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

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Keratosis pilaris on kids may cause dry and rough patches and tiny bumps on the skin. Although not harmful, these skin lesions may cause itching. The condition can often be seen on the face, neck, legs, thigh, and buttocks.

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition that falls under the realm of dermatology. The affected skin may have a chicken skin-like appearance and is often called “chicken skin.” Seek pediatric attention if you suspect keratosis pilaris in your child.

Read on to know the causes, symptoms, and treatment of keratosis pilaris on children.

In This Article

What Does Keratosis Pilaris Look Like?

The skin looks like you have goosebumps

Image: Shutterstock

Keratosis pilaris is a frequently occurring genetic disorder of follicular hyperkeratosis, characterized by the keratinization of hair follicles. 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. If these bumps provoke itching or irritation, they may result in redness and mild inflammation that may lead to scarring.

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?

The condition may occur secondary to eczema or atopic dermatitis

Image: IStock

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 dermatitisiXA condition that results in dry, itchy, and inflammatory skin in response to specific foods or medicines. (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

protip_icon Quick fact
Children being treated for melanomaiXSkin cancer that occurs in the cells, creating the pigment that gives the skin its color, characterized by spots. with the medication, vemurafenib (Zelboraf®), may have an increased risk of getting Keratosis pilaris (2).

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 back of the upper arms, shoulders, thighs, 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 in kids can make their skin dry and flaky

Image: IStock

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 acidiXAcids found in sugarcane, sour milk, and specific fruits and used in several skincare products. , salicylic acidiXAn organic compound used to exfoliate the skin, maintain clean pores, and prevent acne. , lactic acid, urea, or tretinoiniXA medicated topical cream used to treat acne, wrinkles, and sunburns. , which might reduce the bumps. Moisturizing the affected areas regularly by applying moisturizer may also help prevent it (4).

Sakina S. Bajowala, a mother, board-certified pediatrician, and allergist/immunologist, shares how she addresses keratosis pilaris for herself and her child. She writes, “I generally have great results with an over-the-counter lactic acid lotion twice daily and daily exfoliation with a warm wet washcloth (a new one every day, please — unless you like rubbing bacteria into your skin)… I have KP, and so does my three-year-old son. But you won’t find us hiding when the warm weather arrives! With good skin care, we’ll be ready for summer this year, and so will you! (i).”

protip_icon Quick fact
Topical retinoid cream (0.01% tazarotene) and glycolic acidiXAn alpha-hydroxy acid that comes from sugarcane and is used for the maintenance of healthy skin. peels may help reduce the appearance of keratosis pilaris (6).

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.
Moisurize the skin often

Image: Shutterstock

  1. 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.
  2. Ensure your children do not wear tight clothes as it might cause friction and consequent skin irritation.
  3. 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.
  4. Omega-3 fatty acids are said to be skin-friendly. Make sure you include these healthy fats in your child’s diet.
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To avoid irritating the skin, use a mild and fragrance-free cleanser (7).
Omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce Keratosis pilaris in kids

Image: Shutterstock

Frequently Asked Questions

1. At what age does keratosis pilaris disappear?

If a child develops keratosis pilaris in childhood, its symptoms will usually resolve by adolescence. However, occasional flare-ups may occur during puberty. On the other hand, if the condition develops during the teenage years, it will clear up when they reach their 20s (2).

2. Does diet affect keratosis pilaris in children?

Although scientific studies do not show the relationship between keratosis and diet, patients may be suggested to follow a gluten-free diet and consume more sources of essential fatty acids, such as fish and nuts, for relief from the condition (5).

3. Is there any way to make Keratosis Pilaris less noticeable in kids?

Daily skin care may help minimize the appearance of the bumps or make them less noticeable. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, this can be achieved by first gently exfoliating the affected skin (do not scrub) and then applying the recommended amount of the skin care product called keratolytic or chemical exfoliator, followed by an unscented, oil-free moisturizer (8).

Keratosis pilaris in kids occurs due to keratin build-up in skin pores. The otherwise harmless condition causes pale, scaly, and itchy bumps to appear on the skin. It usually does not require treatment and may fade away with age. However, it may be a cosmetic problem that can cause diminished confidence and low self-esteem in children and adolescents. Make sure you explain the condition to your child and help them establish a skin-care routine to keep it under control, especially in cold and dry weather conditions. Check with a dermatologist about suitable topical preparations or home remedies for managing the symptoms.

Key Pointers

  • Dry skin and tiny red or brownish-black bumps on the skin are signs of keratosis pilaris in children.
  • It could be seen as an additional condition in children with eczema.
  • To diagnose keratosis pilaris, a doctor would perform a physical examination and refer to the child’s medical and family history.
  • There is no treatment for keratosis pilaris, but the medications aim to reduce the symptoms.
  • Constant moisturizing, gentle skin exfoliation, and warm water baths may temporarily relieve the symptoms.

Know about over-the-counter treatments for keratosis pilaris in children. Discover which products may help reduce the appearance of bumps and redness.

Personal Experience: Source


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
5. Gluten Causes Keratosis Pilaris(a.k.a. “chicken skin”): Fact or Myth?; Celiac Community Foundation Of Northern California
6. Keratosis Pilaris; National Library of Medicine
7. How to treat keratosis pilaris at home; American academy of Dermatology
8. Keratosis Pilaris : Self-care; American academy of Dermatology

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