Pearly Penile Papules

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on January 24, 2024
5 min read

Pearly penile papules are small bumps that appear on the head or shaft of the penis. They are not itchy or painful and typically appear for the first time during adolescence or young adulthood. ("Papules" is a medical term for bumps.)

These papules are:

  • White, pink, or yellow and may have a pearly sheen
  • Rounded, raised bumps on the skin
  • 1-2 millimeters wide and 1-4 millimeters long‌
  • Normally in a couple of rows around the head of the penis

They are harmless, although people sometimes mistakenly think they come from a sexually transmitted infection (STI). They're also often confused for genital warts or molluscum contagiosum, two skin conditions with a similar appearance.

If you're unsure what's causing your papules, talk to your doctor.

Doctors haven’t pinpointed a reason for penile papules. They are a normal skin variation. They're not contagious and can’t be passed from person to person through sexual contact. On average, more than one-third of all men experience penile papules during their lifetime, but the frequency varies depending on specific populations.

Black men and people with uncircumcised penises are more likely to develop the condition, though circumcised people can get these bumps as well. Doctors don't know why some people get them and others don't. 

If you think you have penile papules, your doctor can help diagnose and treat the condition. They may refer you to a dermatologist (skin doctor) for assessment and treatment. Keep in mind that you shouldn't pick at your penile papules. If they break open, it leaves you at risk for infection.‌

Doctors often diagnose the condition just by looking at the bumps. They may confirm this by taking some tissue from the affected area and examining it under a microscope.

Because they aren't harmful, your doctor may not give you any treatment. Even so, many people don't like to see these bumps, either because they find them unsightly or because they're afraid their partners will think they have an STI. About half the men with penile papules wanted to remove them, according to one study.

Pearly penile papules removal

You can remove these bumps with one of the following methods:

  • Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the growths off.
  • Laser therapy uses a CO2 (carbon dioxide) laser beam that focuses energy on the water on the skin. The energy heats up the papules and vaporizes them. A local anesthetic is applied first.
  • Electrodesiccation and curettage is a technique that uses an electrosurgical device to cauterize (burn) the papules, which are then removed with a curette (a thin surgical tool with a loop at the tip).

Even without treatment, your penile papules can grow smaller with time and may go away on their own.


Most home remedies don't work on penile papules. Products such as tea tree oil, acne cream, castor oil, and calamine lotion won't remove these bumps and may irritate the skin even more.

Wart medicine won't work either and could even harm your penis. You might see a penile papules removal cream for sale on the internet. These often have medicines used to treat acne and/or alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) used in chemical exfoliation of the skin. These creams are unlikely to work for your condition and may even inflame the skin where you apply them.

If your skin feels irritated by these bumps, talk to your doctor so they can advise you what to do.

Penile papules don't pose any health concerns. If you're sexually active and suspect an STI, talk to your doctor about any other symptoms you experience. If STIs are ruled out, you don't need to worry about the small bumps appearing on your penis.

If they do break open, keep the area clean and covered to prevent the introduction of bacteria. Otherwise, you can monitor the condition and let your doctor know if the condition worsens or if you begin to experience other symptoms.



Penile papules are different from genital warts. Penile papules may look similar to genital warts, so if you have any concerns, talk to your doctor about getting tested. The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes genital warts and is considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Genital warts differ from penile papules due to their cauliflower-like appearance with a rough texture and inconsistent shape. Penile papules are limited to the penis, but genital warts are contagious and may spread to the anus, groin, thighs, lips, tongue, mouth, and throat.

Penile papules are different from molluscum contagiosum. Penile papules are smaller than molluscum contagiosum, which may appear as larger, raised bumps that are pitted in the middle. A poxvirus causes molluscum contagiosum, and it can appear anywhere on the body. It is not exclusive to the genital areas.

Other STIs. Keep in mind that if you are not familiar with STIs, you may discount their appearance at first. Penile papules are harmless, but some STIs such as syphilis and genital herpes are very serious conditions.

Symptoms of syphilis include a firm round sore (or sores) at the location where the syphilis enters your body, like the anus or vagina, which heals in 3-6 weeks even without treatment. If you don't get treatment for syphilis, the next set of symptoms might be:

  • skin rashes on different parts of the body like the palms and soles of feet
  • fever
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • sore throat
  • hair loss

Herpes symptoms include:

  • painful blisters or sores around the mouth, anus or genitals (usually heal on their own in 2-4 weeks)
  • flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, body aches) while sores are there
  • sores returning several times a year, without treatment
  • smelly discharge from the urethra (the tube that releases pee from the body)
  • burning while peeing

If you have any doubts about changes in the appearance of your penis skin, talk to your doctor. Also, keep in mind that open sores leave you at a greater risk of contracting an STI. If your penile papules break open, abstain from sexual activities until your skin heals completely.

Pearly penile papules are harmless bumps that you may see on the head of your penis. You usually don't need any treatment for them, but if you don't like the way they look, you can have them removed by cryotherapy, laser treatment, or electrodesiccation and curettage. Although these papules aren't caused by an STI, talk with your doctor about them.

Are penile papules normal?

Yes. About 14%-48% of men have had them.

Is it OK to pop a penile papule?

No! Squeezing or popping them can lead to scarring or infection.