In her continuing drive to educate women of colour on skin care issues, our health and wellbeing contributor, Dr Dami, gives us the lowdown on Dermatosis Papulosa Nigrans, (DPN), and no, they are not freckles!

What on earth are DPN’s?

The short summary is that they are the small black spots that popular actor, Morgan Freeman, has on his face. In reality however, they are clusters of skin cells, which dark skinned people tend to get around the cheeks and eyes. They are usually dark brown to black in colour and may vary in size, being as small as a tiny fleck of dust which you may try to wipe off unsuccessfully or slightly bigger measuring up to 0.5cm.


How are they different from freckles?

Although people get freckles on their cheeks also, they are different in the sense that freckles are completely flat, whereas DPN’s are bumpy, freckles can occur anywhere, whilst DPN’s mostly occur on the head and neck and finally freckles tend to get darker in the summer months, whilst DPN’s don’t.


So what causes DPN’s?

Unfortunately, we don’t know why people get them but what we do know is that they tend to run in families. They are also less common in lighter skinned dark people and may become more noticeable as people get older.


Are they dangerous?

They are completely harmless and do not cause any symptoms.


How do I get rid of them?

Unfortunately, because of the obvious location on the face, some people don’t like the look of them. There are treatments to get rid of them, however the best advice is to leave them alone as some of the treatments may cause more harm than good such as discoloration of the skin or keloid/thick scars.

Having said that, treatments can include procedures like shaving (curettage), burning, (electrodessication), freezing (cryotherapy) or even using laser (nd:YAG) to treat.


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