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Keratosis Pilaris

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The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2019| Content last modified Apr 2019
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What is keratosis pilaris?

"Keratosis" means a rough, scaly patch of skin due to overgrowth of the upper layer of skin. "Pilaris" is related to hair.

Keratosis pilaris is a skin problem in which dead skin cells from the upper layer of your skin plug up the hair follicles in your skin, causing little bumps.

  • Keratosis pilaris is common and harmless

  • It usually happens in cold weather and gets better in summer

  • Your skin may feel rough because of the bumps

  • Doctors can treat the itching or redness of keratosis pilaris using skin lotions or laser treatments

What causes keratosis pilaris?

Doctors aren't sure what causes keratosis pilaris, but heredity may play a role. It doesn't seem to be an allergic or immune system disorder.

People with atopic dermatitis are more likely to have keratosis pilaris.

What are the symptoms of keratosis pilaris?

Symptoms of keratosis pilaris include:

  • Small bumps that are skin-colored or red, usually on the upper arms, thighs, and bottom, sometimes on your face

  • Sometimes, plugs in the middle of the bumps that look like pimples

  • Redness and itching of your skin

How can doctors tell if I have keratosis pilaris?

Doctors can tell you have keratosis pilaris by examining your skin.

How do doctors treat keratosis pilaris?

Most of the time, keratosis pilaris doesn't need treatment. If itching or redness bothers you, doctors can treat it using:

  • Skin moisturizers with glycolic or lactic acid

  • Sometimes, laser treatments to lessen the redness

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