Keratosis Pilaris - A Skin Disorder Without A Cure, But There Are Treatments That Work

Mar 1, 2001 (Updated Aug 15, 2002)

The Bottom Line Keratosis Pilaris is a skin disorder that cannot be cured. It is hereditary, and the severity varies from person to person. It can be treated.

Strange skin conditions can be so annoying, especially when you don’t know what they are or how to make it go away. About 3 years ago, I noticed an unusual “rash” on my arms and legs, so I went to see my doctor about it. He recognized my condition, but sent me to a dermatologist anyway. I saw a dermatologist and was diagnosed with a skin condition called “Keratosis Pilaris”. I had never heard of this before, but after receiving my diagnosis, I started researching the subject and found that there are many people out there with this annoying condition. I am writing this review to help those that have it and don’t know what it is to realize that it’s Keratosis Pilaris; and I’m also writing this so that those fellow sufferers out there will know what treatment is recommended, not recommended and what has worked best for me.

I have also written a review about a product that has helped me with my condition (I will also talk more about this later in this review). I have gotten a ton of emails from people that have read this review because I do mention Keratosis Pilaris in the review. That is the main reason I decided to write this editorial because I have emailed this information to many people so far, and wanted to make it readily available to anyone else that may be interested. That product review can be found at

What is Keratosis Pilaris?

This condition is a disorder of the skin that is hereditary, and commonly found in people with very dry skin and/or a vitamin A deficiency. Some people can have this disorder and not know it. Not everyone that has it knows it because some people are just “carriers” if you will. The signs of the disorder are not evident in every carrier. Some people get lucky I guess!

Keratosis Pilaris is characterized by small red bumps (sometimes with white in them) that are raised on the skin like goose bumps. They are very similar looking to pimples, but they are not pimples. This is a common mistake among sufferers. Sometimes they will itch, but not usually. Here’s the main thing, the placement of the bumps. These bumps only appear in certain places. Most commonly they appear on the back of the upper arms, and the side and front of the upper thighs. It can also appear on the hips, buttocks and facial cheeks, but this is not common.

These bumps are very tiny, but annoying as ever. Not to be gross, but if you squeeze any of them, you are likely to see a hard, white substance come out of the bumps. This substance is thick and hard, and it is made of keratin protein that has gotten trapped in the hair follicles. The word “keratin” is the name for what hair, nails and the top layer of skin are made of. “Pilaris” means hair follicles. That’s where the name Keratosis Pilaris comes from.

This condition can be very annoying, particularly for women because it poses an esteem issue. When it’s hot outside, women want to wear sleeveless shirts, shorts and bathing suits, but with this condition, we just want to cover up and hide from the world. It can be a big problem for a person’s self-esteem and it will make you very conscious of how you look. Usually this condition is not very noticeable to other people from a distance, but it can be very un-romantic when your husband or boyfriend decides to caress your lovely arms…ACK! So this is an important issue for women that have Keratosis Pilaris. I am sure there are men that are very self-conscious about it too.

What Causes Keratosis Pilaris?

As I mentioned above, this disorder is hereditary, so it is passed down from relatives like parents or grandparents. And it’s very possible you could pass it along to your children and/or grandchildren. It may not appear in any of them, or it could appear in all of them. This disorder is very strange in who it chooses to affect. I know I got this from someone in my family, but to my knowledge, no one else I know personally has this problem. So I have no idea who I got it from.

If you have this disorder, you have it for life. It will never go away or be cured, but you can treat it several different ways. There are things that can make the condition worse though. People with dry skin have a more difficult time treating the condition than those with oily skin. Also, the weather makes a difference; keratosis pilaris is worse in winter than in summer. Winter months are much drier so that makes the condition worse in most cases. Summer is usually a relief to sufferers as it brings humidity and will usually allow the condition to clear up more than usual.

How Do You Treat Keratosis Pilaris?

As I said, there is no cure, only treatments. Unfortunately the treatments my dermatologist offered me did not offer much help. After doing much reading and research on Keratosis Pilaris, I have found that most doctors will tell sufferers the same things. The most common treatment I have heard and read is to use a buff-puff or a loofah sponge, and then apply a lotion like Am Lactin or Lac Hydrin. I used these lotions and they did not work at all for me.

