Keratosis pilaris, a common skin condition, does not usually require treatment. Still, you can improve your skin’s appearance with certain medicated creams, at-home management, or laser treatment.

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Keratosis pilaris (also known as “chicken skin”) is a harmless skin condition that primarily affects children and teens. It occurs when keratin, a protein in your hair, builds up in the pores of your skin.

People with keratosis pilaris have tiny, clustered bumps in areas of their body where hair grows, like the thighs and upper arms. Based on your skin tone, the bumps may appear white, brown, red, or pink in color.

Keratosis pilaris doesn’t usually itch or hurt, although some people may experience this.

You can’t prevent keratosis pilaris, but it may respond to treatment. Even without treatment, it typically resolves on its own during early adulthood.

Still, you may want to treat keratosis pilaris if your skin is itchy or if you want to smooth the appearance of your skin. In this article, we’ll review how to treat this condition.

When to seek medical help

Keratosis pilaris does not usually cause physical discomfort. But if your skin is itchy or painful, see a dermatologist for treatment. A dermatologist is a medical specialist who treats conditions affecting your skin, nails, and hair.

You should also consider seeing a dermatologist for treatment if you’re emotionally distressed or worried about the appearance of keratosis pilaris. Even though this condition is harmless, it may be upsetting for some people.

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Several types of medicated creams can help reduce the rough, dry skin and bumps caused by keratosis pilaris. Many are available over the counter (OTC).

A dermatologist can also prescribe medicated creams for you. Prescription creams often have higher doses of the same ingredients found in their OTC counterparts. In some instances, a higher dose may be more effective at relieving your symptoms.

To relieve the symptoms of keratosis pilaris, look for creams that contain these ingredients:


Urea is a humectant that breaks down keratin and reduces the buildup of dead skin in your pores. It’s also found in skin sheets and facial peels.

Alpha and beta hydroxy acids

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) exfoliate your skin. That means they remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin and unclog your pores.

Examples include:

A chemical peel with glycolic acid for 5 to 7 minutes may also help reduce the appearance of bumps.


A low dose OTC retinoid, like retinol, can improve your skin’s texture. It may reduce the appearance or even eliminate keratosis pilaris bumps.

A stronger, prescription-strength retinoid like tretinoin may be more effective at removing keratosis pilaris bumps.


Corticosteroids may help treat keratosis pilaris in several ways:

  • reduce or eliminate itchiness
  • soften bumps
  • reduce discoloration

Keratosis pilaris may respond positively to self-care and at-home treatments. In addition to using OTC medicated creams, try these strategies:

  • Take short, warm baths or showers: Hot, long showers or baths can dry out your skin, worsening the appearance of bumps.
  • Use an oil-free moisturizer: Apply an oil-free moisturizer whenever your skin feels dry and within 5 minutes after bathing. Moisturizers that contain urea or lactic acid are good choices.
  • Use fragrance-free products: Soaps, creams, and lotions that contain fragrance may irritate your skin.
  • Exfoliate gently: Rough scrubbing can irritate your skin and worsen your symptoms. Gently exfoliate your skin once a week with an alpha hydroxy acid or retinoid.
  • Use a humidifier: Keeping the air moist at home can help keep your skin moist.
  • Avoid hair removal: It’s best not to wax, shave, or use hair removal cream on affected areas of your skin. This can irritate your skin and cause more bumps to form. If unwanted hair is an issue, consider laser hair removal.
  • Avoid self-tanners: These tend to enhance rather than hide the appearance of bumps.

If medicated creams and at-home treatments don’t do the trick, you may wish to discuss laser skin resurfacing treatment with a dermatologist.

Laser treatments use a wavelength of light to remove outside layers of skin. This treatment can eliminate bumps, rough patches, and brown spots.

There are several different types of lasers that a doctor may choose. A small 2016 study found that fractional carbon dioxide lasers were effective in eliminating keratosis pilaris bumps.

A doctor may add microdermabrasion to a laser treatment plan for keratosis pilaris. This minimally invasive procedure “sands” away the outer layer of your skin.

Treatments don’t cure keratosis pilaris. Still, they may reduce or eliminate symptoms slowly over time.

Keratosis pilaris usually goes away on its own, even without treatment. Most people with this condition see it dissipate gradually over several years. It usually resolves fully by age 30.

At-home treatments, prescription medication, and laser treatments all take time to work. The clearing up of bumps happens gradually. You may start to see improvement after 4 to 6 weeks, but it may take up to 12 weeks to see significant improvement.

After treatment, you’ll need to continue to care for your skin with a maintenance plan. This will help reduce the recurrence of bumps. Using moisturizers daily may be enough to maintain clear skin once this condition resolves.

Keratosis pilaris is a harmless skin condition that typically affects children, teens, and young adults. This condition causes bumps to form on areas of your skin where hair grows.

Keratosis pilaris usually goes away on its own without treatment. But you can use at-home treatments and prescription creams to eliminate bumps and improve the look of your skin. If other treatments fail, you may also consider laser therapy.