What is Keratosis Pilaris Cream?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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Keratosis pilaris cream is a skincare product designed for the treatment of keratosis pilaris, a genetic skin condition that causes rough red bumps to appear on the upper arms and legs. This skin condition is very common, especially among women and young adults. While it is usually not harmful, it can be aesthetically unpleasing and some patients feel reluctant to show their arms or legs because of the distinctive spots and rough skin. Keratosis pilaris creams can help smooth the skin and even out the color.

KP, as keratosis pilaris is sometimes known, is characterized by overproduction of keratin. The keratin builds up inside the pores and prevents the hairs from exiting as they grow. The result is rough skin. The skin is also commonly dry and can become flaky. In some patients, the bumps develop infections and become inflamed and painful.

There are several products that can be used to treat keratosis pilaris, including specially made keratosis pilaris cream, as well as generic skincare products. Doctors generally recommend starting with moisturizers and exfoliants. Alpha hydroxy acids and urea can be included in a keratosis pilaris cream to smooth the skin and provide rich penetrating moisture. These creams are available over the counter at many drug stores and people should look for a product that is specifically designed not to block pores.


Prescription keratosis pilaris cream can suppress the activity of the immune system with steroids to slow the rate of cell turnover, which reduces production of keratin. This helps to prevent the keratin from building up. Other medications can encourage the upper layers of the skin to turn over cells more quickly, bringing the underlying keratin to the surface of the skin. Initially, keratosis pilaris may appear worse with such creams, but over time, the bumps will start to resolve.

A keratosis pilaris cream will not cure the condition, because it is genetic. However, regular use of a cream can minimize the appearance of keratosis pilaris. Creams can also be used to support chemical peels and dermabrasion, treatments sometimes recommended to remove the upper layers of the skin. These treatments are expensive to commit to for life, but patients can stretch the time between treatments with a keratosis pilaris cream to keep the KP under control. A dermatologist can provide advice and assistance for a patient struggling to manage keratosis pilaris and this can include prescribing medications to address inflammation, infection, and rough skin which does not respond to over the counter medications.


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