How to get rid of the bumps on your arms

What to do if you have keratosis pilaris, a.k.a. chicken skin

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Curology Team
Mar 12, 2020 · 3 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

If you’ve noticed tiny little rough bumps on your arms that look like pimples, it might not be regular old acne. You might have a condition called keratosis pilaris — also known as “chicken skin.” While it can happen anywhere on your body (except on your palms and soles), most people notice these small bumps on the backs of their upper arms. But just what is keratosis pilaris, and is there any hope of truly getting rid of it?

The causes of keratosis pilaris

Keratosis pilaris (KP) is acne-like, but not acne. It happens when the hair growth process (called keratinization) goes haywire, leading to the formation of a plug that blocks the follicle. Basically, KP is caused by dead skin cells clogging pores, which is why they might look a lot like pimples! Doctors do not fully understand what causes this process, but there is a strong genetic component. Dry skin also appears to be a contributing factor.

Genetics also play a role in KP — not everyone will get it. The severity of keratosis pilaris can also change based on a variety of factors. For example, it may worsen during pregnancy and can become more noticeable in winter or a dry climate.

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Keratosis pilaris treatments

An absolute cure doesn’t exist (yet), but there are a few promising treatments for keratosis pilaris. These include a few over-the-counter topicals that increase cell turnover rate, helping to unclog follicles.

  • Tazarotene. You’ll need a prescription for it, but tazarotene is a topical retinoid that can be used to treat KP.

  • Lactic Acid. Over-the-counter lactic acid topicals such as AmLactin 12% lotion or Perrigo’s Ammonium lactate lotion 12% can be helpful and are most effective if applied daily after showering.

  • Salicylic Acid. Body products with salicylic acid — like the acne body wash by Curology — are often recommended for the treatment of KP. There are also body lotions with salicylic acid (though not all of them pass the CosDNA test).

  • Urea cream. Lotions and gels with urea may help the rough, bumpy skin associated with KP. Eucerin Roughness Relief Lotion is a good, non-comedogenic option.

  • In-office procedures. While more research is needed, there is some evidence that procedures such as intense pulsed light and microdermabrasion might help.

Your Curology medication is just for your face and neck, but you can always talk to your dermatology provider about other skin concerns — we’re happy to share what we know and recommend products that might help. If you’re not already a Curology member, you can sign up for a free trial and just pay $4.95 (plus tax) on your first bottle of custom cream or complete skincare set.

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