I’m going to give it to you straight: you need to pay attention to your balls. I’m not talking about the five knuckle shuffle (which has its own benefits); I’m talking about hygiene and the health of your family jewels.
When it comes to grooming, most of us focus on our face or hair and think our job is done. But if the extent of your groin-grooming is a cursory swipe of soap every so often, it’s time to step up your game and keep your junk fresh. You owe it to your partner, since good hygiene can make taking it downtown much more pleasant for you and them. Plus, good ball-focused hygiene practices can make a difference in your daily comfort and your long term health.
“The nether regions are a part of your body that are warm, moist, and dark—the essentials for breeding germs,” says John Zampella, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone’s Tisch Center for Men’s Health. “The presence of bacteria in this area can lead to bad smells, skin infections, and skin breakdown.”
Some of these infections can include ringworm (which is actually a fungus and more commonly known as jock itch), staph (bacteria), and yeast (not just for the ladies). And while Zampella points out that these things aren’t necessarily only caused by bad hygiene, taking care of your balls properly can help treat and prevent them. Giving your twig and berries a good groom regularly can also help you monitor them for changes. If you know what’s going on down there, it makes identifying new issues like warts and other STI symptoms, easier. “Checking your balls for lumps is important; testicular cancer is one of the most common among young men. If you notice something is amiss, talk with your doctor,” he says.
Here are 6 ways to keep your junk clean, comfortable, and healthy (not to mention, better looking).
Wash Your Balls Every Day
It should go without saying that you should be showering every day and during that shower, make sure to give your balls a good scrub (at least once a day and always after you work out). Left unchecked, your undercarriage can become an all-you-can-eat buffet for germs. “[Washing] will help remove excess oils and dirt that can build up,” says Zampella. Bacteria and fungus thrive on these oils and, if they are allowed to grow, cause bad odor and infection. Making sure to clean your groin effectively ensures they aren’t given that chance. Make sure to get everything: the twig, the berries, the grundle, and everything in the surrounding area.
The Soap You Use Actually Matters
The skin around your family jewels is thinner and more delicate than other places on your body, which makes it prone to irritation. Zampella advises to use a soap that’s gentle and fragrance-free since harsh ingredients and lots of fragrance can cause irritation on the sensitive area. “Antibacterial soaps tend to be harsh on the skin and ingredients like menthol and tea tree oil may be uncomfortable on your balls,” he says, and recommends Eucerin Skin Calming Body Wash and Cetaphil Fragrance-Free Ultra Gentle Body Wash.
Dry Your Junk Gently and Thoroughly
Washing your business every day is the first step, but not the last. Once you’ve thoroughly washed, make sure to dry the area gently. Zampella advises patting dry with a clean towel, instead of tugging or rubbing, and if you’re uncircumcised, make sure to dry under your foreskin. It’s easy for residual moisture to stick around, especially once you get dressed and everything is pressed together, and as we’ve established: moisture = germs.
Use Powder to Keep Your Balls Dry
Once you’ve dried downtown, the trick is keeping it that way; it’s part of being a man that your balls are going to sweat. With that sweat, comes sticking, itching, and chafing, not to mention the aforementioned germs. Zampella says to sprinkle on a powder before putting getting dressed (making sure to cover the whole area, including your inner thigh). It will help soak up sweat throughout the day and protect you against chafing. “Lots of treatments for excess sweat, like those including aluminum chloride, can be super irritating,” he says, so look for products like Brickell Stay Fresh Body Powder that is aluminum and talc-free. If powders aren’t your thing, try a powder-finish anti-chafing gel, like Manscaped Crop Preserver, which is easy to apply without risking white dust all over your bathroom.
Zampella also suggests wearing underwear that breathes well with mesh for optimal air circulation or moisture-wicking materials. Carry an extra pair in your bag if you get sweaty easily, especially during the summer, and if you think you might be sweating an abnormal amount, consult your doctor.
Dry Is Good, Too Dry Is Bad
Keeping balls dry is good, but if you notice itching or flaky skin, that means skin might be a little too dry. This is actually a bad thing, according to Zampella. In addition to itching caused by yeast and fungal infections, “things like psoriasis and eczema can affect the groin and cause itching,” he says. The first step is to look at your laundry detergents and dryer sheets, which if they’re heavily fragranced, could be affecting your junk. “Getting products for sensitive skin [which are usually fragrance-free] is a good place to start,” he says.
Also consider switching your powder for a cream. Gentle creams are more nourishing for dry skin and contain ingredients to not only combat dryness but lock moisture into your skin (the same way your moisturizer does for your face). Look for versions that are still talc-and aluminum-free since you’re using it on your junk and include soothing ingredients like colloidal oatmeal. If you think fungus might be an issue, try a jock itch cream like Lamisil. And if none of these things help, ask your doctor for a prescription solution.
Be Careful Manscaping
Over half of men (or at least Men’s Health readers) take care of their undercarriage by way of manscaping. And while trimming your hedges and mowing your lawn can have real benefits, it also comes with risks. “Shaving is much more likely to cause cuts that can bleed and get infected. It can also lead to ingrown hairs and inflammation of the hair follicles called folliculitis,” says Zampella, who advises on trimming instead of shaving the area. He also recommends using an acne wash with salicylic acid before and after ‘scaping to help control ingrown hairs. Whatever tools you use, keep them clean so they don’t harbor bacteria, and if you’re taking your trimmer from your junk to other places on your body (or vice versa) clean it in between to prevent cross contamination. “An alcohol wipe should do the trick,” he says.
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