Categorized | Skin Care

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Keratosis Pilaris – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Keratosis Pilaris (aka “chicken skin”) is a condition in which the skin takes on a sandpaper like appearance with small, acne-like bumps and rough patches appearing most commonly on the back, upper arms, buttocks, and thighs. While less common, bumps may also appear on the face causing the disease to be confused with acne. Keratosis Pilaris is a common condition and estimates indicate that as many as 40-50% of adults and 50-80% of adolescents worldwide are impacted by this disorder with varying severity. While anyone can get this disease, it appears to be more common in children and adolescents. Fortunately, KP is not a serious condition and is not contagious. Nevertheless, the skin is unpleasant to look at and the condition is difficult to treat.

KP tends to be worse during the winter and periods of low humidity when the skin dries out. The condition may appear or worsen during pregnancy or after child birth. Medications and self care measures can, however, improve the appearance of the skin. Additionally, studies have shown that KP usually improves with age.

The exact causes of Keratosis Pilaris are unknown but is believed to be related to the overproduction of keratin (a hard protein in skin, nails, and hair). The bumps on the skin are the result of excess accumulation of keratin at the opening of hair follicles. This condition is believed to have a partial genetic basis as well. It is related to other conditions like ichtyosis vulgaris, dry skin, xerosis, eczema, asthma, allergies, and atopic dermatitis.


There is no cure for Keratosis Pilaris but various treatment options exist. While results may be discouraging at first, persistence is the key to seeing improvement. The most effective form of treatment is intense moisturizing and lubrication of the skin. Application of creams such as Acid mantle, Vaseline, or Complex 15 following baths followed by re-applying them several times a day has been proven to be effective. If symptoms persist, medicated creams containing urea (e.g Carmol, Vanomide, and U-Kera) can be applied twice a day. In more serious cases where the pimples are very red, prescription medications including antibiotics (e.g. Erythromycin, Bactrim) and Tazorac cream can also be used.

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