keratosis pilaris causes

Keratosis pilaris causes and how to banish the bumps

Wondering what the little, rough bumps are on the back of your arms? If they look more like red goose bumps than a more conventional pimple, it may be keratosis pilaris. Here we discuss the important points on keratosis pilaris.

What is keratosis pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is a harmless, non-contagious skin condition. It affects 50-70% of teenagers and approximately 40% of adults,1 so you’re definitely not alone if you experience these innocuous patches of rough, bumpy skin.

Keratosis pilaris pimples can be white, red or skin coloured. They can feel rough and are painless. Although in theory they could appear anywhere on your body, they most commonly cluster on the backs of the upper arms and on the fronts of the thighs. Sometimes keratosis pilaris also affects the buttocks, lower back and chest and occasionally the face and eyebrows. You may also notice redness around the small bumps.

Symptoms of keratosis pilaris

  • Dry, rough skin
  • Patches of small, painless pimples on the skin that are often likened to goose bumps
  • They can be red, white, skin-toned or darker than your skin
  • Most commonly found on arms, thighs or bottom
  • Sometimes the affected skin feels itchy2

Keratosis pilaris causes

Here’s what we know about the causes of these pimples:3,4

  • It’s all down to over-production of keratin. When hair follicles clog up, the outermost layers of skin thicken and small bumps appear on the skin.

  • It’s not contagious. You can’t catch it from or pass it onto someone else.

  • It runs in families. If one of your parents has it, there’s a 1 in 2 chance that you could inherit the condition as well.5

  • Young people are more affected. It usually first appears during childhood and can be common during teenage years.6

  • Dry skin is more susceptible. Consequently, symptoms can worsen in winter and improve when humidity is higher in the summer months.

  • Eczema, asthma and allergies can increase your risk. People with these skin conditions are more likely to get keratosis pilaris.7
Despite being mild and harmless, it’s definitely an unwanted condition. If you have it, you probably want to know does keratosis pilaris go away? In the end, it often does. In fact, most people find it clears up by the age of 30.8 However, with no specific keratosis pilaris treatment available, you may have to tackle these pimples on and off for years before they go.

Keratosis pilaris self-care

It’s not just about considering starting a keratosis pilaris routine incorporating a combination of exfoliation and hydration, there are other aspects of self-care that can too.

  • Keratosis pilaris diet. Are there foods to avoid with keratosis pilaris? A healthy diet can help and also avoiding foods that can trigger allergies, such as gluten.

  • Be mindful about your shower Water can dry out skin, especially hot water. So, turn down the heat of your showers and generally spend less time under water to retain as much moisture in your epidermis as possible.9

  • Use humidifiers. Adding moisture to the air in your bedroom can help maintain the moisture in your skin too.

  • Eliminate SLS and fragrance. This includes your skincare, haircare, and even laundry detergents.

Summary: How to get rid of keratosis pilaris

Although there isn’t a specific keratosis pilaris treatment, there are things you can do to minimise the appearance of patches of bumpy skin. But it’s important to be consistent. You may find if you stop your keratosis pilaris routine, the pimples will come back or increase

Last updated: 8 October 2020

Dry SkinSkin Health