The lighting is romantic, the mood is atmospheric, the clothing is peeled off – and then a potential bedmate asks, “What is that on your penis?” Yes, penis rash strikes again, destroying another near-perfect evening. Often, a penis rash results from only a minor penis health issue, such as a reaction to medication, and would cause no harm to anyone else coming in contact with it. But in other cases, a penis rash can be a sign of something like a sexually transmitted infection (STI). One of the lesser-known STIs that causes a penis rash is called Bowenoid papulosis.

About Bowenoid papulosis

Named in 1977 in honor of American dermatologist John Templeton Bowen, Bowenoid papulosis is a rare STI that is thought to be caused by a particular type of the human papillomavirus (HPV). If a person has sex with a person with HPV and catches this strain of HPV, then they are likely to develop a rash – on the penis if a man, on the vulva if a woman. (HPV is also the culprit behind genital warts.) In men, the rash may appear on the head of the penis, the shaft, or the foreskin; it sometimes also occurs in the anus.

There can also be other causes of Bowenoid papulosis. For example, some other viruses may cause it. People with weakened immune systems are more likely to contract this disorder. It is not at all uncommon for Bowenoid papulosis to occur in conjunction with or following the acquisition of HPV, herpes simplex, HIV, or viral warts.

The penis rash caused by Bowenoid papulosis is generally made up of reddish-brown or flesh-colored lesions. They are small, raised (like bumps), and solid. Some people have described their feel as “velvety.”

Although Bowenoid papulosis is an STI, due to its method of transmission, it is generally considered a benign one; that is, it’s a rash., it may have an unpleasant appearance and may itch on occasion, but it doesn’t usually get worse than that. The exception is when, as happens only rarely, it becomes what is known as Bowen’s Disease. This is a precancerous skin growth that can progress to being cancerous, a situation that must be avoided.


In most cases, Bowenoid papulosis resolves of its own accord in a few weeks or months; however, because it is linked to HPV, it is possible for it to recur throughout a person’s life. In some cases, there are no recurrences, where in others they may be frequent.

In mild cases, a topical cream called 5-Fluorouracil has been effective in treating this rash. More stubborn cases may require surgical intervention, via electrosurgery, cryosurgery, or laser surgery.

Because it can be transmitted sexually, men with Bowenoid papulosis should avoid sex until the rash has cleared up. If they do not wish to avoid sex, any partners should be informed of the risk, and a condom should be used to cut down on (though not eliminate) the chance of spreading the infection.

Bowenoid papulosis is a rare and unusual penis rash, but all such rashes do a number on delicate penis skin. That’s one reason a man should apply on a daily basis a top-notch penis health creme (health professionals recommend Man 1 Man Oil, which is clinically proven mild and safe for skin). Penis rashes tend to exacerbate other skin issues, so choosing a crème that contains both a high-end emollient (such as shea butter) and a natural hydrator (such as vitamin E) is key. The better crèmes will also include vitamin C, a key component of collagen (a tissue in the body that gives skin its tone and elasticity) that is also necessary for proper blood flow.