While there's no cure for keratosis pilaris, these products can help treat those pesky red bumps that show up on the arms and legs.

By Anthea Levi
December 18, 2019
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If you've ever spotted small, red bumps on your arms or thighs, you may have assumed they were tiny pimples or even hives. But these red bumps on the skin are very often keratosis pilaris, a harmless (albeit annoying) skin condition caused by a buildup of keratin in the hair follicle.

Hold on, what exactly is keratosis pilaris?

According to the National Institutes of Health, keratosis pilaris is seen most commonly during childhood. Visually, it presents itself in the form of papules -- small, rough, raised lesions.

"Keratosis pilaris (KP) is characterized by flesh-colored or reddish bumps that typically appear on the arms or legs," says New York City-based dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD.

The NIH describes them as spiny and keratotic, noting that they are typically skin colored and found on the outer surface of the upper arms and thighs, although it may occur elsewhere on the body. The condition is generally worse in winter and often clears in the summer.

Some people refer to keratosis pilaris as chicken skin, since it can feel rough like sandpaper or resemble goosebumps.

What causes keratosis pilaris—and how is it treated?

Keratosis pilaris is caused by a buildup of keratin (a hair protein) in the hair follicle. While nobody knows exactly why keratin builds up like this, the NIH explains that is more common in people who have extremely dry skin or suffer from atopic dermatitis (eczema) it also seems to run in families.

While there's no cure for keratosis pilaris, it’s not uncommon for the condition to eventually go away on its own. "Keratosis pilaris often shows up anytime after the age of 10 and gets worse at puberty," explains Dr. Jaliman. "But a lot of people outgrow it around the age of 30."

If you're bothered by these little bumps, the good news is that treatment can help ease symptoms of keratosis pilaris. Here, dermatologist-recommended products for smoother, more even skin.

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