The foreskin is not “just some useless flap of skin.” It is, rather, an important part of nature’s careful attention to sex and procreation.

The penis and foreskin (prepuce) begin in the womb as a penile bud. Eight weeks after fertilization, the foreskin begins to grow over the head of the penis (glans), covering it completely by sixteen weeks. At this stage, the foreskin and its glans share a layer of skin (balano-preputial-lamina, or BPL) that temporarily fuses the two structures together.

Foeskin Development

Normal foreskin development from conception to early adulthood

At birth, the foreskin is almost always still fused to the glans. As the boy becomes older, they gradually separate of their own accord, a natural process that may not be complete until puberty or even into early adulthood. The average age of separation allowing full foreskin retraction is ten years. Some foreskins, however, never fully retract–and that, too, is normal. 1

As much as the genitals of males and females look and work differently, they have a lot in common. Interestingly, the same penile bud is present in girls, and, as a result of genetics and hormones, eventually forms into the clitoris and clitoral hood (also called the prepuce). Occasionally, the penile bud develops into other forms, or combinations of forms, and the child is called intersexed.

CAUTION: Never forcibly retract (pull back) his foreskin or allow anyone else to do so! It is painful, and can lead to infections and adhesions. Stay with your boy during all medical examinations, and state that his foreskin should not be retracted. Your son should be the first and only person to retract his foreskin.

This information has been reviewed by our panel of experts and other trusted advisors, however, it is not a substitute for professional medical, legal, or spiritual advice.

  1. Kayaba H, Tamura H, Kitajima S, Fujiwara Y, Kato T, Kato T. Analysis of shape and retractability of the prepuce in 603 Japanese boys. J Urol. 1996;156(5):1813-5.