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How to Treat the Tiny Bumps on your Arms

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If you've noticed small bumps on your arms, thighs or cheeks, you may have a common dermatological condition called keratosis pilaris.

If you've noticed small bumps on your arms, thighs or cheeks, you may have a common dermatological condition called keratosis pilaris.

The condition affects up to 40 percent of the U.S. population, including people of all ages, races and sexes, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

The causes are genetic, and you may not be able to permanently rid yourself of the bumps, which are distinct from and not related to acne outbreaks. Still, with a treatment regimen, you can rid yourself of the visible and tactile elements of the condition.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms of keratosis pilaris are patches of rough, dry or bumpy skin on upper arms, the front of thighs or cheeks. These bumps look like goosebumps at a distance. More children contract the bumps on their cheeks than do adults.

On close examination, you can see the bumps are slightly raised, pink or red and may be surrounded by itchy lighter skin, according to the AAD.

The condition can worsen in winter or in dry months. The bumps are the result of dead skin that plugs hair follicles just under the top layer of skin in certain areas. When your skin is dry, more dead cells slough off. In predisposed individuals, the skin inconsistently sloughs and accumulates sebum and skin cells in these small pockets.

What causes the condition?

People who contract keratosis pilaris appear to have a genetic predisposition for the condition. Their direct family members may also present symptoms in the winter or in dry conditions, or year-round in more severe cases. The genetic component of keratosis pilaris is similar to other dermatological conditions, including acne.

Although many people think the bumps on their arms or thighs are some type of acne, the two conditions are mutually exclusive. In fact, individuals with keratosis pilaris tend to have less acne outbreaks, according to a study by dermatologist Juliano Schmitt.

Although the bumps are harmless, the itch or appearance can be bothersome.

Treatment to remove dead cells

Treating the causes and symptoms of keratosis pilaris can temporarily remove the bumps, but many people have to keep up a regimen of treatments to prevent the condition from recurring.

To eliminate dead skin cells from under the skin's surface, you can use mild acids found in over-the-counter or prescription creams (commonly used in facials) like alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid or salicylic acid, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Check the labels of any skin products you buy to find the type and concentration of the ingredients, or ask for a dermatologist's recommendation to pinpoint the products most likely to work for your specific condition.

Some people are tempted to buy stronger products on the internet, but these can be tampered with and can also be too strong for nonprofessionals to use by themselves. Use only dermatologically tested and FDA-approved products.

Treatment for dryness and itchiness

Next, you'll need to treat the associated redness and itch around the bumps. Although there are many moisturizers on the market, you'll want to use those that won't further irritate your skin. Many dermatologists recommend hypoallergenic options like Cetaphil or CeraVe. These brands also have anti-itch creams that can soothe the itch accompanying keratosis pilaris.

With consistent treatments to get rid of the dead skin cells and moisturize surrounding skin, you can keep skin affected by keratosis pilaris looking smoother and lighter in color. Although you may not be able to rid yourself of the condition, you can lessen its symptoms.

To learn more about keratosis pilaris or get a professional opinion on the best treatment options for your skin, visit Henghold Skin Health & Surgery Group at one of its Pensacola or Gulf Breeze locations.