Keratosis pilaris

This is a common skin condition caused by an overproduction of keratin – a structural protein found in the nails, skin and hair of the human body. It causes a hard, scaly skin rash, similar to ‘goose bumps’ on the skin although these have a rough texture.

Keratosis pilaris is worse in the winter months but improves during the summer.

It usually clears up without the need for medical intervention but you can help it on its way by using a pumice stone, non-soap cleansers and a moisturiser.

It affects people of all ages but is particularly common in women, children and teenagers and anyone with an existing skin condition. People with a very fair skin and red hair, e.g. Celtic skin type are also prone.

Causes of keratosis pilaris

We have mentioned that it is caused by too much keratin which thickens the skin, leading to hard, raised spots with a rough texture. Plus there is a genetic link as well so if anyone in your family has suffered from this condition then you will do the same.

Unfortunately keratosis pilaris runs in families.

It often occurs if you have another skin condition such as eczema which causes dry, flaky, itchy skin. For some unknown reason, this worsens the symptoms.

Symptoms of keratosis pilaris

The obvious symptom is the development of small, red or brown spots which are slightly raised and have a rough, ‘sandpaper like’ texture. These spots may itch although this varies from one person to another.

This rash covers the front of the thighs, buttocks and backs of the arms. It may also appear on the forearms and top of the back although this is much less common.

A few rare forms cause spots to develop on the face and scalp or the entire body.

It starts at a young age and worsens throughout puberty and into adulthood. But it often clears up at this stage. However, some people are unlucky enough to continue with keratosis pilaris into middle age.

Diagnosing keratosis pilaris

A simple examination of the rash will determine a diagnosis. This is something you can do at home but if you already have a skin condition such as eczema then ask your GP’s advice.

Treatment for keratosis pilaris

This condition can be left to clear up on its own accord. But you can help matters by using mild cleaners, a soft foam pad and wash in warm not hot water. Ask your pharmacist about a suitable moisturiser or cream called an emollient which ease the dryness and itching caused by this rash.

Speak to your GP about alternative forms of treatment such as retinoids (cream which are derived from Vitamin A), chemical peels and microdermabrasion. The last two items are cosmetic treatments which are offered at private clinics.

This condition cannot be completely got rid of but you can reduce the extent of the rash.