices, like regular cleansing of the area and using cotton-based fabrics. You should see your doctor for treatment if it does not resolve, which can involve the use of antifungals, antibiotics or corticosteroids. Learn more about how balanitis is treated. 

Was this information helpful?

Atualizado por Tua Saude editing team, em April de 2022. Medical review por Dr. Clarisse Bezerra - Family Doctor, em March de 2022.

References

  • SHAH, Manu Shah; SILVA, Ariyaratne. The Male Genitalia: A Clinician's Guide to Skin Problems and Sexually Transmitted Infections. Auckland: Radcliffe publishing, 2008.
  • HALL, Anthony. Atlas of male genital dermatology. 1.ed. Australia: Springer, 2019.
Show more references
  • THE NATIONAL ECZEMA SOCIETY. Male genital eczema. 2019. Available on: <http://www.eczema.org/download-factsheets---eczema>. Access in 14 Nov 2019
  • HEALTHLINE. What Causes Dry Skin on the Penis?. Available on: <https://www.healthline.com/health/mens-health/dry-skin-on-penis>. Access in 06 Mar 2019
  • LYBRATE. When to Worry About Dry Penis Skin?. Available on: <https://www.lybrate.com/topic/when-to-worry-about-dry-penis-skin/52793357b52db346e7eefdcf9e483765>. Access in 06 Mar 2019
Medical review:
Dr. Clarisse Bezerra
Family Doctor
Dr. Bezerra possesses a medical degree and specializes in family medicine. She is licensed to practice under CRM-CE licence #16976.