What Causes a Pimple on Your Penis?

Medically Reviewed By Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI
Was this helpful?
4

Pimples can occur on any part of your body that has pores. This includes your penis. Many other conditions may also resemble pimples on your penis. This article will discuss what causes pimples on your penis. It will also tell you how to identify them. It will talk about what conditions people often mistake for pimples and how to treat pimples on your penis.

What causes a pimple on your penis?

An image of a phallic looking egg
Kkgas/Stocksy United

Pimples are the result of clogged pores on your body. Both the oil that helps keep your skin from drying out, called sebum, and dead skin cells plug up your pores. This causes lesions known as pimples, zits, or acne to occur on your body, explains the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Pimples most commonly appear on your:

  • face
  • back
  • chest
  • shoulders

Yet they can occur anywhere on your body, including your penis.

Different types of acne may appear on your body. These include:

  • Pimples or pustules: These papules are typically topped with white or yellow pus-filled lesions that tend to be red or discolored at the base.
  • Papules: These lesions tend to be inflamed and appear as small, pink bumps. They are also typically tender to the touch.
  • Whiteheads: These plugged hair follicles stay beneath the surface of the skin and produce a white top.
  • Blackheads: These plugged follicles reach the surface of the skin and open. They appear black due to the air discoloring the sebum.
  • Nodules: These large and often painful lesions are solid and deep within the skin.
  • Severe nodular acne (cystic acne): These deep, typically painful lesions are filled with pus.

Learn more about acne.

What STIs are mistaken for a pimple on your penis?

People often mistake a few sexually transmitted infections (STIs) for pimples on the penis.

Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a common STI in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It spreads when a person engages in oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who has the infection.

Genital herpes often does not cause any symptoms. However, people often mistake mild symptoms for a pimple or ingrown hair. Herpes sores typically occur as one or more blisters in the areas of your genitals, mouth, or rectum. The blisters can leave painful sores that often take a week or more to heal fully.

Syphilis

Syphilis is an STI that is potentially serious if left untreated, per the CDC. Syphilis is spread through sexual contact with someone who has the infection. It develops in stages, each with its own signs and symptoms.

The first, or primary, stage typically begins with a single sore or multiple sores. These sores typically appear where the infection entered your body.

Common areas for them to occur include the:

  • penis
  • vagina
  • anus
  • rectum
  • lips or mouth

These sores are usually firm, round, and painless. This can vary from person to person, however. Even if the sores go away on their own, you should still seek medical treatment to keep the infection from worsening.

Human papillomavirus

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI in the United States, according to the CDC. As with other STIs, HPV is spread by having vaginal, oral, or anal sex with someone who has the infection.

HPV often goes away on its own within 2 years without causing any symptoms. If HPV does not go away on its own, it can cause other concerns, like genital warts and cancer.

Genital warts typically appear as a single small bump or a group of bumps in your genital area. These bumps can be:

  • large or small
  • flat or raised
  • shaped like a cauliflower

HPV is preventable with HPV vaccination.

Molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is an infection that happens due to a virus called poxvirus.

One way it spreads is through person-to-person contact, including sexual contact. In fact, many cases of molluscum contagiosum in adults are the result of sexual contact.

It also spreads if you share items, like clothes and towels, that have the virus on them.

The lesions that molluscum contagiosum causes typically have the following appearance, per the CDC:

  • between 2 and 5 millimeters in diameter
  • raised
  • pink, white, or the same tone as your skin
  • having a dimple or pit in the center

These bumps may also become itchy, sore, and red or discolored.

Learn more about STIs.

What other conditions can cause pimple-like bumps on your penis?

Various skin conditions can cause pimple-like bumps on your penis.

Pearly penile papules

Pearly penile papules (PPP) are common, noncancerous bumps or lesions that appear on the penis, according to research published in 2018. They typically occur during adolescence or early adulthood.

PPPs typically appear as uniform, dome-shaped bumps in one or two rows just below the head of the penis. They generally do not require treatment.

Learn more about pearly penile papules.

Fordyce spots

Fordyce spots are small harmless spots that can appear on the head or the shaft of the penis. These spots are typically white or yellow.

Fordyce spots can also appear on your lips or inside your cheeks. They are present in 80–95% of adults, and they typically do not require any treatment.

Learn more about Fordyce spots.

Folliculitis

Folliculitis is a common skin condition that typically involves an infection of the hair follicles, per 2022 research. It is generally benign, or noncancerous, and goes away on its own without treatment.

Folliculitis tends to look like a sudden breakout of acne.

Learn more about folliculitis.

Staph infection

Staph infections are due to the bacteria staphylococcus. These infections commonly affect the skin. They can go away on their own but sometimes require antibiotics to treat them.

Symptoms of staph infections include:

  • red or discolored bump that may be painful
  • skin that is hot, red or discolored, and swollen
  • sores or blisters
  • sore and red eyelids or eyes

Learn more about staph infection.

How do you treat pimples on your penis?

Treatment depends largely on the cause of the pimple or pimple-like bump on your penis. STIs are often treatable with antibiotics.

Typical treatment for pimples includes products with benzoyl peroxide, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. Yet because the skin on your penis may be more sensitive, check with your doctor before using this type of product in that area.

Keeping the skin clean and dry may also help with pimples on your penis.

Many of the other causes of pimple-like bumps on your penis do not typically require treatment. However, if you notice any new bumps or changes to your penis, discuss them with your doctor.

Summary

Pimples are the result of clogged pores and can happen anywhere on your body. This includes your penis.

Various STIs and other conditions can cause pimple-like bumps on your penis. These include genital herpes, syphilis, and pearly penile papules.

Many of the conditions that can cause these pimple-like bumps do not require any treatment. However, you should consider telling your doctor about any new bumps or changes to your penis.

Was this helpful?
4
Medical Reviewer: Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI
Last Review Date: 2022 Sep 14
View All Men's Health Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Acne. (2020). https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/acne
  2. Aldahan, A. S., et al. (2018). Diagnosis and management of pearly penile papules. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5987947/
  3. Genital herpes — CDC basic fact sheet. (2022). https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes.htm
  4. Genital HPV infection — CDC basic fact sheet. (2022). https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm
  5. How to treat different types of acne. (n.d.). https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne/diy/types-breakouts
  6. Molluscum contagiosum. (20150. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/molluscum-contagiosum/index.html
  7. Syphilis — CDC basic fact sheet. (2022). https://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis.htm
  8. What is this lump on my penis? (2021). https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/mens-health/what-is-this-lump-on-my-penis/
  9. Winters, R. D., et al. (2022). Folliculitis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547754/