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Stick ‘em Up! What’s with my arms? Could it be KP?

Irma wrote recently: “I have lots of unattractive little bumps on the outer part of my upper arms – I don’t like going sleeveless – sometimes they itch – they have a rough feel to them and resemble permanent goose bumps. What are they? Can I get rid of them?”

Most likely Irma has Keratosis Pilaris, a genetically-inherited harmless chronic skin condition that usually affects the outer sides of the upper arms or the back, and occasionally the thighs and buttocks. There is no cure but treatments are available.

The small rough bumps or plugs on the surface of the skin are very common, occurring in 40-50% of adult population and 50-80% of adolescents. Variable in severity from mild to severe and often confused with acne, this condition can be aggravated by stress, is worse in winter and other times of low humidity when skin dries out – and can worsen during pregnancy or show up after childbirth.

Variously referred to as “chicken skin” or “milk spots,” KP is due to buildup of keratin, the hard protein in skin, nails and hair, which forms and tends to re-form around hair follicles, necessitating on-going treatment.

Various treatment options are available. Many people experience very good temporary improvement by following a regular skin care program:


  • In the shower, use a battery-operated brush or a loofa (Body Pouf) to gently exfoliate, using care not to aggravate the condition by excessive rubbing.
  • Apply an Exfoliating Body Wash to remove rough, dry skin and help minimize the red bumps to reveal softer, smoother looking skin.
  • Apply a moisturizer/retexturizing body lotion with urea or propylene glycol (which softens dry skin), or ammonium lactate or an alpha hydroxy acid such as glycolic or lactic acid to soften the plugs and remove extra keratin.
  • Consider adding a type of Vitamin A (retinoid/retinol) to your program.

The specific program I would recommend to Irma is a Clarisonic sonic skin cleansing/exfoliating unit, and two complimentary products from Glytone: their Exfoliating Body Wash and their Retexturizing Body Lotion.