How To Get Rid Of Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis Pilaris sounds like something straight out of a science textbook. But it’s something many of us might know, quite literally! Ever glide your hand over your arms, legs, or even your face and feel these tiny, gritty bumps? They’re not just random; they’re a sign of Keratosis Pilaris.

When your skin is smooth, it suddenly feels like a gritty texture. These small bumps might be subtle in color, but they can definitely make your skin feel less like silk and more like fine sandpaper. That’s the hallmark of Keratosis Pilaris.

Keratosis pilaris is an ongoing condition experienced by many. It’s important to understand this condition and how it can be treated, as it affects as many as 50-80% of adolescents and approximately 40% of adults.

Although there is no cure for keratosis pilaris, some remedies can help soothe its symptoms, including dryness and itchiness.

What Is Keratosis Pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is a common, chronic condition that causes small, scaly bumps on the skin. It gets its name from the protein responsible for the patches of small, rough bumps you experience — keratin. Symptoms arise when there is an overproduction of keratin, which builds up in your hair follicles.

Fix Roughness & Get Smooth Skin

Since this condition surfaces anywhere there are hair follicles, symptoms are most common on the upper arms, thighs, and buttocks, as well as on the cheeks and torso. Many patients are unaware that these bumps are keratosis pilaris, preventing them from getting the help they need to improve their symptoms and quality of life.

  • Although experts aren’t exactly sure what causes keratosis pilaris, genetic variables may play a role. In one key 2018 study, researchers analyzed 147 genes associated with 143 genetic skin diseases. 
  • Keratosis pilaris was related to the mutation of the ABCA12 gene. This same mutation was present in affected family members but not the healthy family members. 
  • It was concluded that ABCA12 mutations or alterations in expression may contribute to developing keratosis pilaris. This condition has also been linked to atopic dermatitis and eczema.

What Are the Symptoms of Keratosis Pilaris?

Symptoms of keratosis pilaris can develop at any age, but this condition is most common in children.

These symptoms include:

  • Tiny painless bumpers that develop most commonly on the upper arms and thighs
  • When you have bumps, these areas will be rough, and the skin will be dry.
  • Bumps that typically worsen with the seasons, especially when humidity is low

Keratosis Facts

  • Research suggests that the genetics of keratosis pilaris is an autosomal dominant disorder. You only need to inherit one gene copy to develop this skin condition.
  • Keratosis pilaris usually develops early—sometimes before a child is two years old. Most experience flare-ups during adolescence, and many cases fade once an individual reaches adulthood.
  • Although bumps are typically red, this is only sometimes the case. The bumps associated with keratosis pilaris on fair skin are often lighter and redder. However, depending on your skin tone, they can also be brown, white, light purple, or black.
  • Temperature and humidity can dry out your skin, making symptoms worse. For many individuals with keratosis pilaris, their condition often worsens in the winter and when they’ve been out in the sun. Unprotected sun exposure can also darken patches, making them more apparent.
  • Asthma and keratosis pilaris may be linked.  The American Academy of Dermatology Association reported that people with eczema, dry skin, hay fever, and asthma are likelier to develop keratosis pilaris. Although asthma and keratosis pilaris may not be directly linked, if you are atopic (have dry skin and a high tendency for allergies) and have asthma, you may face a higher risk of developing keratosis pilaris.

How to Improve Symptoms of Keratosis Pilaris?

The best thing you can do to improve symptoms of keratosis pilaris is working to prevent them altogether.

  • Since flare-ups typically occur when the skin is dry, it’s important to moisturize daily. An emollient cream containing natural beeswax, like Cutemol Emollient Cream, can help.
  • Shaving or waxing can further irritate your bumps, so that you can consider laser removal.
  • Limit baths and showers to one a day, using warm vs hot water.
  • If the air is dry, plug in a humidifier.
  • Use mild soaps
  • Avoid using any self-tanner

Once flare-ups surface, you’ll want to treat both the bumps and dry skin.

  • First, gently exfoliate. Lightly exfoliate with a soft cloth or loofah. Do NOT scrub your skin.
  • Next, you’ll want to apply a keratolytic, such as Keralyt 5 Cream or Keralyt Gel 3%. This will help you remove the buildup of dead skin cells. There are plenty of skin products on the market. However, not all are created equal.

Choose a product that contains one of the following:

  • Lactic acid
  • Salicylic acid

A key study found that 5% salicylic acid is beneficial when aiming to treat keratosis pilaris. As reported by the researchers, although this condition is not life-threatening or physically debilitating, it affects individuals socially and psychologically. Using a cream containing lactic acid or salicylic acid can significantly improve symptoms and overall quality of life.

You should also apply a moisturizer when your skin feels dry, using a quality product 2-3 times a day and after bathing.

Prescription Treatments: Retinoids and Tazarotene

For more severe cases of keratosis pilaris, prescription treatments might be necessary. Retinoids, such as tretinoin and tazarotene, can be effective. These treatments help speed up skin cell turnover and prevent the plugging of hair follicles. Consult with a dermatologist to determine the best prescription option for your condition.

Natural Remedies and Oils

Natural remedies can also be beneficial in managing keratosis pilaris. Coconut oil, for instance, has moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe the skin. Other oils like tea tree oil and jojoba oil may help reduce the appearance of bumps and prevent dryness.

The Role of Acids in Treatment

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), like glycolic acid, are also effective in treating keratosis pilaris. These acids help exfoliate the skin and improve its texture. Products containing AHAs can be integrated into your skincare routine to enhance the results.

Preventing Irritation and Friction

Minimizing skin irritation and friction is crucial for managing keratosis pilaris. Wear soft, breathable clothes that do not rub against your skin. Avoid harsh soaps and use mild, fragrance-free cleansers to prevent further irritation.

Bathing and Moisturizing Tips

Limit your bathing time and use lukewarm water instead of hot. Apply a thick moisturizer immediately after bathing to lock in moisture. Products containing ingredients like urea or ceramides are particularly effective for hydrating skin.

Humidifiers: Adding Moisture to the Air

Using a humidifier in your home can help maintain skin moisture levels, especially during the winter months when the air is dry. This simple device can significantly prevent the skin from becoming too dry and worsening keratosis pilaris symptoms.

Home Remedies for Relief

Several home remedies can provide relief from keratosis pilaris. Oatmeal baths, for example, can soothe itchy and irritated skin. Mixing oatmeal with water to create a paste and applying it to the affected areas can also help reduce redness and bumps.

Consulting a Dermatologist

If over-the-counter treatments and home remedies do not improve your symptoms, it is essential to consult a dermatologist. They can provide professional advice, prescribe stronger treatments, and help develop a personalized skincare plan to manage keratosis pilaris effectively.


While not harmful, keratosis pilaris can be frustrating to manage. Understanding its causes and treatments is the first step toward smoother, healthier skin. With the right combination of skincare products, natural remedies, and lifestyle adjustments, you can significantly improve the appearance and feel of your skin. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if needed, and remember to be consistent with your skincare routine for the best results.



  • Michael Reed

    Michael Reed is a medical writer at Sumlab, focusing on dermatological studies and treatments. His articles help demystify complex clinical results for a broad audience.

    View all posts