Usually when these do not work, doctors will prescribe a cream that has a high level of Retin-A in it. I used some of this and it did help, but not as much as I’d hoped. Even so, without insurance, this medicine can be outrageously expensive. I first used samples to see if it worked for me, and the tubes that I had were very small. So small that between applying to my arms and my legs, I could only get 2 applications out of one tube! This means I would need a tube a day. I took one of the tubes to my pharmacy and asked if the prescription tubes were larger or the same size as the sample tubes. The pharmacist said the prescription tubes were exactly the size of the sample tube. Then I warily asked him the price on one tube (which was one day’s worth of application for me and it’s to be used daily) and I almost fainted when he told me. One tube, one day’s application, was $40! Yes, you heard me right, $40! Well if I needed a tube a day, and it was to be applied every single day, there was no way I was buying this stuff. Especially if it only helped my problem…not solving it! So unless you have magnificent insurance, watch out for the Retin-A creams, they are very expensive.

After becoming very frustrated with the doctor’s recommendations and treatments, I decided to find a treatment of my own. I began to try different things here and there until I found one that has worked great for me. All people with Keratosis Pilaris may not find relief in the same treatments, but I’m going to tell you what worked for me. This has to be followed exactly in order to see any results!

- First I use a thick loofah sponge or buff-puff on the affected areas. I do this daily and I only use Dove Nutrium Body Wash with my sponge. I have tried several moisturizing body washes, and this one has proven to be the best for me. It is a dual formula that contains a gentle cleanser and a moisturizing lotion at the same time. It works great. When using the sponge, scrub as hard as you can on the affected area, and in a circular motion. Exfoliation is very important, especially since the affected areas are so dry. (Note: Dove has also recently come out with a Dove Nutrium Bar! So now I use both, and they are great. They make my skin so soft and silky, and the moisturizers are very good for the keratosis pilaris.)

- After I exfoliate with this body wash, I then apply an over the counter lotion that has worked wonders for my keratosis pilaris. Neutrogena makes this lotion and it’s called “Multi-Vitamin Acne Treatment”. I know what you are thinking; keratosis pilaris is not acne. No it’s not, but for some reason this stuff works. In my reading and research on the subject, I ran across a treatment that recommended using a moisturizer that contained a small amount of salicylic acid. This product contains both. It is full of vitamins and moisturizers that are great for your skin, and it also contains this salicylic acid. If you apply this lotion right after you have scrubbed with the Dove Nutrium, it will give you results within 2 or 3 days. It did for me!

- I also apply the Neutrogena Multi Vitamin Acne Treatment at night before going to bed. So I am applying it twice a day, once after showering and exfoliating, and once at bedtime.

- Adding a humidifier in your bedroom will also help to clear your skin. The moisture will hydrate your dry skin while you sleep at night and help in clearing up the keratosis pilaris.

- This next “treatment” is one I have found on my own and doctors do not recommend it. I am not telling anyone to do this, I am simply telling you what has worked in clearing up my skin condition. Tanning in the sun or in a tanning bed/salon. I like to tan anyway, so by trial and error I found that it cleared my skin. I started going to a tanning bed 2 or 3 times a week at first, and then dropped down to once a week. Each time I would tan for 12 to 15 minutes. That is not a lot of exposure, and it cleared my skin better than ANYTHING else I have ever done. I still have occasional problems with my arms, but my legs cleared right up and those bumps have never returned to this day, and I have not tanned in over 6 months. So I am very pleased with these results.

Again, I am not recommending or condoning tanning or sunbathing, but I am telling you that it has helped to clear up my terrible case of Keratosis Pilaris.

Doing these things consistently has helped me tremendously, but if you miss a day, you pay! Consistency is the key.

Final Words On Keratosis Pilaris

This condition is a real pain, but those of us that have it just have to learn what treatments are best for us and stick with them. I hope this has helped someone out there! Find the treatment that works best for you and stick to it. If you have never seen a dermatologist and are not sure if this is what you may or may not have, I recommend you visit a doctor to make sure before you begin treating the problem. Good luck! ;-) Thank you for reading.

Other sites that may be of interest to you on the subject of Keratosis Pilaris:

UPDATE: I've found another product that works magnificently on my Keratosis Pilaris! I decided to try something a bit stronger than the Neutrogena MultiVitamin Acne Treatment... and I have discovered Paula's Choice 2% BHA Lotion! It's working beautifully! I definitely recommend trying this product on your Keratosis Pilaris. For more information on this product and how to purchase your very own, visit

DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a medical doctor, nor do I claim to be and this information is provided solely from my research and study of this condition. The treatments I have written about are personal trials and opinions. Anyone with a skin condition should see a dermatologist to get a specific diagnosis before attempting treatment options. Warning, tanning or sunbathing can cause skin cancer.

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