Keratosis pilaris is a common, non-harmful skin condition characterized by small, rough bumps due to excess keratin production blocking hair follicles. Its cause is not fully understood, but factors such as genetics, age, dry skin, seasonal changes, other skin conditions, and hormonal changes can contribute. It often runs in families, starts during puberty, and worsens in dry, low humidity environments. Keratosis pilaris is more prevalent among children and adolescents and may clear up by adulthood. While not damaging to health, it can be a cosmetic concern. Treatments aim to soften keratin deposits and include topical exfoliants, emollients, and occasionally, laser treatments.


Keratosis pilaris, often referred to as ‘chicken skin’, is a common, harmless skin condition. It manifests as small, rough, bump-like growths on the skin, often resembling goosebumps. These growths are keratinized skin cells that plug the hair follicles.

The exact cause of keratosis pilaris is not completely understood, but it’s known to be related to an excess production of keratin, a protein that helps protect your skin from infections and other harmful substances. In keratosis pilaris, the excess keratin forms hard plugs that block the openings of hair follicles, leading to the characteristic rough patches and small bumps.

While anyone can get keratosis pilaris, it’s more common in certain populations and under specific conditions:

Genetics: This condition often runs in families, which suggests that it may have a genetic component.

Age: Keratosis pilaris is more common in children and adolescents, and often clears up by adulthood.

Dry skin: Individuals with dry skin or eczema (atopic dermatitis) may be more prone to developing keratosis pilaris.

Season: The condition tends to worsen in low humidity settings and during winter months when the air is drier.

Other skin conditions: Individuals with certain skin conditions, like ichthyosis vulgaris or atopic dermatitis, are more likely to develop keratosis pilaris.

Hormonal changes: Hormonal fluctuations may also play a role in the development of keratosis pilaris. It often starts during puberty and can become more prominent during pregnancy.

Despite the physical appearance, keratosis pilaris isn’t damaging to your health and doesn’t lead to other serious health problems. It’s primarily a cosmetic concern and can be a source of embarrassment for some individuals. Various treatments are available that can help minimize the appearance of the condition, although it can be stubborn and may not completely go away until one’s late twenties or early thirties. These treatments usually aim to soften the keratin deposits in the skin and include topical exfoliants, emollients, and in some cases, laser treatments.



  1. Small, rough bumps: The most noticeable symptom of keratosis pilaris is the presence of small, rough bumps on the skin. These are often light-colored but can also be red, especially in people with fair skin.
  2. Dry, rough skin: The affected skin often feels dry and rough, similar to sandpaper.
  3. Mild itching: In some cases, the condition can cause mild itching, although this is not very common.
  4. Location of bumps: The bumps typically appear on the upper arms, thighs, buttocks, and cheeks. In rare cases, they may appear on the forearms and upper back.


The diagnosis of keratosis pilaris is usually straightforward and based primarily on a physical examination of the skin. Your dermatologist will look for the telltale bumps and patches of dry, rough skin in the common areas of the body.

In most cases, no further diagnostic tests are needed, as the physical signs are quite distinctive. However, if there is any doubt, your dermatologist might take a small skin sample, or biopsy, to rule out other skin conditions.

Please remember that while keratosis pilaris is not curable, it’s highly manageable, and in many individuals, it resolves on its own over time, particularly by the time one reaches their late twenties or early thirties. Also, it’s important to know that it doesn’t pose any risk of developing into a more serious skin condition.

Prognosis and Impact


The prognosis for keratosis pilaris is generally quite favorable. It’s a benign condition that does not lead to more severe health problems. It often improves with age, and many people notice that their symptoms largely disappear by the time they reach their late twenties or early thirties.

While keratosis pilaris can be stubborn, with some individuals having symptoms that persist for many years, it is generally manageable with consistent skincare and, when needed, medical treatments.


The primary impact of keratosis pilaris is cosmetic, and it can affect individuals’ self-esteem and body image due to the appearance of their skin. In some cases, it may cause mild itchiness, but this is not a common symptom.

