Irritation and inflammation around the penis and testicles can occur if the sensitive skin in these areas comes into contact with:
- latex condoms or diaphragms
- lubricants and spermicides
- soaps, shower gels and shampoos
- deodorants or feminine hygiene sprays
- disinfectants, antiseptics and ointments
- washing powders or fabric softeners (if underwear is not rinsed properly)
- new underwear (especially if it is not made from cotton).
If the area under the foreskin is not washed properly, sweat and urine can build up which can cause irritation. However, scrubbing or excessive washing of the penis can also be a source of irritation.
The groin area should be kept clean and dry to prevent fungal infections. Fungi like to live in moist, warm places, such as folds of skin. Fungal infections of the groin may be passed from person to person, and can be irritating, painful or itchy.
Looking after yourself
- If you have irritation of the penis, shower and clean the irritated area in warm water at least twice a day. Carefully pull back and clean underneath the foreskin, as well as the tip of your penis (the glans). Make sure you pat the area dry rather than rubbing it.
- Avoid using perfumed soaps, shower gels or deodorants around the area since this can cause further irritation. Also avoid using any other product you think might have caused the irritation.
- If you think the irritation was caused by using latex condoms, try using hypoallergenic condoms that are meant for people with sensitive skin. Speak to a pharmacist or your local sexual health clinic for further advice.
- Keep the area dry and free from sweat to make it difficult for fungal infections to survive.
- Change underwear daily.
A cool compress may be used to soothe any pain. An ice pack may relieve the irritation, but should not be placed directly against the skin. Try wrapping a bag of frozen peas in a cloth, such as a clean tea towel, and mould this around the swollen area.
If you are in pain, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice on medicines you can take.
Suitable treatments may be available from your local pharmacy, but remember to speak to your pharmacist before you purchase any creams or lotions.
Tell your sexual partner(s) about the irritation so they can be examined and treated, if necessary. Avoid any sexual contact with others until the infection has cleared up.
Wash your hands before and after washing to prevent the spread of the infection. You should also avoid sharing your flannel or towel with others.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about penis irritation, why not use healthdirect's online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self-care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
Last reviewed: July 2015