Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
“Burn” and “penis”: two words no guy wants to hear in the same sentence. Most men are lucky enough to never spill boiling water in their lap, but another type of burn — a friction burn — can still be pretty uncomfortable.
Thankfully, a friction burn on your penis isn’t typically a severe heat burn (which is good, because we don’t even want to think about the concept of a penile skin graft). Instead, luckily, it’s likely sore from too much use, and just needs some rest.
Understanding how friction burn happened to your ahem… affected area… can speed you on your way to recovery without necessitating an awkward penis exam, but there are other potential causes of penile injury that you might want to rule out as well. Let’s start with the roughest part of the conversation: the friction itself.
You may wince to visualize it, but the skin of your penis is very sensitive and thin, and a friction burn on your shaft is what happens when that sensitive skin is rubbed raw.
Friction burns occur when two surfaces (your penis is one, in this case) rub against each other without enough lubrication. This type of burn is technically both a thermal burn and an abrasion — the tissue heats up from the friction, but can also be damaged abrasively.
Think: a rug burn.
Unless you’re doing some very strange cycling stunts while naked, though, the friction burn penis injury likely comes from prolonged sex or masturbation (or maybe a carpet burn if things got rough).
This is especially true if the sex is vigorous or lasts a long time, if you have particularly dry penis skin or even if there’s already a small cut on your penis.
It can even happen with shorter sexual encounters if you’re not accustomed to regular sexual activity (and the friction is therefore a new experience).
Friction burn on your penis isn’t like normal burn injuries. Minor friction burns won’t last but a few days, and there’s no specific treatment involved. Those visual signs of a burn — a scab on penis skin, a friction burn on shaft skin, a friction burn blister — they’ll heal on their own.
Unless the burn is severe, you don’t need to seek medical attention for this specific penile health issue. Instead, give it time and keep the area clean and dry to prevent an infection. And don’t dive right back into bed with your partner until you’re feeling completely better.
If your friction burn is so severe that you develop a friction burn blister or tear your foreskin, keep it covered with clean, loose-fitting underwear (like briefs or boxers) and contact your healthcare provider.
As the wound heals, you may notice some peeling where the rash was. That’s perfectly normal, so, no need to ask, “Why is my penis peeling?” It’s just your skin doing its job.
Everyone heals differently, but for the most part burns that are of the one or two-degree level will probably heal in a week. This is the case for first and second-degree burns, which are thermal injuries. For the abrasion part of the problem, the healing time is similar, usually taking one to two weeks.
Severe friction burns can take months to show healing progess, and those may also require surgery to replace the skin that was basically burned away entirely. We’re going to guess (hope) that you stopped short of that level of injury.
Worried that your skin isn’t doing its job correctly, or fast enough? That’s a great reason to talk to a healthcare provider.
Keep in mind: the pain from a friction burn penis during an erection is different from a painful erection — a condition often resulting from erectile tissue damage that you might want to learn about if your pain persists.
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Now that you’ve winced your way through most of this article, you’re probably wondering how to prevent a friction burn on your penis. The easiest way to never have to Google “Why does my penis burn?” again is to use lubrication.
If things feel dry during sex, using a water-based lubricant will not only feel better on your penis — it’ll feel better for your partner, too.
Another way to prevent these injuries is to address problems like being unable to ejaculate, which could lead to a friction rash on its own. If you have problems ejaculating, and finishing becomes frustrating, a healthcare professional may be able to help you.
Delayed ejaculation could be due to stress or medications, but if it’s more than a one-time occurrence, a healthcare professional can advise you on potential medical treatments.
Because sex shouldn’t be frustrating.
The symptoms of a penis friction burn can resemble the symptoms of other, potentially more serious penis problems. If you’re unsure of the cause of your irritation, see a healthcare provider to rule out the following:
Balanitis. Balanitis looks like swelling and tenderness in the head of the penis, and may also include discharge, itchiness and a rash — kinda like the red, raw flesh of a friction burn. But unlike friction burn, it’s a condition caused by bacterial or fungal infections, diabetes or a latex allergy. Luckily, it’s easily treatable with over-the-counter or prescription medications — talk to a healthcare provider if you have questions.
Sexually transmitted infections. There are many sexually transmitted infections that can result in penis discomfort and inflammation. Conditions like syphilis, herpes, and human papillomavirus will also result in small lesions, not typical with a simple friction burn.
Thrush. Thrush is a yeast infection, or overgrowth of the fungus known as Candida albicans. It can result in soreness, inflammation, and sometimes a discharge.
Other potential problems that can make your penis sore include poor hygiene, some types of cancers, skin disorders (like psoriasis) and other allergies. So, if you’re experiencing symptoms that don’t jibe with your understanding of friction burn, you’ll want to talk to a healthcare provider ASAP.
Friction burns anywhere suck, but penile friction burns may be the actual, absolute worst. We literally can’t say the phrase “penile friction burn” without wincing. If you take anything else away from this article, let it be this:
Penile friction burns can be avoided. Prevention is about moderating the “use” of your penis, using lubrication and knowing when to give yourself time to heal.
Healing time will vary. A minor burn may recover in just a few days, but if you’ve been really doing some damage (because you’re having just entirely too much sex, you absolute legend) then a week or more of rest could be required.
Not everything that looks like a friction burn is a friction burn. Allergies, skin infections and other things may cause similar symptoms to friction burn, so if you’re not sure what’s causing the skin of your penis to become red or raw, it’s a good idea to talk to a healthcare provider.
If the above suggestions don’t get you anywhere in the healing process, you should contact a healthcare provider to learn more about what’s going on down there.