Why do pearly penile papules occur

Last updated: 2022-10-17

Pearly penile papules are relatively harmless skin conditions common to late adolescent to young adult males. Also known by the initials PPPs, which sound more benign, these papules rarely occur in children. Their prevalence, however, decreases in older males.

PPPs are also known by the following names:

  • Corona Capillitii
  • Papillomatosis corona penis
  • Hirsuties coronae glandis
  • Hirsutoid papillomas
  • Papillae coronis glandis

Unless PPPs are accompanied by other symptoms that may indicate sexually transmitted infections (STIs), there's no cause for panic. So, if you're wondering if pearly penile papules go away, the answer's yes. They can sometimes spontaneously regress.

But because of their appearance, it's understandable that many men with this condition look for an effective pearly penile papules remedy.

Man looking under blanket

Recognizing PPPs

PPPs are more common among uncircumcised males. About one in four males may experience PPPs in their lifetime. A type of angiofibroma, they are relatively benign and not cancerous or contagious. You can neither spread nor catch them from sexual contact. PPPs are also not due to unhygienic habits.

These bumps are commonly mistaken for genital warts and other symptoms of sexually-transmitted diseases. You can distinguish PPPs from genital warts in several ways:


  • The appearance of these papules may vary, but they're usually about one to four millimetres long and one to two millimetres wide.
  • Commonly seen around the corona, or base, of the penis's head (glans).
  • PPPs can look pearly but can also be flesh-coloured, yellowish, or even pinkish.
  • Although they are generally roundish, they can sometimes look like tiny fingers extending from the penis's skin on the underside of the glans.
  • Tends to grow along lines.
  • Commonly develops among males in their late teens up to males in their 30s.

Genital warts

  • Can grow on groin areas, scrotum, foreskin, or anywhere on the penis.
  • Commonly flesh-coloured.
  • Have a cauliflower-like appearance and are shaped irregularly.
  • Grow in clusters.
  • Can happen to males of all ages.

Why do PPPs occur?

There is currently no medical consensus as to what causes PPPs. However, there are several theories floating around about what causes pearly penile papules. One explanation is that PPPs may be vestigial, meaning these tiny tendrils used to have a vital or more prominent role in the body's functions. But due to disuse, evolution has discarded them. Although they are now not commonly seen, they sometimes occur in a few males.

According to this explanation, PPPs are vestigial remnants of similar barb-like structures, called penile spines, found in the penises of several species of mammals. These penile spines, also known by the more menacing-sounding penis spikes, are likely to have served some function in the reproductive process.

They probably increased sexual sensation in the mammalian species who have them, enabling them to reach orgasms faster. Spines like these are found in the penises of cats, bats, echidnas, wombats, mice, and chimpanzees. Human PPPs, however, don't possess the necessary number of nerves that may result in increased sexual stimulation.

The spines' disappearance among humans resulted in a significant reduction in sexual sensation. Consequently, this probably resulted in more prolonged sexual activity among early human ancestors. Researchers suggest that this fact may have encouraged "pair-bonding", leading to the development of monogamous relationships.

Today, humans no longer have the DNA sequence for penis spines. The occasional appearance of pearly penile papules seems to be an atavism—a genetic throwback from an era of penis spikes and quick copulations.

PPPs aren't of much use today to males. However, PPPs secrete oils, which moisten the penis's glans, keeping them in good condition. Excess oil production may cause the accumulation of smegma under the foreskin, though, especially in uncircumcised penises. Keeping your foreskin clean prevents this situation.

PPPs are also said to be left over during the embryonic development of males in the womb.

What to do with PPPs

Concerns regarding PPPs are mostly cosmetic. Nevertheless, these lesions can be quite distressing and embarrassing. A study shows that 38% of those affected by PPPs are worried despite the lesions' benign nature; almost half of them wanted a quick and effective pearly penile papule cure.

If you have them, there are remedies you can try. What you should never do, however, is attempt to pick off your PPPs. And since they are effectively part of your skin, this action could turn your PPPs into a small sore and cause discomfort and irritation.

PPPs don't typically cause irritation, swelling, inflammation, or pain. Consult a medical professional if you're experiencing any symptoms not usual for PPPs.


Pearly penile papules are a relatively benign skin condition in the corona of the penis's glans. There's no medical consensus on why PPPs occur, but some scientists explain that they may be vestigial remnants of penis spines common to many mammals. They may also be left over from the embryonic development of males in the womb.

What's clear is that PPPs aren't symptoms of STIs and aren't contagious and cancerous. But although they are benign, their appearance may cause distress and embarrassment. In which case, there are available remedies to treat PPPs. Moreover, any unusual symptoms that accompany PPPs mean it's time to consult a medical professional.