Can I Get Acne On My Penis?
- A few different conditions can cause acne-like bumps on a penis.
- Simple hygiene is the easiest way to avoid any uncomfortable bumps or spots.
- Getting checked out by a doctor if there's anything concerning that shows up on your penis is a safe, smart choice.
Some people with a penis can have it rough.
The stereotype about male and female genitalia is that vaginas are more complex and require more attention and maintenance. Without a doubt, there is truth to that.
Sometimes, though, taking care of the old twig and berries ain't no picnic either.
You can break your penis. You can get friction burns on it. You can lose sensitivity.
As it turns out, you can get acne on your penis, too.
How does acne affect the penis? What can you do to treat it? How can you best prevent acne on your penis in the first place?
What is acne?
Acne is something most adolescents struggle with to one degree or another. But it's not reserved for teenagers.
Acne can appear when hair follicles become clogged with oil from the sebaceous glands and dead skin cells. Normally, sebaceous glands produce sebum, or oil—a natural substance that lubricates the hair and moisturizes your skin—and it empties out onto the skin surface through the pore, an opening in the hair follicle.
Skin cells called keratinocytes line the follicle. Normally, as skin cells die off, those cells are replaced by new keratinocytes that push their way to the surface.
When someone has acne, however, the hair, sebum and dead skin cells get clogged together inside the pore. This mass of dead cells and goo is like ringing the dinner bell for bacteria that normally live on the surface of the skin.
The overgrowth of bacteria, in turn, causes inflammation, redness, heat and pimples.
How can acne occur on the penis?
Acne on the penis isn't very common, but it's certainly possible, said Katherine Rotker, M.D., a urologist with Yale Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, who specializes in male infertility and reproductive health.
"I would say this: Any hair-bearing skin can develop pustules," Rotker said. "So, in the hair-bearing skin at the base of the penis, pimples can occur."
One reason adolescents can develop acne is the sudden increase in hormone production. Androgen production ramps up during this time and causes sebaceous glands to enlarge and produce more sebum.
Hormonal changes in adults, then, may be partly to blame for an outbreak of acne on the penis.
If a man starts testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), for instance, that could be enough to cause his sebaceous glands to change.
Probably the most common cause of acne or pustules on the shaft of the penis, though, is that the area is a hotbed of bacteria. Fellas, if you like to keep it shaved clean and trimmed down there, you may be causing yourself some trouble if the skin gets irritated.
"I do tell men, as sort of a clinical pearl, not to shave with a straight razor in the genital area," Rotker said. "It's going to cause more irritation to those hair follicles. And since that is an area with somewhat more bacteria, you're more likely to get things like abscesses using a straight razor than you would using clippers instead."
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- A Man's Pubic Hair—What Women Want: Hairy, shaved or in between? What are the current trends in the styles of men's pubes?
What can you do about acne on your penis?
Once you've developed acne on your penis, treating it is pretty similar to treating facial acne, but with a few caveats, said Ian Michael Crumm, a licensed esthetician and co-host of the BeautyCurious podcast.
"Penile acne shares similarities with facial acne in terms of causes and treatments, but there are differences due to the sensitivity of the genital area," Crumm said. "The skin on the penis is more delicate, so care should be taken when applying any topical treatments."
Be more conscious of cleaning if you notice an acne outbreak, Crumm said. Use mild soap and water daily and over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid creams or gels. You should consult with a healthcare professional before using them on the penis or scrotum, however.
Just like your mom told you when you were 15, popping pimples is not a good idea. You're better off keeping the area clean and waiting it out.
"Avoid popping," Crumm said. "Just like with facial acne, avoid squeezing or popping penile pimples, as it can lead to infection and scarring."
He offered the following tips for handling penis acne:
- Wear loose-fitting, breathable underwear to reduce friction and irritation.
- Avoid using harsh soaps or scented products on the genital area.
- Keep the area dry and clean, especially after sweating or urination.
What if it isn't penis acne?
A few other non-acne skin conditions can affect the penis and might resemble pimples. Probably the closest one is called pearly penile papules (PPP), a benign condition that some guys develop in their teens or as young adults. PPP usually appears as clear or white bumps.
"There are conditions that get mistaken for acne," Rotker said. "I get men coming in with PPP, these little bumps right under the glans head. For some men, they're more prominent than for others, so sometimes men will come in worrying about those."
One easy way to tell the difference between PPP and acne is that PPP typically shows up just on the corona—the edge of the head of the penis—while acne typically appears near the base where there's more hair, Rotker said.
The bottom line
Acne on the penis is an annoyance, but it's not a particularly dangerous or common penile condition. Maintaining a regular personal hygiene program and wearing clean, dry underwear daily can go a long way toward preventing this kind of thing.
Any new development on your penis or testicles is a valid reason to talk to a healthcare professional. You just never know if it could be something closer to a potential medical emergency until you get it evaluated.
"In 15 years of doing this, I haven't seen much acne on the penis," Rotker said. "But I would say if there's a new lump, bump or mass on your penis, it's always worth seeing your physician and getting it checked out."