Managing Keratosis Pilaris

By Kira Mayo

Keratosis pilaris (KP) is a very common benign skin condition that affects about 40 percent of adults and 50 to 80 percent of adolescents. Although some cases improve spontaneously, others have this condition chronically with intermittent remissions and exacerbations.

What to expect

KP does not cause any medical problems and is frequently noted in otherwise healthy, asymptomatic patients visiting their dermatologist for other reasons. The condition may be chronic, but the vast majortiy of patients do not need frequent follow up appointments with their dermatologist since the condition is relatively benign.


KP is primarily a cosmetic condition, and complications are infrequent. However, there is no universally accepted treatment for KP. While it sometimes clears by itself, it may become a chronic condition which usually requires following a lifelong skin care regimen.


Because we don’t know what causes KP, there is no universally effective treatment available. There are, however, various treatment options and skin care regimens that will help you manage KP. As a general rule, you’ll need to use these regimens continuously to achieve long lasting results. The following is a list of potential remidies for KP. Keep in mind that what helps one person may not work for another and that complete clearing may not be possible.

*Do things to prevent excessive skin dryness, such as using mild soap-less cleansers (eg, Dove, Cetaphil) and over-the-counter moisterizers (eg, Cetaphil, Purpose, or Lubriderm). This is the mainstay of treatment for nearly all cases of KP.

*Petrolium jelly (aka vaseline) and water in equal parts, cold cream or petrolatum with 3% salicylic acid may help flatten the lesions.

*Lotions should be gently massaged into the affected area 2-3 times a day.

*More involved cases of KP may be improved with lactic acid lotions (eg, AmLactin, Lac-Hydrin), alpha hydroxy acid lotions (Glytone, glycolic body lotions, urea creams), topical steroid creams (triamcinolone 0.1%, Locoid Lipocream), and prescription-only retinoic acid products such as tretinoin (Retin-A), tazarotene (Tazorac), and adapalene (Differin).


Though there is no way to prevent KP, keeping your skin hydrated will help decrease the frequency and intensity of recurrences.

*Moisturize your skin with thick lotions and creams to help keep water from evaporating off your skin. Beware: regular lotions may actually exacerbate KP. This is because regular lotions have a large amount of water in them; when water evaporates off your skin, it has a drying effects. Creams, on the other hand, have less water in them, and will not dry out your skin.

*Avoid harsh soaps. Instead, use soaps that have added oils, such as Neutrogena or Dove. Use a cleanser that leaves your skin feeling soft and smooth, not tight or dry.

*Pat your skin dry after taking a shower instead of rubbing it with a towel. Moisterize your skin within three minutes after a shower with an oil or cream to seal in moisture.

*Use a humidifier if you feel the air in your home is too dry.


Alai NN.Keratosis Pilaris. Avaiable at Accessed June 12, 2010.

Originally written for DermHub


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