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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soundoff (110 Responses)
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    February 16, 2013 at 15:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. 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
  3. 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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    June 15, 2013 at 23:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Paulene Cayo

    The healing qualities of Shea butter are due to the presence of several fatty acids and plant sterols, namely oleic, stearic, palmitic and linolenic acids. These oil-soluble components are nonsaponifiable, meaning they do not undergo saponification, or convert to soap, when introduced to an alkali. Shea butter possesses a significantly greater nonsaponifiable fraction than most other nut oils and fats, which lends the substance greater healing potential for the skin.`^..-

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    July 3, 2013 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. blueNik

    I am 33 and never had skin issues until after the birth of my second son. I have also been into preventative skin care and now that I am over 30 and I have been stepping it up a bit more. I use the Shielo Complexion Scrub twice weekly.ONLY TWICE PER WEEK. This is by far the BEST at scrub that I have come across.

    First time I used the Shielo Scrub I thought it felt and smelled a lot like other products I have tried but when I rinsed off I could immediately tell a difference...I couldn't stop touching my face because it was THAT soft.

    August 20, 2014 at 21:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Molly

    I'm currently in high school and have KP on my arms and shoulders(it spreads slightly to my back) thighs, cheeks and underside of my chin. I live in FL so the bumps themselves aren't huge or super irritated or anything, but I've noticed several key things. My diet hugely affects my skin. If I cut out dairy and gluten my skin clears up right away. I use a lufa in the shower to exfoliate. And I use organic coconut oil to moisturize. All of the above have helped! I'm thinking about trying the amlactin for a moisturizer because my skin is still really dry, and taking the extra supplements(Vit D and some extra C doesn't hurt). I also have Vitiligo(pigmentation problems) so I try to stay away from anything with harsh chemicals, or from picking at my skin. Thanks to everybody for the advice!!

    January 20, 2015 at 09:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Clover

    I have an almost 4 year old. Shr has suffered from KP since she was 9 ms old. I've tried every prescription.

    I've fibaly found a regimen that works for us. It hasn't gone away completely, but half way. I keep thinking, if I keep being persistent, it'll fibally diminish.

    I wash with a tea tree gentle wash, with a clarisonic mia using the pore cleaning brush.

    Use Toner, then coconut oil

    then urea 40% after she goes to sleep bc it burns. The. I coat that with aquaphor kids.

    In the morning, I put argan oil from MUAC on her face to moisturize and protect the skin from irritants.
    It's a lot to do, but it's worth it.

    March 24, 2015 at 19:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. katherine

    I am 15 and have had keratosis pilaris for a long while now. It really didn't start to bother me that much until I reached 8th grade and started realizing how others had smooth skin and I how I have bumps on my upper arms, thighs, my legs, a little on the butt, and on my cheeks. It began to make me feel insecure and now I am a freshman in highschool and I see how many girls wear cute dresses and shorts, and I wish to be able to wear that but I choose not to because I feel embarrassed to show my skin. I did tons and tons of research online about KP and how I can treat it and ways to heal it. I kept reading that there is not yet a cure that can make it go away forever which made me upset because KP is really annoying and honestly in my opinion is gross. Anyways, I decided to just try one of the home methods people kept recommending which was organic unrefined coconut oil. A lot of people said it worked for them within a couple days but for me, it didn't seem to heal as fast which got me impatient and frustrated because nobody wants KP!!!!! But I kept on applying the coconut oil every time after I showered and realized that the only thing that can really happen if I keep using it, is that it will improve and not make it worse. Coconut oil has definetly helped my KP and I do recommend it to people with the condition. Like they say, things work differently on everyone so if this doesn't seem to be improving your skin, be patient and know that there IS a way to help your KP.

    April 9, 2015 at 00:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Name*Jb

    I've had KP since my teens and used to think it was part of my acne. Yes, I still have it, despite approaching 40, but it is very well controlled now.

    Here's what really works for me:
    -KP Duty lotion from dermadoctor. It's expensive, but a little goes a long way, it's a thick cream that can be diluted (1:1) and applied after showering to dry areas. There are other aha creams, but this one is worth every penny.
    -Scrub in the shower as needed with a washcloth- avoid harsh scrubs, they aggravate! Use a gentle, unscented cleanser- never bar soap. Only rub off the surface that is ready to come off. Over scrubbing will make things worse.
    -always remember that this condition is not acne, it is due to dry skin and keratinization of pores. The same toughening of skin causing callouses- but in your pores. Kp duty lotion dissolves them and moisturizers.
    -you can carefully use a comedone extractor for associated "whiteheads", but don't use fingernails, they cut, infect, and scar the skin.
    -salicylate/lactic acid peels on your arms/legs may help- ask your dermatologist.
    -Lastly, sunshine helped me, but sunscreen may he needed as acid treatments make you burn easier. Dry skin is your enemy, so don't overdo it.
    Best of luck- these seriously worked for me when done religiously. When I slack off, it tends to return.

