Keratosis Pilaris

February 7, 2017

Keratosis Pilaris (KP) is a very common skin disorder seen in all kinds of people and all ages. It is a benign condition which appears as numerous small, rough red or tan bumps primarily around hair follicles on the upper arms, legs, buttocks, and sometimes cheeks. Keratosis Pilaris creates a “goose bumps”,” gooseflesh”, or “chicken skin” appearance on the skin. Although it is commonly a skin condition of children and adolescents, it is also seen in many adults. A majority of people with KP may be unaware that the skin condition has a designated medical term or that it is treatable. In general, KP is often cosmetically displeasing but medically completely harmless. Keratosis Pilaris is frequently noted in otherwise healthy, asymptomatic patients visiting physicians for other skin conditions.

Often mistaken for acne, keratosis pilaris is a chronic skin condition that forms white or red bumps when hair follicles are plugged with keratin buildup. It usually appears on the cheeks, upper arms, thighs, outer legs, buttocks and back.

It usually starts in childhood or young adulthood, and usually lasts into later life. It is often found in patients with “sensitive skin,” allergies, or asthma, and often runs in families. It can not be spread from one person to another by touching it, nor can one person spread it from one place to another on their own body. It is not a result of inadequate cleaning or other skin care regimens. People with this condition just have the tendency for their skin to form plugs in some regions.


Keratosis pilaris results from the buildup of keratin — a hard protein that protects skin from harmful substances and infection. The keratin forms a scaly plug that blocks the opening of the hair follicle. Usually many plugs form, causing patches of rough, bumpy skin.

No one knows exactly why keratin builds up. But it may occur in association with genetic diseases or with other skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis. Dry skin tends to worsen this condition.

Risk Factors

Keratosis pilaris affects up to half of normal children and up to three quarters of children with ichthyosis vulgaris (a dry skin condition due to filaggrin gene mutations). It is also common in children with atopic eczema.

Although most prominent during teenage years, and least common in the elderly, it may occur in children and adults of all ages.


Symptoms include –

  • Small bumps that look like “goose bumps” on the back of the upper arms and thighs
  • Bumps feel like very rough sandpaper
  • Skin-colored bumps are the size of a grain of sand
  • Slight pinkness may be seen around some bumps
  • Bumps may appear on the face and be mistaken for acne


Keratosis pilaris may fade slowly with age.


  • Non-soap cleansers (soap may exacerbate dryness)
  • Rubbing with a pumice stone or exfoliating sponge in the shower or bath
  • Moisturising cream containing urea, salicylic acid or alphahydroxy acids
  • Topical retinoids,
  • Pulse dye laser treatment or intense pulsed light (IPL) – this may reduce the redness (at least temporarily), but not the roughness
  • Laser assisted hair removal

Alternative Treatment

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Fish oil supplements have been a successful cure.  Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids are sprouted chia and flax seeds and black cumin seeds and oils.  Borage is very good for the skin in general; it has omega-6 fatty acids and is included with fish oil in some supplements.

Vitamin A contains retinol, a derivative that promotes cell turnover and prevents hair follicle plugging.

Alpha hydroxy acids are mild, natural acids. Lactic acid, found in milk and yogurt, gently exfoliates skin to remove KP. Glycolic acid, made of fruit acids, is also a popular skin care product.

Yogurt – The presence of lactic acid in yogurt decreases the dryness of the skin and provides respite from the excess deposition of keratin.

Beta-carotene is very helpful in preventing the excess production of keratin. Consume 2 to 3 carrots on a daily basis.

Ammonium Lactate Lotion – It has been believed by a lot of people that lotions made from ammonium lactate works wonders for keratosis pilaris. Being inexpensive, these lotions are easily available and extremely useful in treating various skin problems.

Witch hazel is known for curing several skin problems, including keratosis pilaris. Due to its cooling properties, it is very useful, especially for bumps caused due to hair removal or dry skin.

Tea tree oil is useful in clearing all the bumps that are caused as a result of the skin diseases. Simply massage some oil on the lesion.

Exfoliation smooths and eliminates bumps, eliminating acne and improving overall appearance. Make a paste of baking soda, water, salt, lactic acid (milk, yogurt, buttermilk), mild acids (lemon juice, apple cider vinegar) and apply it to the affected area.


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