MSD Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

Loading

Keratosis Pilaris

By

Julia Benedetti

, MD, Harvard Medical School

Last full review/revision Sep 2020| Content last modified Sep 2020
Click here for the Professional Version
GET THE QUICK FACTS
NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
Topic Resources

Keratosis pilaris is a common disorder in which dead cells shed from the upper layer of skin plug the openings of hair follicles.

The exact cause of keratosis pilaris is not known, but heredity often plays a role. Also, people with atopic dermatitis are more likely to have keratosis pilaris. However, keratosis pilaris does not seem to be a hypersensitivity or immune system disorder.

Symptoms

The bumps that occur in keratosis pilaris are small, skin-colored, or red and dry. They appear at hair follicles and make the skin feel rough. Sometimes they have plugs in the center that resemble small pimples. Generally, these bumps do not itch or hurt and cause only cosmetic problems, although sometimes they cause itching. The upper arms, thighs, and buttocks are most commonly affected. The face may break out as well, particularly in children. The bumps are more likely to develop in cold weather and to clear up in the summer. The skin may appear red.

Diagnosis

  • A doctor's examination of the skin

Usually, the doctor makes the diagnosis of keratosis pilaris based on the appearance and feel of the skin in typically affected areas.

Treatment

  • Specialized skin moisturizers or other creams, gels, and lotions

  • Sometimes laser treatments

Treatment of keratosis pilaris is not needed unless the person is bothered by the appearance of the bumps.

Petrolatum and salicylic acid or petrolatum and water skin moisturizers, lactic acid lotions or creams, urea creams, salicylic acid gel, or prescription exfoliating treatments such as adapalene gel or tretinoin cream can be used. Acid creams should be avoided in young children because they cause burning and stinging.

Doctors may use a pulsed dye laser (see Using Lasers to Treat Skin Problems) to treat facial redness if it is present and troublesome to the person.

Keratosis pilaris is likely to come back when treatment is stopped.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version

Also of Interest

Videos

View All
Hives
Video
Hives
Hives is a harmless skin condition that is caused by an increased blood flow and fluid in...
3D Models
View All
Lymphangitic Streak
3D Model
Lymphangitic Streak

SOCIAL MEDIA

TOP