    June 11, 2015 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
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  14. Tshi

    I had KP since 14 years old. i am turning 36 this year and my condition had turned from bad to very bad. My KP spread from my arms to my thighs and legs. There is no cure because if there is one, pharmaceutical company will make sure that this is removed from the shelves at all costs. It is sad to see that the human race worship $ than looking out for each other. Though KP is not a life threatening condition but people may have suicidal thoughts due to the mental and physical stress they face with the condition. Can we still believe in miracle? I doubt since the condition has been with me for 22 years (and getting worse) and counting. I hate my life.

    April 17, 2017 at 10:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tryingtobhuman

      Well I'm 15 and I have KP for 2 long years. I've seen it's transition, its spread, the way it infests your body and then your psychology. I have a stupid and a more frantic condition than others, I have it all over my back, right from shoulders to loin and on my right upper arm, shoulder blades and a little on my chest. And now I've taken control, it's simple, go for a tetrinoin cream a strong moisturizer like sebamed and an exfoliating cream. At first I misunderstood the condition I had as acne. I applied drying creams only to worsen my KP. Then went to a derm n now it's getting a bit better.

      September 9, 2017 at 21:19 | Report abuse |
  15. Keith Johnson

    Thank you so much for this valuable information.

    It is people like you that really make a difference in the lives of people with keratosis pilaris.

    I suffered for 12 years from keratosis pilaris and nothing I tried worked.

    Drugs, nutrition, all types of doctors...you name it–the suffering never really went away.

    Fortunately, I found out about a natural way that finally got rid of my keratosis pilaris for good.

    This article talks about it...


    Hope it helps and keep up the good work!

    May 26, 2017 at 08:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. ann

    I have been struggling with this condition for the past 5 years and with each passing year, it worsens. I went gluten free/vegan for a full year with no artificial ingredients. Basically just fish, fruit, veggies, and gluten free whole grains. It still would not budge. I even took 1 tbsp. of cod liver oil everyday along with other vitamins and still nothing. The only thing that has cleared mine up 100j%, bumps and redness, is Yaz birth control. I'm not sure if it's hormonal or the fact that birth control suppresses the immune system, but either way, it's been a lifesaver. I went from red bumpy skin that was aggravated by cold weather, body wash, clothing, even the sun...to soft clear skin that I'm proud of. It no longer has an allergic reaction to everything.

    August 25, 2017 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
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  20. Derrick

    I have been struggling with KP since I was 8 and now I'm 13, I was so confused and thought it was pimples all over my back arm and thighs. I asked my parents and my mom said to rub coconut oil on, and sadly it did not work much. I have tried everything I can find in my mom's med cupboard and nothing seems to work. Now when I wear shorts to go to soccer practice or simply to school people think I have acne on my legs and it really upsets me. It might be a genetic thing because both of my parents have it and so does my brother but, mine has gone from bad to extremely bad If there is anything that can help please reply to this comment.

    September 19, 2017 at 01:19 | Report abuse | Reply
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  23. Bethany Goudy

    Regular use of Amlactin lotion cleared up my KP completely. It is over the counter product and regular use keeps my skin smoother than it’s been in many years. Also during the hot humid southern summer I use my outdoor hot tub, set to 88-90 degrees, and my 63-year-old skin feels like a baby (and I feel so relaxed too!)I wait until late afternoon, wear hat and don’t face the sun to protect my face.

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    I've suffered from KP since the birth of my 1st child in 2011. The best products I've found for it are It Works Rephresh daily cleansing gel (I use it on all areas with KP, and use it to shave my legs with, which my legs were the worst areas before these.) and It Works Radiance hydrating serum w/Hyaluronic Acid. I use the serum after showering, just one drop per leg/problem area. My KP is virtually undetectable these days. I get it from my friend who's a distributor. https://indiaowens.itworks.com/shopping/solution/skin-care

    April 22, 2020 at 23:47 | Report abuse | Reply
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