Skip to main content

Keratosis Pilaris - Or, Why My Kid Looks Like a Plucked Chicken

The skin is the body's largest organ. The condition of the skin is, in many ways, a window into our internal health. Therefore, it is only natural that people become immediately concerned by rashes. We often neglect our own elevated blood pressure, achey joints, or other ailments. The onset of a new rash, on the other hand, can quickly lead to a call to the doctor.

Interestingly, there is one rash I see in my practice which rarely causes alarm among patients and parents. In fact, it is common for a parent to state, "Oh, that? His sister has that too. In fact, so do I!"

Keratosis Pilaris is a common, heritable disorder which results in small bumps consisting of accumulated skin cells and keratin at the sites of hair follicles. It is especially common in people who have a history of allergies.
Although it can be mildly itchy, the rash generally does not cause discomfort. Commonly described as "gooseflesh", keratosis pilaris can be a concern cosmetically, leading to the avoidance of short sleeves or shorts (upper arms and thighs/calves are common locations for the rash). When it appears on the face, it can be confused with acne. If scratched and irritated, the bumps can become red and inflamed. In individuals with darker complexions, the bumps can take on a dark brown appearance, leading one to appear altogether polka-dotted.

Because they have lived with the rash of KP for so long, many patients are surprised to find that there are effective treatments. 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). One note of caution: I do not recommend applying lactic acid lotion to broken/scratched skin, as it can cause significant burning. As with any health care regimen, consistency is key. With regular attention, smooth skin can be yours again.

I speak from experience - I have KP, and so does my 3 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!


  1. My 20 month old daughter has this in the most common places - upper arm, thighs and calves. Keeping those ares moisturized helps. I'll have to try your treatment recommendation. I used to have this, but since I cut out milk years ago I haven't noticed it at all. I didn't have a known milk allergy, but now I wonder if I was sensitive and was reacting at least in one way with KP.

    Thanks for this!

    1. You're right. Moisturization and exfoliation are the keys to keeping KP under control. I haven't seen research connecting food allergy and KP, but I'll keep your experience in mind. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Um, what lactic acid lotion do you use? My son has this on the back of his arms and I did not realize that I have to use a different washcloth. thanks for the post!!! Tracy

    1. I use a 12% OTC lotion. The one on my counter right now is called AmLactin. It works beautifully. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Is it safe to use products like AmLactin on children under 2? I have KP as well as my husband so I am not surprised that my son has it as well. I have it on my arms and a little on my upper thighs. My husband's is worst than mine. His is on his arms and back. However, my 22 month started getting KP like rashes on his face when he was only 5 or 6 months old and since then it has spread to his arms and legs ( not in one isolated area) and now is on his back. I've noticed that cutting out dyes and fragrances hasn't really helped and I moisturize his skin every night before bed. I would love to try AmLactin if it's safe for him.

    1. Drea, Please check with your pediatrician before using any of these OTC products on your little one. It isn't that common to get KP all over your back, so it will be important to confirm the cause of rash with your child's doctor before treating it.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Thank you for the information! My son was diagnosed with this but the doctor said their was nothing that could be done about it. I am definitely going to try the AmLActin.

  6. Thank you for blogging about KP! My 3 year old son has KP and his wonderful pediatrician recommended we use AmLactin. After much research we decided to give it a shot! I went on and got a $3 off coupon that i just used at the store. :) Cant wait to see results on our handsome little guy :)

  7. I just went to an allergist and he advised me to cut out all lotions - vaseline only while we figure out the true causes of my allergies. Would AmLactin be safe during this time?


Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to comment on this blog's posts! Let's keep the discussion engaging and free of frivolous advertising or vulgarity. It's a family show, folks!

Popular posts from this blog

When Food Allergy Treatments are Sensationalized, it is the Allergist's Role to Bring Us All Back Down to Earth

Sharing a recent post from my practice Facebook page, in response to concerns raised by the recent publication of a meta analysis on anaphylaxis rates during food allergen oral immunotherapy:
I hope my comments are helpful at proving some context for patients currently pursuing or consider food allergen desensitization therapy. 
I am a non-alarmist by nature, and feel it is 100% possible to integrate new data without falling prey to the sensationalization of these publications by the media. It is frustrating to read in the news one day, "Researchers find CURE for peanut allergies!" (WRONG!!!) and the next day read "Experimental treatment for food allergy causes more life-threatening reactions than avoidance!" (Hmmm...a bit misleading). No nuance, no thoughtfulness, no concern for the impact of such a black & white approach to a decidedly grey issue. And why would there be? Nuance …

Why Drug Allergies Matter (Or Why Penicillin Allergy is Responsible for My Son's Lopsided Neck)

My 6 year son old just got over a rite of passage - strep throat and scarlet fever. Unfortunately, before we could even celebrate his recovery, I noticed a swelling on the left side of his neck. It was red and tender, and it was GROWING. The pediatrician in me worried, "Damn. Lymphadenitis (infected lymph node)". No sooner had we finished one course of antibiotics than we were onto another, and the side effects were bad enough to keep him out of school for another three days.

Why did my munchkin suffer so? My answer: Drug allergy.

Group A streptococcal bacteria (the cause of strep throat and scarlet fever) is remarkably sensitive to penicillin. Penicillin is the first choice treatment for strep throat, and has been proven to reduce the risk of developing rheumatic fever, a post-infectious complication which can result in chronic heart disease.

Problem is, my son is allergic to antibiotics in the penicillin family. At 11 months of age (8 days into his second ever course of am…