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Keratosis Pilaris

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 4, 2023.

What is keratosis pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is a skin condition that causes bumps to form on your skin. The bumps may look like goose bumps or like raised red spots. They usually form on the arms or thighs, but they can also form on the face. The bumps develop because of clogged hair follicles on the skin. Keratosis pilaris can happen at any age but usually affects children. It is common in adolescents because of skin changes that happen during puberty.

How is keratosis pilaris diagnosed and treated?

Your healthcare provider may be able to tell you have keratosis pilaris by looking at your skin. Tell your provider when the bumps first appeared and if they are worsening. Treatment is usually not needed. Medicines may help improve how your skin looks, and prevent the bumps from coming back. The medicines come in creams or lotions you apply to your skin. You may need a prescription for some medicines. Your healthcare provider will tell you which cream or lotion to use. Keep applying the medicine for as long as directed, even if your skin clears up sooner. The bumps may return if you stop the treatment. You may also be given steroid medicine to apply to your skin to relieve itching.

What can I do to manage my symptoms?

The bumps might look like acne, but it is not acne. Do not use acne medicine on your skin. Some acne medicine may irritate your skin and make the bumps worse. The following can help you manage your symptoms until the bumps go away:

  • Be gentle when you wash your skin. Do not scrub the bumps. Gently wash with mild soap and warm water. Do not use hot water. Use soap that does not contain a scent. Pat your skin dry after you bathe.
  • Put a gentle moisturizer on your skin. This will help soften your skin. Use the moisturizer 2 times each day, or as directed. Choose a moisturizer that is made for sensitive skin and does not contain a scent.
  • Use a humidifier in your home. Dry air can worsen the bumps on your skin.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have new or worsening bumps on your skin.
  • You continue to have bumps on your skin, even after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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