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Facts about the skin from DermNet New Zealand Trust. Topic index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Keratosis pilaris

What is keratosis pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is a very common condition in which there are numerous rough follicular spots, which may be skin-coloured, red or brown. Most often they arise on the outer aspect of the upper arms. They may also occur on the thighs and cheeks, and less often on the forearms and upper back.

Keratosis pilaris is most obvious during the teenage years. It may also be present in babies and persist into adult life. However, it is uncommon in elderly people. Keratosis pilaris is particularly prevalent in those who are overweight, or have atopic dermatitis or ichthyosis vulgaris.

Keratosis pilaris tends to be more severe during the winter months or other times of low humidity when skin dries out. Although unsightly at times, it is completely harmless.

Variants of keratosis pilaris include:

Keratosis pilaris
Keratosis pilaris
Keratosis pilaris rubra
Keratosis pilaris
Keratosis pilaris close-up
Keratosis pilaris
Keratosis pilaris upper back
Keratosis pilaris
Keratosis pilaris rubra faciei
Keratosis pilaris
Ulerythema ophryogenes
Keratosis pilaris
Lichen spinulosus

More images of keratosis pilaris ...

What causes keratosis pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is genetic in origin but the precise cause has not yet been determined.

It is thought to be a disorder of keratinisation in which the sticky cells that line the hair follicle form a horny plug instead of exfoliating. This widens the pores making them appear more obvious than elsewhere. Often a curled hair can be identified under the skin.


Because it is a genetic disorder, no cure is available. Some people find the following useful:

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Author: Dr Amanda Oakley MBChB FRACP, Hamilton, New Zealand. Updated June 2014.

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