Keratosis pilaris is a common disorder in which dead cells shed from the upper layer of skin plug the openings of hair follicles.
The cause is not known, although heredity probably plays a role. Also, people with atopic dermatitis are more likely to have keratosis pilaris.
The plugs or bumps that occur in keratosis pilaris make the skin feel rough (like chicken skin) and dry. Sometimes the plugs resemble small pimples. Generally, these plugs do not itch or hurt and cause only cosmetic problems. The upper arms, thighs, and buttocks are most commonly affected. The face may break out as well, particularly in children. Plugs are more likely to develop in cold weather and to clear up in the summer.
Treatment is not needed unless the person is bothered by the appearance of the disorder. Skin moisturizers are the main treatment. Creams with salicylic acid, lactic acid, or tretinoin can also be used. Keratosis pilaris is likely to come back when treatment is stopped.
Last full review/revision December 2006 by Peter C. Schalock, MD