What are all these tiny brown bumps on my face?

A common complaint among my brown skin patients are new “moles” that develop on the face and neck. Typically, these lesions look like tiny, little brown bumps. These lesions are not actually moles, but a benign condition referred to as dermatosis papulosa nigra (DPN).

The cause of DPNs remains unknown but they are thought to be genetic. In fact, DPNs are estimated to occur in 35% of African Americans. It is unknown what percent of desis are affected by DPNs, but it is higher that the caucasian population.

Many of my patients state that DPNs make them look and feel older and less confident.  As a confession, I admit that after the age of 30 I developed DPNs around my eyes. They made my skin look less clear so I had a colleague of mine treat them with excellent results!

Lets explore more about  this condition:

How can we treat DPNs?

There are many effective ways to treat DPNs:

  • Electrodesiccation: This involes the use of a special electricity device to lightly remove the raised brown bumps. If done correctly, only the raised lesions are removed and the underlying skin is not damaged  — thus no scarring will result. There is a risk of transient discoloration so your dermatologist will suggest sun protection. Depending on your skin type, after removal your derm may also suggest temporary use of a lightening cream such as hydroquinone. This is the method that I chose for my DPN removal. After 2 -3 days of slightly red irritated skin at the site of the removal, it healed beautifully.
  • Laser resurfacing: This involves using a specialized layer to gently remove the top layer of skin cells. Laser resurfacing is typically more expensive than electrodessication but is better suited for the very flat DPN lesions.
  • Surgical removal:  For larger DPNs a dermatologist can numb and superficially remove the lesions. Again, care must be taken to only remove the DPN and not the underlying skin to prevent scarring.

Is there anything we can do to prevent DPN?

Unfortunately, there is nothing yet that has scientifically been proven to limit the production of DPNs. DPNs are histologically related to another benign skin growth that develops as we age- seborrheic keratoses.  Treatments to prevent both types of growths are in the pipeline so stay tuned …


DPNs are common in brown skin people but can easily be treated. If your DPNs make you feel less confident, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist that you trust for removal.

One response

  1. Thanks for your article on DPN, and that it can be successfully treated. I have bumps around my eyes in addition to DPN which is more visible around the neck and chest. These bumps that are similar to pimples are not itchy or sensitive – they are just there and do not have any colour. Is there anything that can be done?

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