You may be alarmed if you notice dry skin on your penis, but in most cases, it isn’t a sign of a serious medical condition. Dry skin on the penis is not a common symptom of genital herpes, genital warts, or any other sexually transmitted disease (STD).
If you have dry skin on your penis, you may experience any of the following symptoms:
- tight skin, particularly after bathing or swimming
- itching, flaking, or peeling skin
- redness of the skin
- a rash on the skin
- fine lines or cracks on the skin
- deep cracks on the skin that may bleed
Read on to learn more about possible causes of dry skin on the penis and how you can treat this condition.
Here are seven possible causes of dry skin on the penis.
- Drying soaps
A very harsh soap or cleanser may dry out the skin on the penis. Consider washing your penis using only water. If you want to use a cleanser, make sure you choose a very mild soap or even baby shampoo. Also, consider switching to hypoallergenic laundry detergent and fabric softener.
If you have an allergic reaction to latex, spermicide, personal deodorant, or fragrance, you may experience dry skin on the penis. Men who are allergic to latex may also have a red, itchy rash, or swelling on their penis after wearing a latex condom. Other possible symptoms of an allergic reaction are:
- a runny nose
- watery eyes
Use condoms that are latex-free (like polyurethane or silicon) and not treated with spermicide.
- Dry masturbation or sex
A lack of lubrication during prolonged sexual activity, such as masturbation or intercourse, may cause dry skin on the penis. A lubricant can make sex and masturbation more comfortable, and help you avoid dryness.
Lubricants come in three types:
Choose a chemical-free or organic lubricant, which won’t contain parabens or glycerin, as these can also cause irritation. Water-based lubricants are the least likely to cause irritation.
- Tight clothing or chafing
If tight clothes are constantly worn around the genital area, they can chafe or rub against the skin, and lead to dryness. Tight underwear can also lead to a buildup of moisture under your foreskin, which can be a breeding ground for fungus and increase the chance of an infection.
Wear soft, supportive cotton underwear, and looser clothing in light, breathable fabrics.
- Yeast infection
A yeast infection can cause:
- dryness and peeling skin
- a rash
- white patches on the skin
- swelling or irritation around the head of the penis
- a thick, uneven discharge under the foreskin
It may also be painful to urinate and have sex.
Keep the area dry and clean, and apply an over-the-counter antifungal cream as per the manufacturer’s directions. For a penile yeast infection, you’ll want to apply the ointment to the head of the penis and, in uncircumcised men, under the foreskin, until all symptoms go away. It may take up to 10 days to fully recover.
Abstain from sex until all symptoms have disappeared.
If your symptoms persist or worsen, ask your doctor’s advice.
Many types of eczema can affect the skin on the penis, including:
- atopic eczema
- irritant contact eczema
In addition to dry skin, eczema can also cause intense itching and bumps of different sizes under the skin.
If you have never been diagnosed with eczema, ask your doctor to refer you to a dermatologist for a definitive diagnosis.
The first-line treatment for eczema is a low-strength topical corticosteroid. The skin on the penis tends to be thinner and more sensitive than skin on other parts of your body, so be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions and apply medication carefully.
The most common type of psoriasis to affect the genitals, including the penis, is inverse psoriasis. Initially, this appears as dry, red lesions on the skin. You may also notice small red patches on the glans or shaft of your penis.
Your doctor may prescribe a low-strength topical corticosteroid. If topical corticosteroids are not successful in treating psoriasis on the penis, ultraviolet light therapy may be prescribed.
Before treating dry skin on the penis, abstain from all sexual activity for at least 24 hours to allow time for healing. That includes masturbation. Also, drink plenty of water to help hydrate your body.
When bathing or showering, use products designed for sensitive skin. You may want to avoid using soap on your genitals, and instead just clean the area with warm water. If you do use soap, rinse thoroughly after washing to remove all traces of products.
After bathing or showering, use a moisturizing penis cream. A cream designed especially for the skin in the penis is recommended because regular hand and body lotions may contain chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions. Look for one that contains Shea butter and vitamin E, which may help lock in moisture and prevent dryness.
Dry skin on the penis and sex
If the dry skin on your penis is caused by a yeast infection, you should abstain from sexual activity until the infection has been cleared. That’s because yeast infections are contagious, so you could spread the infection to your sexual partner.
It’s not dangerous to have sex when you have dry skin on your penis if it’s not caused by a yeast infection, but it may be uncomfortable.
If your skin hasn’t improved after a couple days of home treatment, or it’s getting worse, make an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor will inspect your genital area and decide whether to treat you for a yeast infection or refer you to a dermatologist, who may diagnose eczema or psoriasis.
You can help avoid dry skin on your penis by:
- using a mild cleanser, or only water, instead of soap to wash the penis
- drying your penis properly after washing
- using products designed for sensitive skin on the genital area
- using hypoallergenic laundry products on your clothes
- wearing soft, loose-fitting cotton underwear, and loose clothes
- drinking plenty of water to keep your body hydrated
- applying a penis-specific moisturizer after showers and baths
Dry skin on the penis isn’t usually a serious medical issue, but it can be uncomfortable. Identifying the cause and following the correct treatment plan is key to recovery. If home remedies aren’t working, or you regularly develop dry skin on your penis, talk to your doctor. They can determine if you have an underlying condition that needs a different treatment plan.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016). Dry skin.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015). STD symptoms: Common STDs and their symptoms.
Steckelberg, J. (2015). Male yeast infection: How can I tell if I have one?
National Eczema Society. (2015). Male genital eczema. http://eczema.org/documents/610
National Psoriasis Foundation. Genital Psoriasis.
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Latex Allergy.
Photo Credit: Charles Deluvio