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Dermatosis Papulosa Nigra (DPN)

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Last updated: February 2024

What is dermatosis papulosa nigra?

Dermatosis Papulosa Nigra (DPN) is a benign (harmless) condition where multiple small, brown-black, raised spots appear on the face and neck. While benign, DPN may be considered as cosmetically undesirable.

Who gets dermatosis papulosa nigra?

DPN is seen most commonly in individuals with skin of colour who are of African, Asian, Indian, or Polynesian background.

What causes dermatosis papulosa nigra?

The cause of DPN is unknown but around 50% of those affected have a family history of DPN. 1 It is not contagious and does not spread from person-to-person.

What does dermatosis papulosa nigra look like?

Multiple smooth, small, brown-black raised spots appear on the face and neck. Sometimes they also develop on the upper chest or back. The raised spots are actually tiny seborrhoeic keratoses.

These spots usually start in young adults and tend to increase in number with age. Women often have more of these spots compared with men.

The raised spots can occasionally become irritated if scratched or rubbed but generally they cause no problems other than their appearance.

Figure 1. © 2021 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Habif’s Clinical Dermatology A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy SEVENTH EDITION James G.H. Dinulos, MD

How is dermatosis papulosa nigra diagnosed?

DPN is diagnosed clinically by seeing the typical appearance of the raised spots on the skin.

In very rare cases, a skin biopsy may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.

How is dermatosis papulosa nigra treated?

Treatment options will vary depending on the individual and their needs.

Although DPN is harmless and does not require any form of treatment, various methods for removal are available if desired for cosmetic reasons.

Treatment options may include:

  • curettage
  • electrocautery
  • freezing with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy)

Various types of lasers or medical-grade chemical peels may also be used. However, these treatments carry a risk of causing colour (pigment) change or scarring of the skin, which may be permanent. Treatment of DPN does not prevent new spots appearing in the future.

What is the likely outcome of dermatosis papulosa nigra?

Over time, more spots may appear, but the spots are not infectious or cancerous.

Treatment will help remove existing spots but will not prevent new ones from forming. There is no known way of preventing spots from developing.

  1. Glenn MJ, Roberts WE. Dermatosis Papulosa Nigra. In: Kelly A, Taylor SC, Lim HW, Serrano A. eds. Taylor and Kelly’s Dermatology for Skin of Color, 2e. McGraw-Hill Education; 2016.
Dr Michelle RodriguesFebruary 2024
Dr Michelle RodriguesSeptember 2014

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