Is this rough, bumpy rash on my arms an allergy?

Keratosis Pilaris

What is it?

Keratin is a protective protein found in you skin barrier. In individuals with keratotis pilaris (KP), a keratin plug (and sometimes a twisted hair) causes plugging of the hair follicle and creates a bump on the skin’s surface. Many people with KP also experience redness around their hair follicles.

  • Very common skin condition affecting approximately 50-80% of children.
  • Rough, bumpy texture of skin (often perceived as unsightly by patients and/or parents).
  • Most commonly found on upper arms and thighs, but body and face can also be affected.
  • Varies in severity, but benign condition with no long-term deleterious effects to overall health.
  • Typically asymptomatic, but some people some people notice a rough, bumpy texture of their skin. Itching is uncommon.
  • Often seen in patients who also have atopic dermatitis.
rash arms

What causes it?

  • Genetic condition.
  • The cause of KP is not fully understood.

Will KP ever go away completely?

  • To date; there is no cure for KP.
  • KP most often improves with age and without treatment, however it can persist into adulthood.
  • Improvement is usually temporary unless you continue to regularly treat the condition.

Tips for caring for and treating skin with KP:

  • Use mild soaps.
  • Avoid excessively hot water when bathing.
  • Prevent dryness by moisturizing with emollient creams immediately after bathing.
  • Topical keratolytics can soften rough, bumpy skin when used regularly. Several can be found over the counter including CeraVe SA (contains salicylic acid) and AmLactin (contains lactic acid).  These agents do not reduce redness.

When to see a doctor:

  • If over the counter treatments are not helpful or redness is especially bothersome; a health care provider can help by prescribing prescription creams or various other treatments.