Pearly penile papules (PPP) are small lesions seen around the outermost edge of the head of the penis. They appear to be bumpy and pearly white in nature, giving rise to their common name. PPP are typically harmless and benign, and are not contagious. The lesions have been noted to be more common in uncircumcised individuals. While they are often seen in adolescence, they may appear in any age group.
PPP lesions are not the same as genital warts which occur as the result of an STI (usually due to the human papillomavirus, HPV). The lesions are asymptomatic and do not require any specific testing to be done. However, if you notice any symptoms such as itching or discharge from the pustules, you should bring this to the attention of your doctor.
Individuals with PPP do not require active intervention or treatment, however due to their appearance may cause psychological distress.
Various sources online may suggest ‘home remedies’ for PPP lesions, however there has not been enough evidence to show that these are effective and should not be tried without discussing it with your doctor. Home treatments will not be able to remove or cure the lesions; most of these are unverified treatments.
Some sources claim that applying castor oil with a cotton ball onto the lesions will soften the skin where the papules are located and remove them.
Other oils such as tea tree oil and bio-oil allegedly soothe irritation and provide more moisturizing effects when applied to the area, by preventing drying of the skin. While this is true of general skin conditions involving inflamed or sensitive skin, there is no evidence to support the claim that tea tree oil will remove the papules.
Calamine lotion, oatmeal and honey have long been used in treating several skin related conditions. They are thought to help reduce any associated inflammation in the surrounding areas, but this is not going to be a permanent solution either. Furthermore these can also further worsen or irritate the sensitive skin of the area.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are commonly available over-the-counter and in several skincare products. While they are typically used to aid in chemical exfoliation of skin, some sites claim that AHA based ointments or creams can be applied to penile papule lesions overnight. This should NEVER be done. Depending on the strength and type of AHA used, it is likely to cause irritation and possibly worsen the inflammation.
Several sites also allege that applying toothpaste to the affected area overnight will get rid of the papules and lesions. This most likely comes from the belief that the papules are similar to pimples that teenagers get on their face, which sometimes do respond to toothpaste which works by drying out the pimple. However, pearly penile papules are not the same as acne or pimples and should not be treated in the same manner. Toothpaste contains chemicals intended to whiten and clean your teeth and oral cavity and should not be utilized on penile lesions.
While they claim to provide some symptomatic relief, you should not rely on home remedies as they are not backed by enough scientific claims. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are having any irritation of the skin or other symptoms. They will be able to provide you with the best course of treatment for your specific concerns.
Get Treated. Professionally.
Page reviewed by Dr Manoj Malu
Last reviewed date: 1 April 2022
Next review due: 1 April 2025
Whilst this content is written and reviewed by sexual health specialists, it is for general guidance only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your clinician.