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Keratosis pilaris

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition in which a protein in the skin called keratin forms hard plugs within hair follicles.

Causes

Keratosis pilaris is harmless (benign). It seems to run in families. It is more common in people who have very dry skin, or who have atopic dermatitis (eczema).

The condition is generally worse in winter and often clears in the summer.

Symptoms

Symptoms may 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

Exams and Tests

The health care provider can usually diagnose this condition by looking at your skin. Tests are usually not needed.

Treatment

Treatment may include:

  • Moisturizing lotions to soothe the skin and help it look better
  • Skin creams that contain urea, lactic acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, tretinoin, or vitamin D
  • Steroid creams to reduce redness

Improvement often takes months, and the bumps are likely to come back.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Keratosis pilaris may fade slowly with age.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if the bumps are bothersome and do not get better with lotions you buy without a prescription.

References

Desai NC, Silverman RA. Keratosis pilaris and variants. In: Lebwohl MG, Heymann WR, Berth-Jones J, Coulson I, eds. Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 118.

Patterson JW. Diseases of cutaneous appendages. In: Patterson JW, ed. Weedon's Skin Pathology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 15.

    • Keratosis pilaris on the cheek

      Keratosis pilaris on the cheek - illustration

      Keratosis pilaris occurs most commonly during childhood and produces small, rough spots, called papules, that are typically the same color as the skin. They usually appear over the outer surface of the upper arms and thighs, but may also occur elsewhere on the body. Dry skin, especially during winter months, makes the condition worse. Keratosis pilaris tends to be inherited and may be associated with atopic dermatitis.

      Keratosis pilaris on the cheek

      illustration

    • Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii

      Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii - illustration

      Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii is characterized by redness (erythema) and the presence of rough bumpiness (follicular spines) which may begin at birth or during childhood or adolescence.

      Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii

      illustration

    • Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii

      Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii - illustration

      Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii is characterized by redness (erythema) and the presence of rough bumps (follicular spines) which may begin at birth, or during childhood or adolescence.

      Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii

      illustration

      • Keratosis pilaris on the cheek

        Keratosis pilaris on the cheek - illustration

        Keratosis pilaris occurs most commonly during childhood and produces small, rough spots, called papules, that are typically the same color as the skin. They usually appear over the outer surface of the upper arms and thighs, but may also occur elsewhere on the body. Dry skin, especially during winter months, makes the condition worse. Keratosis pilaris tends to be inherited and may be associated with atopic dermatitis.

        Keratosis pilaris on the cheek

        illustration

      • Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii

        Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii - illustration

        Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii is characterized by redness (erythema) and the presence of rough bumpiness (follicular spines) which may begin at birth or during childhood or adolescence.

        Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii

        illustration

      • Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii

        Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii - illustration

        Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii is characterized by redness (erythema) and the presence of rough bumps (follicular spines) which may begin at birth, or during childhood or adolescence.

        Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii

        illustration

      Review Date: 11/3/2017

      Reviewed By: David L. Swanson, MD, Vice Chair of Medical Dermatology, Associate Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Medical School, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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