Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris is a common and harmless skin condition that causes small, hard bumps on upper arms, thighs and buttocks, as well as on the cheeks (keratosis pilaris rubra). The bumps are usually rough in texture, and light pink-red in color.

Keratosis pilaris is caused by a buildup of keratin – a protein that protects the skin. The excess keratin forms a plug that blocks the opening of a hair follicle. Patients with dry skin and patients with eczema are more likely to have keratosis pilaris. Patients typically see that the condition worsens in the winter months.

Keeping skin moisturized and hydrated can help reduce symptoms:

  • Limit your time in water (swimming, shower etc.)

  • Use warm or tepid water for bathing

  • Apply thick moisturizers to the skin

  • Create more moisture in the air with a humidifier

  • Do not scratch or pick the bumps

Treatment options include

  • Topical exfoliants like alpha-hydroxy acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid or urea to remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin

  • Topical retinoids – vitamin A – prevent hair follicles from getting plugged. Active ingredients include adapelene (Differin), tretinoin (Avita, Renova and Retin-A) and tazarotene (Tazorac). Topical retinoids are not safe for women who are pregnant or nursing.

  • Anti-inflammatory and anti-redness treatments are also used in conjunction with the above remedies to decrease symptoms.

  • Laser treatments will not cure the condition, but can reduce severe redness and inflammation when topical treatments aren’t enough