Keratosis Pilaris

What is keratosis pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin disorder which may affect the sides of your upper arms, thighs, and cheeks of the face. It is thought to be an inherited condition and is caused by the accumulation of the keratin protein (normally found within the skin) in the hair follicles. The typical findings in keratosis pilaris are rough skin and red bumps around the openings of the hair follicles. Keratosis pilaris is a harmless condition, but it may be unsightly and may occasionally itch.


When does it present?

This condition usually appears between the ages of 2 and 3, but may be noticeable later. Most people with keratosis pilaris experience improvement in the summer and worsening in the winter (although activities like swimming may dry the skin out and prevent summertime improvement). Patients with eczema are also at risk for developing keratosis pilaris.

How is it treated?

Keratosis pilaris which occurs on the face usually disappears after the onset of puberty. Other affected areas as the arms and legs may remain a problem for many years. Treatment is never rapidly effective but with patience and consistent use of recommended therapies, improvement occurs. Below is a recommended treatment regimen.

  1. 1It is recommended that you avoid frequent bathing (no more than once per day) and long, hot showers. Washes containing glycolic acid can help in smoothing out the skin.
  2. Twice daily liberal use of keratolytic moisturizing creams are recommended. Keratolytic creams include a low concentration of acids which help in breaking down the keratin plugs found within the hair follicles that contribute to keratosis pilaris. Our recommended brand is Glytone® KP Kit which contains a glycolic acid wash and moisturizing cream. A weaker over-the-counter products are Amlactin or KP Duty by Sephora.
  3. In certain cases, your doctor may prescribe a topical steroid if you have itching and redness associated with your condition and if severe, prescribe a retinoid cream to help exfoliate the skin.

Since keratosis pilaris is a natural trait for most people who have it, it is important to understand that no medicine or treatment will produce a permanent cure. While keratosis pilaris may disappear on some body sites, other locations are likely to need long-term care to keep the condition under control.