Keratosis Pilaris – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Methods

Keratosis pilaris is a harmless skin disorder that causes small, acne-like bumps. Keratosis pilaris is particularly common in teenagers on the upper arms. It may occur in babies where it tends to be most obvious on the cheeks. It affects 50-80% of all adolescents and approximately 40% of adults. Approximately 30-50% of patients have a positive family history. Autosomal dominant inheritance with variable penetrance has been described. The disease is characterized by grouped, horny, keratotic follicular papules located predominantly on the extensor surfaces of the proximal limbs, most commonly of the posterolateral upper arms and anterior thighs. It is usually asymptomatic except for its cosmetic appearance. It most often appears on the back and outer sides of the upper arms (though the lower arms can also be affected), and can also occur on the thighs and tops of legs, flanks, buttocks or any body part except glabrous skin (like the palms or soles of feet). It can become more severe when conditions are dry such as during the winter months or in dry climates. Less commonly, lesions appear on the face and may be mistaken for acne. Keratosis pilaris tends to be more severe during the winter months or other times of low humidity when skin dries out. Although unsightly at times, it is completely harmless.

Keratosis pilaris is a self-limiting disorder that disappears as the person ages. It is unsightly but completely harmless. It is usually worse during the winter months or other times of low humidity when skin dries out, and may worsen during pregnancy or after childbirth. This condition can be very annoying, particularly for women because it poses an esteem issue. When it’s hot outside, women want to wear sleeveless shirts, shorts and bathing suits, but with this condition, we just want to cover up and hide from the world. There are several different types of keratosis pilaris, including keratosis pilaris rubra (red, inflamed bumps), alba (rough, bumpy skin with no irritation), rubra faceii (reddish rash on the cheeks) and related disorders. Many people are bothered by the goose flesh appearance of keratosis pilaris, but it doesn’t have long-term health implications and occurs in otherwise healthy people. KP is a hyperkeratotic disorder of the skin and a very common benign condition that manifests as discrete 1-mm folliculocentric papules. Often, patients develop a mild erythema around the hair follicles, which is indicative of the inflammatory condition. A significant inflammatory component may be present and may be relieved with topical steroid therapy. Treatment of the noninflamed horny papules can be difficult because they have proven resistant to most modes of therapy.

Causes of Keratosis pilaris

The common causes and risk factor’s of Keratosis pilaris include the following:

The specific causes of this disorder are unknown.

Dry skin conditions seem to exacerbate the disease.

Hormonal influences have been considered since it appears at puberty and is more common in overweight women who have higher androgen (male hormone) levels.

Common associations include a family history of KP, ichthyosis, or atopic dermatitis.

It is more common in those with atopic conditions (asthma, hay fever, eczema), ichthyosis vulgaris, hypothyrodism, Cushing’s disease and a number of rare genetic conditions.

Symptoms of Keratosis pilaris

Some sign and symptoms related to Keratosis pilaris are as follows:

Patients often report a rough texture (gooseflesh appearance) and overall poor cosmetic appearance of their skin.

Yellow-brown warts.


Bumps the size of a grain of sand and skin colored.

Sun spots on top of ears.

Slight pinkness may be seen around some bumps.

Red-brown skin.

Non-painful non-itching rash.

Keratosis pilaris can also appear on the face, where it closely resembles acne.

Treatment of Keratosis pilaris

Here is list of the methods for treating Keratosis pilaris:

A variety of different over-the-counter (OTC) lotions, ointments, and creams can also be applied after showering while the skin is still moist and then several times a day to keep the area moist.

Moisturising cream applied twice daily; try those containing urea, salicylic acid or alphahydroxy acids.

Pulse dye laser treatment: this may reduce the redness (at least temporarily), but not the roughness.

Apply the Neutrogena Multi Vitamin Acne Treatment at night before going to bed.

Using petroleum jelly with water, or salicylic acid (which removes the top layer of skin) to flatten the pimples.

Encourage tepid showers instead of hot baths, along with the use of mild soaps and a home humidifier.

Laser assisted hair removal may also be of benefit in some cases.