What is Foreskin | Anatomy and Function

and why do humans have it?

by Judy Simone
Intaction Research Writer
November 2, 2020


Everyone is born with foreskin. In males it covers the end of the penis. It can also be called the prepuce. In females it’s called the clitoral hood and surrounds the clitoris. Some cultures or religions advocate cutting off the foreskin, a procedure or ritual known as circumcision. It can also be called genital mutilation depending on perspective. For those that have undergone a traumatizing circumcision, there are no do-overs. That child will have to live his or her entire life never knowing what it would have been like to have this body part. Therefore it is crucial for Americans to fully appreciate the incredible foreskin. It’s a gift embedded in our genetic heritage and what we humans are born with — the foreskin.

What is Foreskin?

The foreskin is a thin sheath of highly specialized skin that extends from the penis shaft and covers the head or glans. Fully adhered to the head of the penis (glans penis) at birth, as a child matures the foreskin separates from the head and can then be retracted or pulled back.  There is no specific time this happens as every child matures at a different rate. The foreskin can remain attached through childhood, but by puberty most foreskins are naturally retractable. 

It’s comprised of a double-layer fold of  skin (epidermis/dermis), muscle tissue (dartos), blood vessels, nerves ,  and a internal mucous membrane. The foreskin is responsible for protecting the head of the penis and the urinary meatus, which is the urinary opening at the tip of the penis. Stretchable and retractable, the foreskin acts just as the eyelid protects and covers the eye. During an erection the foreskin stretches to become some of the thinnest skin on the human body.

Sometimes men with an intact foreskin are incorrectly called “uncircumcised.” The proper term should be “intact” or “natural.” Depending on the foreskin length, coverage of the glans in the flaccid and erect states vary between individuals. The foreskin is a natural body part and medical experts around the world state that in most children and adults it never represents a health issue. Fortunately medical foreskin issues are rare, if they arise, are easily treated.

Foreskin Anatomy

Foreskin contains several significant structures often overlooked and disregarded by medical school anatomy books. The foreskin is chiefly comprised of the outer skin, the inner mucosal skin, the ridged band, frenulum, and dartos fascia.

Canadian anatomical researcher Dr. John R. Taylor discovered the ridged band which is located on the inner layer of the foreskin. There are approximately a dozen “ridges” in the skin that are said to contain over 20,000 specialized nerve endings. These fine touch nerve endings are called Meissner’s corpuscles.” These nerves let a man know what his penis is feeling and how close he is to orgasm. When the foreskin is retracted during an erection, the ridged band becomes outwardly exposed and positioned to send sensory signals to the brain.

During an erection, the ridged band also becomes stretched like an accordion. The stretching of the ridged band triggers important sexual reflexes and erogenous sensation. The highly orchestrated feedback system helps men obtain maximum pleasure while helping them avoid premature ejaculation. A man that has been circumcised (foreskin surgically removed) doesn’t have the sensory input from the ridged band. A cut man’s brain doesn’t receive the sensory resolution of what his penis is feeling during sex.

foreskin anatomy structures diagram

Even More Amazing Anatomy 

People seek answers to the question: What is foreskin? They are often surprised to find out about another interesting feature, a special part called the frenulum. The frenulum is a tough elastic webbed strip of skin that keeps the lower foreskin in place and pulls the foreskin forward to cover the head when the penis is flaccid. The underside (ventral) of the head of the glans penis is contoured which a split channel to accommodate the stretchy webbed frenulum. The frenulum is anchored to this channel.

The frenulum and the area of the underside of the penis (frenula delta) is one of the most sensitive parts of the penis after the ridged band. This was documented in a 2007 study published in the British Journal of Urology (BJU Volume 99, Issue 4, pp. 864–869, Morris L. Sorrells). Unfortunately this highly erogenous part of the penis is entirely removed during circumcision.

foreskin frenulum

The dartos fascia is a thin layer of smooth muscle tissue inside the foreskin. This thin sheet of muscle contracts to allow the foreskin to close and comfortably hug the head of the glans penis when the penis is flaccid.

