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Dermatosis papulosa nigra in Adult
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Dermatosis papulosa nigra in Adult

Contributors: Naurin Ahmad MD, Oyetewa Oyerinde MD, Callyn Iwuala BA, Susan Burgin MD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Dermatosis papulosa nigra (DPN) are benign epidermal growths similar to seborrheic keratoses (SK). These lesions are typically asymptomatic and are most frequently seen on the cheeks. They are much more common in Black individuals and people of Asian descent. It is less frequently described in the White population, where SKs are more common. A 2007 study in Senegal of 30 patients with DPN found a genetic predisposition in 93%.

According to a 2003 study among Afro-Caribbean people, more participants with light phototypes (skin type V or less) had the lowest frequency of involvement. In addition to Black individuals, the condition has also been reported in Filipino, Vietnamese, European, and Mexican individuals.

The onset of DPN is typically during adolescence, and lesions initially look like freckles. Women are affected more often than men. There may be a family history of similar lesions. The number of lesions typically increases with age, peaking in the sixth decade. Up to one-third of Black adults have some of these lesions. Approximately 25% of patients with facial lesions will also have lesions at other body locations such as the neck, chest, and back. DPNs also become larger with age.

DPN is a cosmetic concern only. In contrast to SKs, where rapid onset of numerous lesions can be a cutaneous sign of internal malignancy, multiple DPNs are not related to any systemic disease or syndrome.


L82.1 – Other seborrheic keratosis

254669003 – Dermatosis papulosa nigra

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Last Reviewed:03/07/2021
Last Updated:01/13/2022
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Patient Information for Dermatosis papulosa nigra in Adult
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Dermatosis papulosa nigra is a harmless condition commonly affecting the faces of black and sometimes Asian adults. The cause of dermatosis papulosa nigra is unknown, although about half of people affected have a family history of the disease.

Who’s At Risk

Dermatosis papulosa nigra affects up to 35% of people of African descent and an unknown proportion of Asian individuals. Women are affected more than men. Dermatosis papulosa nigra usually begins in adolescence, and the number and size of lesions increase with age. The spots of dermatosis papulosa nigra do not go away.

Signs & Symptoms

Numerous 1-5 mm firm, smooth, raised, dark brown to black bumps occur on the cheeks and forehead. Sometimes these bumps may also be on the neck and trunk.
  • Mild - less than 10 spots
  • Moderate - 10 to 50 spots
  • Severe - more than 50 spots

Self-Care Guidelines

No treatment is needed for dermatosis papulosa nigra lesions unless they are bothersome cosmetically.

When to Seek Medical Care

When removal of dermatosis papulosa nigra lesions is sought, care must be taken to be conservative to avoid scars and loss of pigment in the skin.

Treatment cost is usually not covered by insurance.


Freezing (cryosurgery), scraping (curettage), and burning (electrocautery) are all effective removal methods.


Bolognia, Jean L., ed. Dermatology, pp.1701-1702. New York: Mosby, 2003.

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Dermatosis papulosa nigra in Adult
A medical illustration showing key findings of Dermatosis papulosa nigra : Cheek, Face, Neck, Smooth papules, Tiny papules, Hyperpigmented papules
Clinical image of Dermatosis papulosa nigra - imageId=67656. Click to open in gallery.  caption: 'Scattered dark brown, stuck-on papules on the cheek and around the eye.'
Scattered dark brown, stuck-on papules on the cheek and around the eye.
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