Cause of Keratosis PilarisKeratosis pilaris is caused by a buildup of keratin that plugs the pores, causing the bottom of the pore to get larger. This causes irritation around the pore and often traps hair in the pore. The pressure inside the pore can thin out the lining and shrink the sebaceous gland.
Keratosis Pilaris AppearanceKeratosis pilaris looks like tiny, hard bumps similar to when you have goosebumps. Sometimes the skin around the bumps is red. It can occur anywhere on the body except the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet, but it occurs most often on the:
- Back of the arms
- Front of the thighs
Diagnosis of Keratosis PilarisKeratosis pilaris is diagnosed clinically, meaning based on the typical features of the rash. If there is any question about the diagnosis, a doctor might do a skin biopsy to be sure, but these rarely need to be done.
Keratosis Pilaris TreatmentUnfortunately, there are no treatments that cure keratosis pilaris. However, there are medications and other measures you can take to make it less noticeable or bothersome. On the bright side, keratosis pilaris usually starts improving on its own in the late teen years.
Because the rash gets worse with dry skin, following the eczema skin care guidelines would help improve skin hydration.
Prescription medications that contain exfoliants like lactic acid, salicylic acid, and urea can be helpful. Examples of these medications include:
If the rash is very irritated, the doctor may prescribe a topical steroid to use for a short time until the irritation improves. Retin-A might be an option if everything else fails but it's variably effective and often too irritating.
Habif, Thomas. “Atopic Dermatitis.” Clinical Dermatology, 4th Ed. Philadelphia: Mosby, 2004. 116-7.
Hwang, S, and RA Schwartz. “Keratosis pilaris: a common follicular hyperkeratosis.” Cutis. 82(2008): 177-80.