During the summer months, with your arms on display while wearing sleeveless clothing, many of our patients have noticed tiny red bumps on arms. Some people initially think that these little red bumps are caused by acne, but when they don’t go away over time, they realize that the bumps are not acne. Thankfully, these little red bumps on arms are not worrisome, though they can be frustrating. The bumps are caused by a common condition called keratosis pilaris.
Nearly 40-50% of the population has keratosis pilaris, with the severity ranging from very mild to very severe. It is more commonly seen in women than men. This asymptomatic rash (meaning that it doesn’t itch or burn) occurs when the skin overproduces keratin, which then becomes trapped in the skin’s follicles. The result is a bumpy rash, which can be either skin colored or reddish. The rash is only a cosmetic concern, so some people choose not to treat it. However, the treatments are fairly simple, so there is little reason not to treat the bumps if their appearance is unappealing to you! The treatments for the red bumps on arms, called keratosis pilaris, involves breaking up the extra tiny deposits of keratin in the follicles. Topical creams, such as urea, salicylic acid, lactic acid, and retinoids, can be applied nightly to smooth your arms. For cases of keratosis pilaris that are very red, a laser called the KTP laser can be used to diminish the appearance of redness on the arms. Keratosis pilaris (often referred to as KP) can appear nearly anywhere on the body; the most common areas for keratosis pilaris to present are the arms, thighs, buttocks, and face.