What’s the Difference Between Pearly Penile Papules and Herpes?

Last updated: 2024-02-29

Pearly penile papules (PPP) and herpes are skin conditions that appear as lesions on the genital area. A skin lesion is described as an abnormal growth on the part of the human skin. Although these two skin conditions both appear on the penis, their appearance, causes, symptoms and treatment options differ.

If you’re wondering which condition you may have, this article provides a comparison of the differences and similarities of PPP vs herpes.

Pearly Penile Papules diagnosis

Pearly Penile Papules

PPP are dome-shaped or hair-like bumps that appear on the head of the penis. They may appear as pink, white, flesh-colored, or almost translucent lesions on the person’s skin. The papules are typically between 1 to 2 mm wide and 1 to 4 mm long.

PPP occur naturally in 10-15% of males during adolescence or early adulthood. These lesions are commonly misdiagnosed as symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases such as anogenital warts or molluscum contagiosum. Such misdiagnosis may cause unnecessary stress to the patient; however, the lesions are harmless.

PPP may be treated using a carbon dioxide, pulsed dye, or Er:YAG laser. Home remedies such as PPP kits which use an electrical ionizer to vaporize the papules are also a cost-effective option.


Herpes is an incurable mild skin condition that appears as blister-like sores anywhere on the body. Two human herpes viruses cause the infection: herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2). According to the World Health Organization, 67% of people under age 50 have an HSV-1 infection, and 13% under age 50 have an HSV-2 condition.

HSV-1 is contracted during childhood through nonsexual contact. The infection is transmitted during childbirth through vaginal secretions from pregnant women with genital herpes. This type of herpes is called neonatal herpes. This version of the virus usually causes oral herpes, which is characterized by sores on the mouth.

HSV-2, on the other hand, is a sexually transmitted virus that is likely to spread among pubescent youth and adults who engage in sex with an infected person. HSV-2 causes genital herpes, which appears as blisters-like sores on the genital or anal surfaces of the infected person.

PPP vs Herpes

Here are some of the main differences between PPP and herpes:

  1. Signs and Symptoms

    PPP appear as tiny, round growths around the penis head. They may be pink, white, or flesh-colored. Apart from the development of these bumps, there are no other symptoms of PPP.

    Genital herpes could be asymptomatic, but the infected are likely to display minor symptoms in the beginning. The person will often experience the development of blisters or ulcers within 4 to 7 days of infection. These lesions can be observed on:

    • Prepuce, glans penis, and penile shaft in males
    • Labia, clitoris, perineum, vagina, and cervix in females
    • Around the anus and in the rectum of those who engage in receptive rectal intercourse

    Herpes affects people in different ways; therefore, various other symptoms may be experienced in the advanced stages of the infection. People with an initial genital herpes outbreak can experience the following: urinary hesitancy, dysuria, urinary retention, constipation, severe sacral neuralgia, body aches, or eye infections.

  2. Treatment

    PPP do not pose any health concerns. However, they may be aesthetically displeasing for some people. To remove the bumps or minimize their appearance, one can use the following:

    • Laser therapy: This uses highly targeted beams of light to remove the bumps.
    • Cryotherapy: This involves freezing the bumps with liquid nitrogen.
    • Curettage: This involves scraping or excising the bumps with an tool called a curette.
    • Electrodesiccation: This uses electricity to burn and scrape off the bumps.
    • PPP kit: This is an at-home treatment that uses an electronic ionizer to remove the bumps, similar to laser therapy.

    There is currently no form of treatment that can completely cure herpes. However, antiviral medications such as acyclovir, famciclovir or valacyclovir have been used to reduce the frequency of symptoms. The recommended dosage for herpes depends on the stage of infection:

    • Primary eruption dosages are administered when the patient is asymptomatic.
    • Recurrent eruption dosages are usually administered between the initial breakout phase and the later phase of server eruptions.
    • Frequent eruptions may occur more than six times a year.

    The patient will receive a dose of one of the mentioned drugs depending on the stage of outbreaks. Despite the infrequent dosages, the patient may experience side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and the appearance of a rash.


There is a clear difference between PPP and herpes. The former is harmless and naturally occurs in a significant percentage of males in their pubescent and young adult years. Herpes is a venereal disease transmitted through sexual contact.

Learn more about the PPP KIT

Author: Patrick K.

I earned a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Polytechnique Montreal in 2015. One of my notable achievements during my studies was receiving acclaim for the 'Simplicity of the proposed solution' in a university project. I've always been a 'Do-It-Yourself' type of person, and solving my own pearly penile papules issue was no different. After months of dedicated experimentation with various home remedies for PPP, I developed a safe and effective solution that tackles the problem. The solution have been bundled into the "PPP KIT" and I am happy to share this life changing remedy since 2020 !

Reviewed by: Fabiola Garcia

I studied Nursing at the CDI College in Montreal before furthering my education at École Esthétique Avancée, recognized as Quebec's premier private institution for medical aesthetics. I actively contributed to enhancing the safety protocols of the pearly penile papule (PPP) removal procedure by collaborating on the refinement of the 'Aftercare' section within the PPP Kit's step-by-step guide.