The main difference between a circumcised (cut) and uncircumcised (uncut) penis is the presence of foreskin around the head of the penis. Both options can have an effect on your hygiene and overall health.

Read on to learn more about how circumcision can affect the appearance of your penis, sexual function, and more.

Uncircumcised (Uncut): A foreskin can make your penis look slightly bulkier when it’s flaccid. During an erection, the foreskin retracts and almost disappears, so it won’t affect how big your penis looks when it’s erect.

Circumcised (Cut): Your penis size is based mainly on your genes. These determine the phenotype, or physical expression, of your penis.

Penis size is also based on blood flow to the penile tissues. Removing a layer of skin tissue — the foreskin — doesn’t have any impact on other penile tissues or how big your penis appears when erect. However, it may have slightly less “bulk” when it’s flaccid.

Uncut: In an uncut penis, the foreskin drapes over the head (glans) of the penis like a hood when you’re not erect. The penis head largely isn’t visible. When you’re erect, the foreskin retracts and exposes the glans. The foreskin usually looks bunched up.

Cut: In a cut penis, the foreskin is absent. This leaves the glans out in the open at all times, whether you’re erect or not. You may notice a slight difference in skin texture where the foreskin was removed.

The skin closer to your body may feel tougher and thicker. Skin closer to the glans may be thinner and more sensitive.

Uncut: An uncut penis requires some extra attention to hygiene. If you don’t regularly clean under the foreskin, bacteria, dead skin cells, and oil can cause smegma to build up.

Smegma can make your penis smell and even lead to glans and foreskin inflammation (balanitis). This can make pulling back your foreskin difficult or impossible. If this happens, it’s known as phimosis. Phimosis and balanitis can both require medical attention if left untreated.

Please note: These instructions are for adults only. Before puberty, it may be difficult to fully retract the foreskin. It should never be forcibly retracted, even for cleaning.

Cut: A cut penis doesn’t require additional hygiene. Just make sure you wash it regularly when you bathe.

However, your penile skin may be more likely to get dry, chafed, or irritated without the foreskin. You can help prevent this by wearing loose-fitting underwear and avoiding tight pants.

Uncut: A 2016 study found that for uncut penises, the foreskin was the part of the penis most sensitive to stimulation by touch. However, the study clarifies that this doesn’t mean that your experience of pleasure during sex is any different whether you’re cut or uncut.

Cut: A 2011 study claims that men with cut penises self-reported more “orgasm difficulties.” But a 2012 response to the study calls this claim into question.

The authors point out that the 2011 study showed no direct link between circumcision and sexual satisfaction. They also highlighted several factors that could have skewed the study’s results.

Uncut: The foreskin provides natural lubrication to the penis. However, there’s no conclusive evidence that being cut will require extra lubrication for the same amount of sexual satisfaction that those who are uncut experience.

Cut: Being cut may mean that you occasionally need extra lube when lubrication is necessary, such as during anal sex. No evidence suggests any difference in penis health or sexual satisfaction without the natural lubrication provided by the foreskin.

Uncut: Being uncut doesn’t have any direct effect on your fertility. Sperm production is based in the testicles, not the penis. Your diet, lifestyle, and overall health have a much larger impact on your fertility.

Cut: Being cut eliminates almost any risk of phimosis and balanitis. These can both cause inflammation and infections. However, there’s no evidence that being circumcised affects fertility.

Uncut: Ample evidence shows that being uncut increases your risk of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI), mostly in the first year of life. Smegma buildup can also increase infection risks that lead to phimosis and balanitis. Practicing good hygiene can help prevent these infections.

Cut: Cut men may have a reduced risk of contracting some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like genital herpes. They’re also 50 to 60 percent less likely to contract human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from female partners.

There isn’t comparable evidence to support or deny this decreased risk in men who have sex with men.

Uncut: Uncut men are generally at a higher risk of developing penile cancer because they’re more prone to smegma and phimosis. Both are risk factors for penile cancer. Uncut men can reduce their risk almost entirely by maintaining good penis hygiene.

Cut: Though research is still ongoing, women whose partners are cut may be less likely to develop cervical cancer. The main risk factor for cervical cancer is human papillomavirus (HPV).

Being cut or uncut doesn’t have enough effect on your risk for most conditions to universally recommend the procedure. It doesn’t affect your overall sexual health.

The major difference is that if you’re uncut, you’ll need to wash regularly under the foreskin to reduce your risk for infection and other conditions.

Taking steps to reduce your risk of STIs, such as using condoms during sex, is important regardless of whether you’re circumcised.