The frenulum and dartos fascia work together to keep the penis covered and protected with foreskin when not in use !

The foreskin also provides its own lubrication and skin softening emollients. During an erection, the trapped blood pressure in the penis forces fluid (exudate) to leak from the mucosal tissue of the inner foreskin. This provides lubrication during sex, and helps to keep the foreskin and head of the penis moist and supple throughout the day.

Learning Opportunity

Humans have another frenulum which can be found under the tongue. The lingual frenulum is a webbing of skin that keeps the tongue anchored and in alignment inside the mouth.

lingual frenulum foreskin

Foreskin or Clitoral Hood | What’s the Difference?

The male’s foreskin and the female’s clitoral hood are anatomically equivalent but with some differences.

In females, the hood of the clitoris, or clitoral hood, is the fold of skin that surrounds the head of the clitoris.  It protects the sensitive clitoris from friction and rubbing, just like the male foreskin protects the end of the penis. The clitoral hood varies widely in appearance from woman to woman. Larger or smaller hoods are both perfectly normal.

There are some differences between the female clitoral hood and the male foreskin. In the male, the foreskin is more developed and serves multiple functions. The foreskin has more nerve endings, and it provides the expansive skin to aid comfortable erections. The sliding skin also serves a purpose during intercourse, enhancing sensation to help both partners achieve orgasm.  The penis evolved and was designed to penetrate the vagina during sex. The foreskin’s sleeve-like design assists during the thrusting of penetrative sex. The male foreskin also provides sensory feedback with greater definition from it’s nerve endings being in direct contact with his partners body. This helps the male to control his ejaculation.

Foreskin in Infants and Children

The foreskin is fully attached to the glans penis at birth by a thin membrane called the synechia, or Balano-Preputial Lamina (BPL.) As an infant and young child, the foreskin seals the glans from dirt, feces, and urine . The foreskin protects the tip of the penis from irritation caused by abrasion or rubbing against diapers or clothing. As the child matures, the foreskin will begin to separate from the head of the penis. When ready, a boy can be retract or pull his skin back. There is no set age when this happens. While the foreskin may sometimes remain attached through childhood, by puberty most boys can retract their foreskin. A very few men may never achieve retraction of the foreskin. This is called phimosis and can be treated or left alone. 

In any event the infant or child foreskin should never be forcibly retracted. This will result in pain, tearing, bleeding, and scar tissue formation. Parents need to be vigilant and prevent un-informed caregivers from forcibly retracting their son’s foreskin for any reason.

General Foreskin Care for Men and Adolescents

Taking care of your foreskin should be part of daily hygiene. Fortunately it’s easy to do.

  • Clean underneath the foreskin. Without regular cleaning, a build-up of a whitish-yellow substance known as ‘smegma’ can occur under the foreskin. This comes from dead skin cells and skin secretion. Smegma can develop an odor if not washed off.
  • Retract your foreskin and wash with warm water. Try to avoid getting soap under the foreskin as it can irritate the skin.
  • See your doctor if you have any concerns.


The foreskin is a natural body part that serves important functions. There’s a saying “form affects function.” If the foreskin is surgically amputated, the form  changes. If the form changes, then the way the penis functions also changes. Nature doesn’t make design mistakes, and foreskin is part of our DNA. We must strive to fully understand the benefits of the foreskin, because when we do that, we can appreciate how vital it is to retain it.

Learn even more with this video:

A Woman’s Guide to Foreskin

foreskin women sex function history
foreskin uncircumcised advantages

Foreskin makes jacking off 1,000 times easier and better. It requires no lotion, no spit, or lube. Foreskin makes it so the man is not too dry, and the movements between your skin and his skin l makes it more pleasurable during sex.

