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Keratosis Pilaris - Pictures, Treatment, Symptoms and Causes

Updated on July 7, 2014


What is Keratosis Pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is form of skin disease that is commonly seen on people equally with no consideration of a specific age. The keratin of our skin forms hard plugs around or within the hair follicles, resulting to a goose bump-like appearance of the skin. This skin condition can be physically displeasing but generally harmless. According to reports, the condition is commonly experienced during the summer time. But there are also times where the keratosis pilaris is overwhelmed during wintertime for our skin is prone to dryness. Keratosis pilaris is self-limiting, no need to panic when this skin condition comes to affect you. This is simply benign, non-contagious skin condition. The skin disease has chances to scatter all over the body but is said to be a rare phenomenon. This is commonly found at the back of our upper arms.

As mentioned before, this skin disease is common worldwide. The numbers of adolescents and adults are affected almost equally. A notable 50% of cases are adolescents and 40% are adults in the world. But as a person ages, the skin condition slowly fades away if acquired at a young age. When it comes to sex, men and women are also neutrally affected of keratosis pilaris. Diagnosis can be attained during a thorough physical examination. The presenting signs and symptoms are the supporting data for the diagnosis of keratosis pilaris. If you may ask, this skin disorder is not contagious. It is not an infection as others may believe so and it’s not caused by any bacteria, fungus or virus for to be contracted by another person.


Keratosis pilaris is typically a scattered, local patchy rash observed on the skin that may either be reddish or tan in color. As already mentioned, these rashes are found at the outer-upper arms and sometimes on the thighs too. Here are detailed and individually sorted symptoms of keratosis pilaris:

  • Scattered rashes that are small bumps that resembles goose bumps of the skin.
  • When touched, the area feels rough or sandpaper-like.
  • Irregular discoloration on the affected area may cause for physical disturbance.

The skin disorder is presented into several types:

  • Keratosis pilaris alba – These are typically rough, dry and bumpy rashes with no irritation.
  • Keratosis pilaris rubra – rubra means red. The lesions or bumps are found to reddened and inflamed.
  • Keratosis rubra faceii – Rashes found on the cheeks making a blushed look on the face.
  • Keratosis follicularis or lichen pilaris – Tiny follicular papules are the manifestations.

Keratosis pilaris have possible complications and these are:

  • Permanent scarring due to picking, treatment and worsening of inflammation.
  • Hypo or hyperpigmentation of the skin may occur.


Keratosis pilaris is again one of those skin conditions that is idiopathic or from an unknown cause. But it is believed to be associated with a body mechanism or process that is over the normal limits and that is hyperkeratinization. This is a disorder of the cell lining inside our hair follicles. Skin dryness is also believed to aggravate the condition. Climate is also a triggering factor for this condition. It is said that the condition shall worsen in the cold weather or durind winter and may improve in summer. A family history of keratosis pilaris, ichthyosis, or atopic dermatitis can predispose one to develop the discussed skin problem. Underlying skin conditions such as allergies and atopic dermatitis is also a root cause for this condition. Asthma and rhinitis attack can also precipitate a flare up of keratosis pilaris. This condition is likely compared with acne, milia, folliculitis, eczema, atopic dermatitis, facial rosacea and xerosis for there is resemblance with these skin disorders. Unfortunately, there is no definite test to differentially diagnose the condition.


There is no known definite cure for this condition. Maintaining the skin’s integrity and avoiding the exacerbation of the skin disease is a top priority. In order to effectively make the condition controlled, treatment should be followed continuously and accordingly. Here are some helpful tips in avoiding a flare up and treatment for keratosis pilaris:

  • Avoid skin dryness. Moisturize skin as possible when the weather is too cold.
  • Regular skin care should be done.
  • Cleanse the affected area with a gentle cleanser or soap.
  • Topical retinoid should be used intermittently.
  • Hyperpigmentation of the skin can be treated with creams that contain hydroquinone 4%, kojic acid, and azelaic acid.
  • Topical immunodulators are used to decrease the skin redness and inflammation.
  • Keratolytic agents such as Tazorac and Differin are useful agents in reducing inflammation.
  • Urea as a topical skin product helps promote hydration and remove excess keratin.

As a determining prognosis, this condition can be resolved easily especially with increasing age. The prognosis is good; there are no reported cases of mortality for this condition.


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    • bbanks27 profile image

      Brittany Banks 

      19 months ago from Spokane, Washington

      Thank you for writing this article. I have keratosis. I got diagnosed with it last year. It sucks, because I have very dry skin already. This condition made it worse. I noticed a little bit of a difference when I started using Gold Bond Healing lotion. My skin still looks inflamed, but not as bad as it used to be. One doctor thought I was eczema. I switched doctors and the other one said is was KP.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I seem to have Keratosis follicularis (or lichen pilaris) and it's not only at the back of my arms but it's traveled down my arms all the way to the back of my wrists... is this normal? I've done everything I should but it just seems to be getting worse.


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