Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition in which a protein in the skin called keratin forms hard plugs within hair follicles.
Keratosis pilaris is harmless (benign). It seems to run in families. It is more common in people who have very dry skin, or who have atopic dermatitis (eczema).
The condition is generally worse in winter and often clears in the summer.
Small bumps that look like "goose bumps" on the back of the upper arms and thighs
Bumps feel like very rough sandpaper
Skin-colored bumps are the size of a grain of sand
Slight pinkness may be seen around some bumps
Bumps may appear on the face and be mistaken for acne
Exams and Tests
Your doctor or nurse can usually diagnose this condition by looking at your skin. Tests are usually not needed.
Treatment may include:
Moisturizing lotions to soothe the skin and help it look better
Skin creams that contain urea, lactic acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, tretinoin, or vitamin D
Steroid creams to reduce redness
Improvement often takes months and the bumps are likely to come back.
Keratosis pilaris may fade slowly with age.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your doctor or nurse if the bumps are bothersome and do not get better with lotions you buy without a prescription.
Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, Dermatologist in Private Practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.