Many people in the world have a condition on their skin that gives them the appearance of goosebumps all the time.  It is called keratosis pilaris.  Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition that causes dry rough patches of acne-like bumps, usually on the thighs, buttocks or arms. It can also be on the face or back as well.  The bumps are painless, and can be skin colored but at times will be red and inflamed. It is not a serious medical condition. It primarily leads to one being concerned about the appearance of their skin.

Keratosis pilaris is quite common in young children.  It can occur at any age. It is common to develop by the age of 10 years old. It can worsen during puberty, but usually improves or goes away by the time the child becomes and adult.  An estimated 40% of the adult population has this condition, while 50-80% of all adolescents do.  It is more common to occur in females versus males.

Ultimately it is caused by a build up of keratin, a process called hyperkeratination.  Keratin is a protein that protects the skin from harmful substances and infection. The build up of keratin blocks the opening of the hair follicle and creates the bumps we see. Often many blockages occur at once causing rough bumpy skin. Dry skin tends to worsen the condition. Because of this the condition may appear to improve during summer months but worsen during winter months when skin is extra dry.

It is unknown why the keratin builds up. Dermatologists believe it maybe genetic, and can be associated with other skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis or ichthvosis vulgaris.  It often occurs in otherwise healthy people.

Keratosis pilaris does not have a cure.  If often clears itself with time. You may wish to discuss your treatment options with your doctor. Some doctors will use Retin-A (vitmin A) to treat the condition because it aids in cellular turnover and will loosen the keratin.  Corticosteroids are sometimes used to decrease inflammation.  There are some preventative measures you can take to improve your skins condition.

  • Be gentle when washing. Vigorous scrubbing will only irritate the skin and worsen the condition.
  • After washing, gently pat your skin dry with a towel so that some moisture remains on the skin.
  • Apply a moisturizer or lubricating cream while the skin is still moist from bathing, to lock in the moisture in the skin. One should use a moisturizer twice a day. Using a moisturize that contains urea, glycolic or lactic acids will soften the dry rough skin. The glycolic or lactic acid will also help remove the keratin from the skins surface because it will gently exfoliate the skin.
  • While bathing use warm water, not hot water, and limit the length of time your shower is. Long, hot showers or baths remove oils from your skin, and lead to dry skin.
  • Avoid harsh drying soaps. Choose a mild soap such as Neutrogena, Basis or glycerin soaps. Avoid deodorant or antibacterial detergents, which can be especially harsh. Ultimately you want your skin to feel soft and smooth after cleansing, never tight or dry.
  • Gentle exfoliating treatments such as ‘Derm Renewal‘ at Healthworks can help as well.

Using a humidifier in your home will add moisture to the air in your home, and prevent the dry skin.


Stephanie Keenan is a licensed esthetician. She is a graduate of Catherine Hinds with 900 hours of training in spa therapy, and a certification in aromatherapy.