Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition that affects both children and adults. Characterized by tiny skin bumps, keratosis pilaris is sometimes described as “chicken skin,” since it resembles the skin of a plucked fowl.
The dry, rough patches of skin seen in keratosis pilaris are dotted with small bumps that look like pimples. The bumps appear on various areas of the body including the arms, thighs, cheeks and buttocks. Bumps are usually white, but can be red and are typically worse in the winter.
Keratosis pilaris occurs when keratin, a protein that protects skin, builds up clogging hair follicles. This leads to dry, itchy skin and small bumps formation. You are more likely to be diagnosed with keratosis pilaris if you have asthma, eczema, hay fever, ichthyosis vulgaris, or dry skin. If you have relatives with the condition, are overweight, or are taking the drug vemurafenib for the treatment of melanoma you are more prone to keratosis pilaris.
Keratosis pilaris is harmless, but the condition can be bothersome. It’s important to resist the temptation to squeeze the bumps to remove the plugs, since this can cause the condition to worsen. To care for skin affected by keratosis pilaris, simply wash the affected area with gentle cleanser and carefully pat dry.
If itching and dryness are a problem, apply a moisturizer containing urea or lactic acid immediately after baths or showers. Use a loofah or home microdermabrasion kit to gently exfoliate affected skin.
When the condition is severe, your dermatologist may prescribe a medication to remove dead skin cells. Prescription corticosteroid creams or ointments may also be used to soften the bumps and laser therapy or light treatment may improve skin appearance.