Some individuals might feel self-conscious, especially when the condition appears in visible areas like the arms or face. It’s important to remember that keratosis pilaris is a common condition and nothing to be embarrassed about.

Despite this, the physical symptoms do not impact overall health or lead to other skin complications. It’s also worth noting that treatment, while it may not completely eliminate the condition, can significantly improve skin appearance and texture, reducing the emotional and psychological impact.

Treatment Options

The goal of treating keratosis pilaris is to soften the keratin deposits in the skin. No cure exists, and treatment may not eliminate the skin bumps entirely, but it can improve appearance and texture. Here are some commonly recommended treatments:

Topical Exfoliants: These are creams or lotions containing alpha or beta hydroxy acids (like glycolic or lactic acid), or salicylic acid, that help to remove dead skin cells, thus unblocking the hair follicles.

Topical Retinoids: Vitamin A-derived creams, such as tretinoin, can help to prevent hair follicles from getting plugged. However, they can also cause skin irritation in some people and increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun.

Moisturizing Lotions: Creams or lotions that contain lactic acid and urea can help moisturize and soften dry skin, which can alleviate symptoms. A dermatologist may recommend using these in combination with other treatments.

Laser Therapy: For more severe or stubborn cases, laser therapy might be recommended. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) or laser hair removal can help reduce redness and the number of bumps.

Lifestyle changes: Avoiding harsh soaps, using mild cleansers, and moisturizing regularly can help manage symptoms. Also, using a humidifier at home during dry months can help prevent skin from becoming too dry.

Risks and Side Effects

Topical Exfoliants: The most common side effects of topical exfoliants are skin irritation and dryness. Some people may experience redness, stinging, or a burning sensation after application. Overuse can also lead to increased sun sensitivity.

Topical Retinoids: These can lead to skin irritation, redness, peeling, and dryness, especially in the early stages of treatment. Like exfoliants, they also make your skin more susceptible to sunburn. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid retinoids, as they can potentially cause birth defects.

Moisturizing Lotions: Moisturizers containing lactic acid and urea can sometimes cause skin irritation. Also, some people may experience a slight stinging sensation upon application, particularly if the skin is very dry or cracked.

Laser Therapy: Laser treatments can cause discomfort during the procedure. Post-treatment, the skin may be red and swollen for a few days. Uncommon side effects can include bruising, skin discoloration, blistering, and possible infection.

Lifestyle changes: While generally safe, some people may have skin that reacts to certain moisturizers, cleansers, or soaps. It’s always advisable to patch test new skincare products to ensure they don’t cause an adverse reaction.

FAQ Section

Keratosis pilaris is a common, harmless skin condition characterized by small, rough bumps on the skin. It is caused by an overproduction of keratin, a protein in the skin, that blocks hair follicles.

Keratosis pilaris can affect anyone, but it’s more common in children and adolescents. It often improves by adulthood. It can also run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition.

Symptoms include small, rough bumps, typically on the upper arms, thighs, and buttocks, and occasionally on the cheeks. The skin can feel dry and rough, similar to sandpaper.

No, keratosis pilaris is a benign, non-contagious condition. It does not develop into a more serious health problem, nor can it be passed to others.

The diagnosis is usually based on a physical examination of the skin. In some cases, a skin biopsy may be taken to rule out other conditions.

While there is no cure for keratosis pilaris, various treatments can help manage the symptoms and improve the appearance and texture of the skin.

Treatment options include topical exfoliants, topical retinoids, moisturizing lotions, and, in some cases, laser therapy. Consistent skincare and avoiding dryness of the skin can also help manage symptoms.

Potential side effects can include skin irritation, redness, dryness, and increased sun sensitivity. In the case of laser therapy, there can be temporary redness and swelling.

For many individuals, symptoms improve over time and can even disappear entirely by adulthood. However, others may have persistent symptoms that require ongoing management.

While a direct link between diet and keratosis pilaris isn’t clear, a healthy diet promoting good skin health can help manage the symptoms. It’s important to stay hydrated and consider foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A.