Keratosis Pilaris? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Keratosis Pilaris? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

The skin is your body's largest organ, so anything that gets in the way of your complexion can feel incredibly irritating. Though many conditions are harmless to your physical health, they can still affect your skin. 

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition that affects many people. It appears on your skin as pesky red bumps, similar to the appearance of razor burn and goosebumps. The condition is mainly on your arms but can appear on your legs, scalp, back, and forearms. 

Even though it's incredibly irritating, keratosis pilaris will not affect your physical health and is actually a completely harmless condition. The recurring red bumps you experience are annoying in so many ways, but they are not detrimental to your health. 

What Is Keratosis Pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is a condition that occurs when keratin - a natural protein that is the main substance for your hair and skin - builds up in your skin. As this excess keratin builds up, it blocks your hair follicles and makes way for red and white bumps to appear. 

These bumps are persistent and can appear on your skin without warning. There is no one cause, so there is not one cure. However, many treatments can help soften the symptoms of keratosis pilaris. 

Keratosis pilaris is thought to be genetic, perhaps associated with hormonal shifts that might happen with pregnancy, diabetes, puberty, or dermatitis. 

The goal in treating keratosis pilaris is to find a treatment that works well with your skin.

Even though there is no cure for keratosis pilaris, there are many effective treatments that will help lessen its appearance. There is still hope!

Symptoms of Keratosis Pilaris

Keratin is the hard protein that protects skin from infection or other harmful bacteria or substances. Keratin blocks the opening of the hair follicles and causes rough, uneven, bumpy, textured skin. 

Though no one knows exactly why this buildup of keratin occurs, it could be due to an associated skin condition, genetics, or hormones. Keratosis pilaris is often considered an extension of normal skin, and really nothing to worry about.

Keratosis pilaris may occur at any age, but typically occurs more frequently in children. Symptoms will likely include:

  • Tiny, red bumps on the upper arms, thighs, cheeks, buttox, and forearms. 
  • Rough, uneven, and dry skin on the bumpy areas
  • Worse during arid seasons
  • Sandpaper-like bumps, similar to razor burn or shivers. 

If all of this sounds like something you’ve been experiencing, know that you’re not alone. Many people experience keratosis pilaris, and though it can be infuriating, there are also many options of remedies to try to manage it better. 

How Do You Manage Keratosis Pilaris?

A key part of dealing with keratosis pilaris is choosing a treatment plan that will help soften the symptoms. There are plenty of options such as medication, home remedies, and laser treatments that can greatly help. 


When you use cream as treatment, removing dead skills and moisturizing your new fresh layer is the primary goal. There are many options, such as topical, medicated creams, and moisturizers, to alleviate the red bumpy symptoms of keratosis pilaris. 

You may want to consider an over-the-counter or medical exfoliant, depending on the strength of the chosen cream. These acids could potentially cause redness or trigger irritation, so be aware when choosing the best one for you. 

Creams containing Vitamin A will prevent your hair follicles from clogging, but just like a topical exfoliant, these could irritate your skin. You don’t quite know how keratosis pilaris will react.

At-Home Remedies

There is no one cause for keratosis pilaris. But, that being said, there are plenty of ways to take care of your skin that can soften the appearance of keratosis pilaris while also enhancing your complexion as a whole. 

No matter what new product you try, remember to always use a patch test on a small area of your skin first, then wait a full day before choosing to make that product part of your daily routine. 


We said it once, and will say it again: moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Moisturize regularly and frequently, no matter what skin type you are. This is an especially key step in treating keratosis pilaris. On your post showered damp skin, consider trying

Ingredients that will help your skin retain and trap moisture. 

Try A Humidifier

Though this tip probably goes against every other piece of skincare advice you’ve received, you did hear right: try a humidifier. If your skin is dry, damaged, or suffering from keratosis pilaris, a humidifier will help add moisture to the dried out areas of your skin, and prevent potential dryness from the air. 

Shorten Your Bathing Time

While we love taking a long bath as much as anyone, for the sake of your skin, try limiting your exposure to water. Water takes oil from your skin, making it hard for your skin to stay healthy and hydrated. Limiting your bath time will potentially help soften your keratosis pilaris as well as just being a general skin tip. 

Go Natural

Use products with natural ingredients that are both scent and fragrance-free. Avoid harsh soap, and be gentle with your skin, as these ingredients can dry out your skin tremendously. 

Invest in High Quality Body Mitts

Using a loofah can cause micro-tears in the skin and is often just rubbing bacteria back into your skin without cleaning it. They are typically big holders of bacteria. Investing in a high-quality MicrodermaMitt will help remove layers of dead skin by exfoliating gently and unclogging pores. 

Over-exfoliating will worsen just about any skin condition, so be sure to pat dry so that your skin retains some of its moisture and exfoliates gently. 

Laser Treatment

When you hear “laser treatment,” it might sound like it’s completely unrelated to keratosis pilaris. But, there has actually been much success with using this treatment to treat the condition. Laser treatment has proven to be a gentle, effective treatment. 

Laser treatment goes straight for the hair follicle and targets the melanin. Then it converts to heat, destroying the hair follicle and preventing any potential for further hair growth from that follicle. 

Though this might sound unrelated to keratosis pilaris, that’s not that case. Keratosis pilaris affects the surrounding skin of the hair follicle, so laser treatment actually tackled keratosis pilaris head-on by aiming for the follicle. 

Laser treatment has a high success rate for many people. Still, those who haven’t had success with it may have experienced redness, irritation, swelling, or excessive hair growth, especially with particularly pigmented skin tones. 

The Bottom Line

Keratosis pilaris is a pesky, infuriating, and recurring skin condition, but that’s no reason for it to get in the way of you living your life and pursuing a treatment that softens its symptoms. 

Keratosis pilaris has many treatments that help in reducing its appearance as you age. Pursuing a medicated cream, moisturizer, laser treatment, natural remedy, or even something as simple as adding a humidifier to your skincare routine may help treat this challenging condition. 

Remember to talk with your doctor to help you decide on a treatment plan, and remember not to get discouraged if the first one your try doesn’t work. Practicing gentle exfoliation with the right exfoliating glove may just be the simple answer you need to soften the appearance of keratosis pilaris. 



Keratosis pilaris - Diagnosis and treatment | Mayo Clinic

Keratosis Pilaris - StatPearls |NCBI Bookshelf

Keratosis Pilaris Revisited: Is It More Than Just a Follicular | NCBI