What Causes Keratosis Pilaris In Children And How To Treat It?

What Causes Keratosis Pilaris In Children And How To Treat It

Image: Shutterstock


Keratosis pilaris is a common and benign skin condition that causes dry, rough patches and tiny bumps primarily on the face, neck, legs, thigh, and buttocks.

Although it is harmless and doesn’t cause itching, it gives the skin a chicken skin-like appearance; hence, the colloquial name “chicken skin.”

If you suspect your child has keratosis pilaris, this post on the causes, symptoms, and treatment for keratosis pilaris in children is for you.

What Does Keratosis Pilaris Look Like?

In this condition, the skin looks like when you have goosebumps. The tiny bumps may appear whitish red or brownish-black based on the color of your skin. The skin would feel dry and rough like sandpaper or chicken skin.

Causes Of Keratosis Pilaris In Children 

Keratosis pilaris is caused due to the blockage of the skin pores due to the excess production of keratin. The clogged pores block the growth of hair follicles, resulting in small bumps on the skin. Although the exact cause of keratin build-up is unknown, it is believed to be hereditary (1).

Who Is At A Risk Of Developing Keratosis Pilaris?

This condition is found in people of all ages. However, most people get this condition before two years of age or during their teenage years (2). The condition is also known to affect 50 to 80% of adolescence (3).

Sometimes, it is also seen as a secondary condition in children with eczema or atopic dermatitis (4). Children with the following factors could also be at a higher risk of developing keratosis pilaris (3).

  • A family history of the condition
  • Asthma
  • Dry skin
  • Obesity

Symptoms Of Keratosis Pilaris

The symptoms of the condition could differ in different children. Here are some common symptoms of keratosis pilaris.

  • Small, hard bumps on the upper arms, things, buttocks, and sometimes, cheeks
  • Bumps with pale, dry skin scales on top
  • Bumps within the hair from the follicle

As these symptoms may also resemble other skin conditions, consult your healthcare provider for the exact diagnosis.

Diagnosis Of Keratosis Pilaris In Children 

Your child’s doctor would do a physical examination to identify keratosis pilaris. They may also ask about your family and child’s medical history.

In some rare cases, a small sample of the skin may be sent for examination if the physical examination fails to prove the diagnosis.

Complications Of Keratosis Pilaris In Children

Keratosis pilaris is a non-contagious and harmless skin condition that may not cause any severe health issues or complications in children. However, it may cause the skin to become dry and flaky. Also, older children and teenagers may feel self-conscious and embarrassed due to the tiny bumps. Most medical practitioners consider the condition as more of a cosmetic problem than a health condition. 

Treatment For Keratosis Pilaris 

Although there is no permanent treatment for keratosis pilaris, the symptoms can be managed. In most children, keratosis pilaris goes away on its own with age. However, if the symptoms recur often or if the condition affects your child’s self-image, it is best to take your child to your pediatrician.

Your doctor may prescribe creams and lotions containing alpha hydroxy acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, urea, or tretinoin, which might reduce the bumps. Moisturizing the affected areas regularly by applying moisturizer may also help prevent it (4).

Home Care Treatments For Keratosis Pilaris

 As keratosis pilaris can be a long-term condition, you can use certain home care treatments after consultation with your child’s doctor.

  1. Short and warm baths might help unclog or loosen the pores of the skin. Do not let your children take longer baths, as they may strip the body’s natural oils.
  2. While giving a bath, gently exfoliate your child’s skin using a soft loofah or a slightly rough washcloth to remove the dead skin cells. Avoid over-scrubbing the skin as it might aggravate your child’s condition. Even natural sugar can be a mild exfoliant.
  3. Make it a habit to moisturize your child’s skin often to prevent it from becoming dry.
  4. If your teenager has started waxing or shaving, ask them to take a break from waxing until the symptoms subside, as waxing can cause a flare-up.
  5. Ensure your children do not wear tight clothes as it might cause friction and irritate the skin.
  6. Using a dehumidifier can help keep your child’s skin from drying. Also, instruct your children to drink a sufficient amount of water every day.
  7. Omega-3 fatty acids are said to be skin-friendly. Make sure you include these healthy fats in your child’s diet.

Keratosis pilaris is a harmless condition but could cause low self-esteem in children. They might feel embarrassed to go out in public. So, make sure you sit down and talk to your children about the condition. Also, it is important to establish a routine and take extra care during winters, as the condition might flare up during winters.

As with any skin care condition, consult with your physician if it is debilitating if uncomfortable. Always apply sunscreen to affected areas to prevent scarring and further irritation.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Keratosis pilaris; NHS UK
2. Keratosis Pilaris: Who Gets and Causes; American Academy of Dermatology Association
3. Keratosis Pilaris; Cleveland Clinic
4. Keratosis Pilaris (KP); Stanford Children’s Health

Recommended Articles