Dr. Langdon Answers:  Rough, bumpy skin on the back of the arms as well as the thighs and sometimes face can be caused by a condition called keratosis pilaris in which dead skin cells clog the hair follicles. This condition is both common and harmless, but its appearance can still be frustrating.

Keratosis pilaris is often genetic (runs in families). For many people it will disappear or greatly improve by the time they reach the age of 30. While it cannot be cured, the appearance of the skin can be significantly improved with care.

For at-home care, gentle exfoliants can help soften and smooth away even the driest, roughest, bumpiest skin. This may consist of medicated creams containing alpha-hydroxy, lactic or salicylic acid or urea to moisturize and soften dry skin while helping to loosen and remove dead skin cells. Of course, exfoliation should be followed by a good moisturizer. Over time, this can help improve the appearance of keratosis pilaris.

Here are some other tips that may help:

  • Avoid vigorous scrubbing, as this may irritate your skin and aggravate the condition.
  • Be gentle!  After washing or bathing, gently pat or blot your skin dry.
  • Use a moisturizing lotion or lubricating cream. While your skin is still moist from bathing, apply a moisturizer that contains urea or alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid. (These chemicals help to soften dry, rough skin.)
  • Try over-the-counter products containing lactic acid. Lactic acid helps remove extra keratin from the surface of the skin.
  • During drier months, consider a home humidifier to add moisture to the air inside your home.

While you can’t get rid of this condition permanently, a good skin care regimen with the right products will help reveal smoother, softer skin.

For recommendations on professional-grade home skin care products, contact The Langdon Center at 203-745-0340.