Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris (KP) is a common skin condition that causes rough sandpaper-like small bumps usually on the upper arms and thighs. It can also be found on the back, buttocks, and cheeks. Often the surrounding skin is dry. KP is most commonly seen in children and young adults. It is a benign and non-contagious condition that doesn’t have long-term health implications.

What causes KP?

KP results from the build up of keratin, a hard protein that protects your skin. The keratin forms a scaly plug that blocks the opening of hair follicles causing the bumps. Why keratin builds up is unknown, but it may occur in association with other skin disorders such as ichthyosis vulgaris and atopic dermatitis. KP tends to run in families often occurs in otherwise healthy individuals. It is usually worse during the winter months.

What kind of treatment is available for Keratosis Pilaris?

No single treatment universally improves KP. Lubricants or emollients may help with the dryness, but do not tend to clear the bumps. Mild peeling agents are most effective in opening the plugged hair follicles by removing the excess skin. Each affected person may respond differently to therapies, but over-the-counter or prescription urea creams or retinoid preparations (such as Differin, Retin–A, or Tazorac) are the most commonly used therapies. Lifestyle changes may help control the condition such as avoidance of vigorous scrubbing or removal of the plugs. After bathing, gently blot dry skin so that some moisture remains on skin followed by the appropriate cream. Therapy must be continued on a regular basis to be effective and the treatments do not work with all patients.