What Causes Keratosis Pilaris?

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

What is keratosis pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is a very common condition that produces a bumpy rough feeling on your upper arms, thighs, and occasionally on your buttocks. It is not unusual for your skin to be red and dry in the affected areas. It seems to be produced by small elevations of your skin around the hair follicles. It is seen most commonly in patients with atopic dermatitis but can also be a part of some other exotic, rare skin conditions.

Is there a treatment for keratosis pilaris?

Most patients are healthy and seem to tolerate the condition without treatment. In a recent study, investigators seemed convinced that keratosis pilaris is due to follicular damage from ingrown hairs. This theory has yet to be proven. Exactly why this occurs is still unclear, but if this finding is true, the problem may be related to a defect in the hair follicle.

Medically reviewed by Norman Levine, MD; American Board of Dermatology


Thomas, Mary, and Uday Sharadchandra Khopkar. "Keratosis Pilaris Revisited: Is It More Than Just a Follicular Keratosis?" Int J Trichology 4.4 Oct.-Dec. 2012: 255-258.

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