Got Bumpy Skin? Treat Your Keratosis Pilaris

Get Rid of “Chicken Skin Bumps”


Do you have bumpy skin? Does it always look like you have goose bumps that won’t go away? You may have keratosis pilaris. Keratosis pilaris is a dry skin condition that is caused by the buildup of the protein keratin in dead skin cells. Without exfoliation, keratin plugs hair follicles in your skin which causes hard bumps to form. The bumps can be red or the same color as your skin. It is most commonly found on the arms or legs but can be found on the face and other parts of the body. It can run in families since it is hereditary and occurs more often in women than in men. There are two essential components you need in your skin care routine to successfully treat keratosis pilaris: exfoliation and hydration.

Keratosis pilaris occurs most often in dry, winter months. I have had a few patients go away on vacation to Mexico or Hawaii for the summer and they noticed their bumps had disappeared. This is because keratosis pilaris tends to improve in warm temperatures with high humidity. For some people keratosis pilaris can go away without treatment since it may disappear or improve with age. For others, this skin condition cannot be cured and requires continuous use of exfoliating moisturizers such as those with lactic acid or creams that contain urea. Here are the recommended treatments for keratosis pilaris:

Lactic Acid
One of the most recommended treatments for keratosis pilaris are over-the-counter lactic acid lotions. Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that reduces roughness and softens the skin plugs that causes bumps. Amlactin® is a lactic acid lotion, and there are now many store brand versions of the product available as well. Eucerin® Professional Repair Lotion is another example of a product that contains lactic acid.

Urea provides intense moisture, softens the skin and helps to loosen dead skin cells. Eucerin® Intensive Repair Lotion contains both urea and lactic acid.

Glycolic Acid
Other alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid, could be used to reduce scaling and help the skin retain moisture. KP Duty® has a complete treatment regimen with two products that contain both glycolic acid and urea.

Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that has also been used to treat keratosis pilaris since it has keratolytic properties and can soften and loosen dry, scaly skin.

Coconut Oil?
Although there isn’t any clinical data behind it, some patients swear that coconut oil has helped to get their keratosis pilaris under control. Just be sure to apply it while in the shower and let it absorb into your skin.

Topical retinoids
If the above OTC treatments do not work, prescription topical retinoids such as tretinoin (vitamin A) gels or creams could be used. Tretinoin works by increasing cell turnover and prevents hair follicles from plugging up and causing bumps in the first place. Other topical retinoids include adapalene and tazarotene.

Final tips to improve this skin condition:

  • Wash skin gently using warm water with a mild soap-free cleanser
  • Apply a moisturizer that contains urea twice a day to soften dry skin
  • Consider using a humidifier to increase the humidity in your home
  • Want to make sure you purchase the RIGHT products mentioned in this article? Buy them directly online below!

    Photo credit: Sami Shah

    AAFP Conditions A to Z (2013). American Academy of Family Physicians.
    Approach to the patient with pustular skin lesions (2012). UpToDate.

    Leave a comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.