What is Keratosis Pilaris?

Have you ever thought that the sides of your arms feel rough or like “chicken skin”? It may be keratosis pilaris. You might think at first that they are “goose bumps,” but then the roughness does not go away even when you are warm. This is a common condition known as keratosis pilaris.

Keratosis-pilaris_red-bumps

Image from the American Academy of Dermatology

Keratosis pilaris is a disorder of the upper portion of the hair follicle. Normally, the skin maintains a constant cycle of skin cells sloughing off and being replaced by new cells. However, in keratosis pilaris, these cells are not sloughed off normally and accumulate, causing plugging of the hair follicle opening.

Keratosis pilaris is often associated with dry skin, especially in patients with history of atopic dermatitis, or eczema. Though keratosis pilaris most commonly affects children, especially teenagers, it can also occur in adults.

It most commonly involves the sides of the upper arms and thighs. However, it can sometimes be seen on the back, chest, and lower legs as well. Aside from the roughness, you may notice skin-colored, red, or brown small bumps at these sites. Affected areas are usually asymptomatic but can be itchy. If the rough bumps are prominent enough, you could experience irritation when shaving affected areas.

Treatment Options

There is no permanent cure for keratosis pilaris, but measures can be taken to keep the condition under control.

To get rid of existing keratosis pilaris:

  • Choose a moisturizer containing urea or salicylic acid, which serves to break up plugging in hair follicles.
  • Prevent dry skin with generous application of moisturizers several times a day. Good moisturizer options include CeraVe, Cetaphil, Eucerin, and Aqauphor, all of which can be obtained over the counter.

Read Dr. Venessa Peña-Robichaux’s additional advice to care for dry skin.

If these measures do not prevent or get rid of keratosis pilaris, your dermatologist can recommend a prescription cream or consider other treatment options.