Keratosis pilaris is a rash that is usually found on the outer areas of the upper arms, thighs, and cheeks. It is characterized by flesh-colored to slightly red, rough, distinct bumps. Keratosis pilaris is occasionally itchy, but otherwise it is only significant cosmetically. It is caused by a plug of dead skin cells that forms around a hair follicle. These plugs give the skin a sandpapery or goose-flesh feeling. Keratosis pilaris is usually worse during the winter months and is most commonly seen in children and young adults. Often the surrounding skin is very dry.
Keratosis pilaris is a benign condition and treatment is usually only necessary for cosmetic reasons. Lubricants may help with the dryness, but they do not tend to clear the bumps. Mild peeling agents are most effective in opening the plugged hair follicles by removing the excess skin. Each affected person may respond differently to therapies, but urea preparations (such as Hydro 40 Foam), alpha hydroxy acid creams and washes (such as Amlactin or glytone) and Retin-A are the most commonly used therapies. Effective therapy must be continued on a regular basis or the keratosis pilaris recurs. For many, treatment is unnecessary.