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June 6th, 2011
07:54 AM ET

Can you make keratosis pilaris go away?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Asked by Jennifer from Richmond, Virginia

My 14-year-old daughter has had bumps on her cheeks, upper arms and thighs for several years. Her pediatrician say it's keratosis pilaris and not to worry about it, but my daughter doesn't like the way the bumps look. Is there anything we can try to make them go away?

Expert answer

Thanks for your question. Keratosis pilaris is a very common skin condition that occurs in different degrees of severity in up to 80% of teens and nearly half of adults.

Resembling pink or flesh-colored goose bumps, keratosis pilaris is caused when a substance called keratin clogs the hair follicles on the skin, usually on the outer parts of the upper arms and thighs and sometimes also on the face.

Keratosis pilaris is not harmful and if left untreated may eventually clear up, although this can take years. The condition often runs in families and tends to be worst during the teen and young adult years.

Some people find their skin improves in the summer with sun exposure, while for others it can get worse.

Your daughter may first wish to try simple measures such as taking warm rather than hot baths or showers and running a humidifier in her room.

Soap-free cleansers such as Dove or Cetaphil are often recommended, as are general over-the-counter moisturizers. Exfoliating with a loofah may also aid in removing some of the keratin.

There are multiple creams and lotions that may be prescribed for patients wanting to treat keratosis pilaris; however, they don't always work well. Products containing lactic acid, alpha hydroxy acid, salicylic acid, a retinoid or other acne medicines, or urea can sometimes reduce the bumps.

Using a topical steroid for about a week may also help if the bumps are very red or inflamed. In severe cases, removing the bumps by microdermabrasion, chemical peels or other methods can be successful.

You can ask your pediatrician if any of these therapies may be useful in your daughter's situation or consider consulting a dermatologist.

Because this condition is so common, I hope our readers will share their experiences with treating keratosis pilaris as well.

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  5. Maggie

    Thanks this will help a lot. I always wear long sleeve cus I felt embarrassed by the pimples but this summer ill try to wear more tank tops to get more sun. Thanks, this helped. :)

    June 12, 2013 at 01:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Naomi Millay

    A chemical peel is a body treatment technique used to improve and smooth the texture of the facial skin using a chemical solution that causes the dead skin to slough off and eventually peel off.';`,

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  8. Luz

    I have it to only on the thighs and shoulders so in th summer I cover it up during the day but at night I wear shorts but I just stare at it and feel uncomfortable and insecure about myself

    March 2, 2014 at 20:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Zoey

    I've had keratosis pilaris sinceI was nine years old I've always found it to be pesky but now the bumps are getting bigger I have a bad habit of popping them and when I do pop them it's literally disgusting I've tried everything and they will go not away!!! I know it's genetics and I'm going to see a dermatologist but I just really want it to go away. I can't even wear T-shirts. Plus I think it may be my allergies or even the way I eat I want to go on a diet really badly but it's really hard. I'm 134 pounds, and I'm 13. Pleeeeaassee help!!

    May 8, 2014 at 18:12 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.