keratosis pilaris treatment

Keratosis Pilaris Treatment

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition where small rough bumps appear on your skin.

Keratosis pilaris treatment options are available to improve the condition.

keratosis pilaris treatment singapore
Keratosis pilaris (Chicken skin) on upper arm

Table of Contents

What is Keratosis Pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris (KP) is a very common condition that affects most adolescent at some point. They appear as rough bumps on the skin which can be skin coloured, red or pigmented. The bumps appear as the hair follicles are blocked by keratin. Although KP is medically harmless, many individuals find it unsightly and will try all ways and means to treat it.

  • Genetic disorder affecting the hair follicles
  • Up to 30-50% of KP runs in families
  • There are 6 variants of KP
  • KP improves during summer but worsens in winter months
a group of people posing for a photo
The onset of Keratosis Pilaris is usually from the adolescent period.


Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris (KP), commonly referred to as “chicken skin,” is a benign and common skin condition characterized by small, rough bumps, typically on the upper arms, thighs, cheeks, and buttocks. These bumps result from the buildup of keratin, a protein that protects the skin, which can block hair follicles. While keratosis pilaris is harmless, it can be a cosmetic concern for many individuals. Effective treatment aims to improve the skin’s appearance and texture, focusing on hydration and exfoliation.

keratosis pilaris upper arm
Hyperpigmented Keratosis Pilaris

What Does Keratosis Pilaris Look Like?

Keratosis pilaris (KP) commonly appears as rough bumps found on the upper outer arms and thighs. Often described as chicken skin or goose-bumps, it is mostly asymptomatic but can occasional get inflammed and itchy. Extensive cases can involve the back and buttocks. 

KP is associated with the following conditions:

  • Xerosis (Dry skin)
  • Ichthyosis vulgaris
  • Atopic eczema
  • Obesity

Can Keratosis Pilaris Be Cured?

Although keratosis pilaris in Singapore is a common condition, it can persists into adulthood. It often reduces in its appearance from your 30s. Most cases of KP improve over time. Despite no current cure is known for this condition, treatments are available to improve the appearance of the condition.

KP improves over time

Overall the outcome of KP is good, although in some cases it can persists into late adulthood.

a woman in a towel touching her arm

What Can I Do To Improve KP?

As a general rule, the treatment is KP is continuous as it can last for years. Your skin should be kept moisturised regularly. Many patients report a good improvement following a regular skin care program.

Gentle exfoliation can further improve KP by removing the plug of dry skin trapped in your hair follicles. You may consider the following physical and chemical exfoliation products found off the shelves:

  • Loofah, Scrub, Sponge
  • 2% Salicylic acid wash
  • Lactic acid lotions
  • Glycolic acid body lotions

What Must I Avoid?

  • Do not use soaps with perfumes or products that dehydrate the skin
  • Avoid over-exfoliating with harsh scrubs
  • Do not take very hot baths and showers
  • Avoid picking at your skin

A balanced skin care routine

Regular moisturizers with gentle exfoliation while avoiding harsh products helps in most cases.

Keratosis Pilaris Treatment

a doctor talking to a patient
Topical prescriptive treatments can improve KP that is more resistant.

Consider seeking professional help from a doctor if you are unsure if you have keratosis pilaris in the first place, the skin feels irritated or home based remedies do not seem to be working.

There are various keratosis pilaris treatment options depending on your skin condition.

  • Topical steroids for itchy and inflammed skin
  • Topical retinoids to improve skin turnover and hyperpigmentation
  • Lightening agents such as Hydroquinone, Azeliac acid etc
  • Topical calcineurin inhibitors for resistant cases or inflammed skin.
  • Lasers. Vascular lasers can variably improve the redness of the variant keratosis rubra pilaris.

Frequently Asked Questions About Keratosis Pilaris

The most common variant is known as Keratosis pilaris rubra which presents as red bumps and redness on the cheeks. A vascular laser that targets the underlying microvasculature may improve the appearance of the condition.

The variants of keratosis pilaris are less common and often difficult to treat,

  • Ulerythema ophyrogenes: This variant results in the loss of eyebrow hair due to underlying inflammation.
  • Erythromelanosis follicularis faciei et colli: Mixture of redness and brown hyperpigmentation. Treatment is difficult.
  • Atrophoderma vermiculata: Scarring which resemble small scars on the cheeks. Treatment is difficult.

Topical retinoid works by increasing cell turnover and reducing the stickiness of keratin within the hair follicles. To date, we have 4 generations of retinoids. 

  • Trifarotene (4th generation retinoid): Targets the most common retinoic acid receptor in the skin. Excellent tolerability.
  • Adapalene (3rd generation retinoid): Good tolerability in general.
  • Tretinoin (1st generation retinoid): Higher chance of skin irritation.

The best keratosis pilaris treatment approach is usually one of combination therapies.

At APAX Medical & Aesthetics Clinic, you will be guided on how to improve your keratosis pilaris. Generally, we recommend the following:

  • Gentle cleansing and moisturization once to twice daily.
  • Gently physical and chemical exfoliation alternate day.
  • Topical retinoids once to twice a week to increase skin cell turnover.

Keratosis pilaris typically does not cause pain or itching, although some individuals may experience mild itching or irritation, especially if the bumps become inflamed or infected.

Keratosis pilaris is not a form of acne, but it can sometimes be mistaken for it, especially when the bumps are inflamed. Unlike acne, which is caused by clogged pores and excess oil production, keratosis pilaris is caused by keratin buildup and plugged hair follicles.

While keratosis pilaris cannot be prevented entirely, certain measures can help minimize its appearance and reduce symptoms. These include regular moisturizing, gentle exfoliation, avoiding harsh soaps or cleansers, and protecting the skin from harsh weather conditions.

Dr Moses Ng dermatologist

Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition that although harmless can cause distress in some individuals. A good skin care routine is all that is needed in most individuals. KP tends to improve with age and current treatments can help reduce the appearance of your bumps and pigmentation.

Schedule a consultation for keratosis pilaris treatment in singapore

Keratosis pilaris, though a benign condition, can impact an individual’s quality of life due to its cosmetic nature. A comprehensive treatment approach that combines exfoliation, hydration, and gentle skincare can effectively manage and improve the appearance of affected skin. Regular follow-ups and personalized care plans are essential to achieving the best outcomes for patients. 

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  2. Maghfour J, Ly S, Haidari W, Taylor SL, Feldman SR. Treatment of keratosis pilaris and its variants: a systematic review. Journal of Dermatological Treatment. 2022 Apr 3;33(3):1231-42.
  3. Kodali N, Patel VM, Schwartz RA. Keratosis pilaris: an update and approach to management. Italian Journal of Dermatology and Venereology. 2023 May 11.