Lauren - 30

My husband is intact (not circumcised) and sex is amazing! Everyone benefits from his foreskin. He still has thousands of nerve endings which makes sex more enjoyable for him. His natural lubricant makes it phenomenonal for me! All the stereotypes of intact men’s penises being gross, smelling and more prone to STD’s are myths. Circumcision is an American thing. The good thing is that more parents are opting to leaving their babies intact. Any parents (or prospective parents) should check out: www.yourwholebaby.org

Desiree - 34

My boyfriend didn’t know he was missing anything until we met. I used to get rubbed raw all the time. It was worse with other partners that had less foreskin but he had a moderate amount. He has been restoring a year and a half now. Now, he has a lot more foreskin and I don’t get that “rubbed raw” feeling as much. He also doesn’t stab my cervix with his penis because he doesnt have to ram it in there to feel as much. So, now that he has more sensation and can last longer, we both enjoy sex a lot more and we have both been able to explore more. It would be better if he never got his foreskin stolen from him at birth, but at least restoration helps him get back some of what was stolen. He still has years to go but it’s an adventure !

Kirsten 26

While I won’t turn down a cut guy, I’ve found I prefer foreskin. The extra skin makes it easier to give him a hand job because it glides. It’s kinda fun sliding it back and forth. It’s different…in a good way. It feels a bit fuller I guess? I just remember when we first started having sex without condoms, it was awesome sex. I wish I could explain how, but I can’t.

Kat - 27

I truly enjoy sex MUCH more with intact men! A smooth, gentle, gliding experience (with natural lubrication), rather than endless pounding and needing to pull almost all the way out in between thrusts… ouch! Plus the time and money couples spend on lube could solve world hunger! As far as aesthetics go, intact is obviously more normal and healthier looking… especially the glans! No c-scar, un natural curvature or stretching of the remaining skin. I like penis the way it should be, natural, protected & un compromised! It really is a beautiful thing! I also enjoy the sex more with a man left natural cause I have no doubt that hes getting the most pleasure possible from our experience…

Jackie - 31

My BF calls his foreskin his “HE-Spot.” But to me the gliding action of his foreskin is amazing. It makes for sex with less roughness & soreness because it slides & glides. The foreskin…on the out stroke…is pulled back over the head & bunches up creating a G spot stimulator. His HE-Spot and my G-Spot connect. Our bodies and minds become one. It ends in an amazing orgasm.

Taylor 32

It’s all good, but uncut is like a bonus. The foreskin of an uncircumcised penis increases the girth and increases the amount of pressure and friction on my G-spot. This increased stimulation also increases the amount of blood flow to my vajayjay. With foreskin, having multiple orgasms is easier. For me, at the end of the night, it’s an overall hotter experience.

Keisha 23

Foreskin makes it possible and so much easier to give an impromptu/sneaky hand job (movie theatre anyone?) because you don’t need to keep spitting on your hand to keep things lubed up. The foreskin works as it’s own little self lubricating sleeve.

Ash - 32

Foreskin – It’s like the wrapping on a surprise package! Why ruin the fun?

Dee - 37

Out of cut and uncut, uncut was more comfortable. Not as much irritation, and im sure I could feel more internally. My uncut partner is a lot gentler too. I wouldn’t turn down a cut guy if I ever find myself dating again, but I prefer uncut guys.

Rebecca 37

I just discovered foreskin this last year! I’ve been missing out this entire time. the extra skin is fantastic to work with. Ladies you’ve got to get on this love train!

Zoe 25

I can only full-heartedly agree to what the other ladies are saying. Forskin is beautiful, sexy and pleasurable! It makes sex more enjoyable because it protects the entrance of the vagina from too much friction. It is so much fun to play with with one’s tongue during blow jobs, and easier to give good hand jobs with too! Plus, guys tend to have more sensation on their penises because of it. So a win-win situation all around I am so grateful someone is starting to speak up about this! I really hope more parents decide to leave their baby boys’ fully natural and purposeful foreskin intact. We women support you!!

Anne - 32

I have had both cut and uncut guys and prefer uncut. My husband was circumcised but wishes he had not been. He says that he remembers putting salve on his penis at a young age. I feel bad for him but am glad that he recovered well. Both of our sons are uncut and perfect. Please stop the cycle of infant male genital mutilation.

Jaecey - 25

Ladies, share your experience with foreskin. Tell us why “A Girl Can Hope.” The very best entries can win a spot on our Ladies confessions page. All responses are posted on a first name/age basis only.

Ladies' Confessions

  • Age