Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition that causes small, sandpaper-like bumps to appear on the upper arms, buttocks and thighs.
Keratosis pilaris may make your skin look like you have “goose bumps.” The bumps are often the color of your skin, but may also look red or inflamed. They may itch, but they don’t hurt. If you have keratosis pilaris on your face, it may look like acne, and you may look flushed. The skin on your face may be dry and chapped.
The area of your skin that is affected by keratosis pilaris may become darker (hyperpigmentation) or lighter (hypopigmentation) than the surrounding skin. This can happen if you scratch or pick at the bumps, but it usually goes away with treatment.
Keratosis pilaris can occur at any age and affect anyone, but it usually appears during the first 10 years of life. It generally affects women more often than men. It can worsen during pregnancy and after childbirth, or during puberty. Keratosis pilaris may disappear or improve with age.
Many people who have keratosis pilaris have a family history of it. About 40% of adults and 50% to 80% of adolescents have it.
Keratosis pilaris occurs when the protein (keratin) in dead skin cells plugs hair follicles (tiny duct-like openings) and causes the bumps to form. It is not caused by a fungus, bacteria or a virus. Keratosis pilaris is not contagious. It occurs more often in dry, winter months, and tends to improve in warmer months when humidity is higher.
Your doctor will be able to tell if you have keratosis pilaris by looking at your skin and talking to you about your symptoms. Your doctor will examine your skin and rule out other medical conditions.
Some of the questions your doctor may ask you include:
There is no cure for keratosis pilaris, but certain medicines and home remedies can help. If home remedies aren’t effective, your doctor may suggest the following:
You can’t prevent keratosis pilaris, but you can minimize your symptoms by following your doctor’s suggestions. It may be weeks to months before you see results, so be patient. Also, keep your treatment plan going even if the bumps go away. Keratosis pilaris often returns when treatment is stopped.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff