Keratosis Pilaris (KP) is a common, inherited skin condition in which keratin (a protein in the skin) forms plugs in the hair follicles. It is benign and often disappears with age. 40% of the population has keratosis pilaris! It is more common in people who have very dry skin or atopic dermatitis (eczema).
It is characterized by very small flesh colored or slightly red bumps that give the skin a sandpaper-like texture. Most frequently it develops on the backs of the upper arms but can also occur on the thighs, cheeks or other areas.
Click here for some pictures of KP: http://www.helpforkp.com/keratosis_pilaris_pictures.html.
Most people seek treatment because it occasionally itches (especially in the winter) or for cosmetic reasons. Moisturizers are soothing to the skin and may help the appearance. There are prescription topical treatments (skin creams) that you could ask your physician about; however, improvement may take several months and the bumps tend to come back. You could also try taking long, hot soaking baths and then rubbing the areas with a coarse washcloth. This can soften the hair follicles and unplug the pores filled with keratin. Good news though- this condition is completely harmless, usually self-limiting and tends to resolve with age.
Brooke Uptagrafft, MD
Dr. Brooke is a family medicine doctor.