This is the fifth in a series of informational essays by Marilyn Milos, RN, founder of the National Organization of Circumcision Resource Centers and a pioneer in the movement to end the forced circumcision of boys in the United States.

The urge to seek what has been lost is all too human. And, the more personal the loss, the greater the desire to recover it. That’s why it should come as no surprise that more and more circumcised men want to restore their foreskins.

The foreskin (prepuce) is a unique structure with specialized muscles, blood vessels, and nerve endings. Because circumcision permanently removes that structure, neither the surgical attachment of skin from another part of the body nor the stretching of skin that remains on the penis can ever completely bring back what’s been taken away. However, lots of men report great improvements in their personal comfort (for example, sufficient tissue for a comfortable erection, decreased chafing with clothing and irritation of the exposed glans, and return of the gliding mechanism for ease of masturbation and intromission), and many “restored” men and their partners report more sensitivity, sexual pleasure, and satisfaction.

A little background might be interesting here. During Classical times, the Greeks greatly admired the male prepuce — the longer, the more elegant and aesthetically pleasing. They pathologized a penis with a short or missing foreskin, especially one that had been surgically removed. The Roman Emperor Hadrian hated circumcision as much as he hated castration, and outlawed them both. This stigma led Jews and other circumcised men to practice “epispasm,” an early form of foreskin restoration.

The modern foreskin restoration movement began in the 1970s, among men unhappy with having been mutilated as infants. The techniques — surgical restoration and tissue expansion — essentially remain unchanged from ancient times. A new and potentially promising technique — foreskin regeneration — is also beginning to emerge.

Surgical foreskin restoration involves taking skin from another part of a man’s body and suturing it to his penis. Unfortunately, even when the graft “takes,” this surgery often causes other problems, such as unsightly scars and the transfer of pubic hair onto the penile shaft. It takes courage for a circumcised man to willingly let a doctor cut his penis again and, when the results are problematic, the psychological consequences can be worse than the despair that led him to seek penile repair in the first place.

Tissue expansion, or non-surgical restoration, involves stretching the remnant foreskin, often with the use of mechanical devices (see photo). One of the earliest pioneers in the tissue-expansion method of restoration was Wayne Griffiths. During the 1980s, the ability of the skin to stretch became better understood and men began to develop effective and gentle stretching techniques that allow new cells to form, permitting coverage of the glans penis. In 1994, Jim Bigelow’s book The Joy of Uncircumcising! was published, and tens of thousands of copies have been sold. New, innovative devices continue to appear on the market. (Intact America does not endorse or recommend any of particular device, but readers can “shop” by searching the internet under “foreskin restoration devices.”)

A potential new development is tissue regeneration, a process being pursued by scientists in Europe and elsewhere who are working to regenerate many different body parts. Thus far, this solution is not available for men seeking to restore their foreskins, but many are hopeful that it will eventually be an option.

WWhile some people scoff at men’s desire to restore, men who have re-covered their glans describe their relief at having regained a sense of male wholeness (“I was born with a foreskin and, dammit, I’m going to die with one!”) and an increase in sexual sensitivity and pleasure. Now, who can argue with that?

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