Keratosis Pilaris Rash Treatments

A child getting moisturizer applied to her cheeks.
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Keratosis pilaris is a common rash that often occurs on a child's cheeks, upper arms, and thighs. It often is worse in the winter, when a child's skin will feel rough and dry with small red bumps.

Children get keratosis pilaris when their hair follicles fill up with dead skin cells and scales instead of exfoliating normally.

What It Looks Like

Children with keratosis pilaris will have small, scaly, red or flesh colored bumps on both cheeks, upper arms, and/or thighs. It can even occur on a child's back and buttocks.

Although the rash feels rough, like sandpaper, it typically isn't itchy, making keratosis pilaris a mostly cosmetic issue.


Although treatment isn't always necessary, it may help to use an exfoliating moisturizer, like Eucerin Intensive Repair Rich Lotion for Very Dry Skin (contains urea and lactic acid) or over-the-counter strength LacHydrin lotion (contains 5% lactic acid).

It can also help to:

  • Use a soap substitute, like Dove or Cetaphil, instead of a harsh soap
  • Wash with an exfoliating sponge or sonic care brush
  • Get a prescription for LacHydrin 12% cream
  • Get a prescription for a topical retinoid cream, such as Retin-A or Tazorac
  • Get a prescription for a topical steroid cream if the rash is very red, rough, and bumpy

Even with proper treatment, which might include some combination of the above prescription creams, you can expect your child's rash to come back at times. Fortunately, keratosis pilaris does seem to eventually go away when kids get older.

Bottom Line

Keratosis pilaris is a common rash that is hard to treat and lasts a long time. Since it is mostly cosmetic and may eventually go away on its own, don't go overboard trying to treat it.

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Article Sources

  1. Poskitt L, Wilkinson JD. Natural history of keratosis pilaris. Br J Dermatol. 1994;130(6):711-3. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.1994.tb03406.x

  2. Hwang S, Schwartz RA. Keratosis pilaris: a common follicular hyperkeratosis. Cutis. 2008;82(3):177-80.

Additional Reading

  • Kearney et al. Efficacy and safety of a sonic skin care brush on keratosis pilaris. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 68, Issue 4, Supplement 1, April 2013, Page AB49.

  • Pediatric Dermatology (Fourth Edition) 2013.

  • Bogle et al. Tazarotene 0.05% cream for the treatment of keratosis pilaris1 Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 50, Issue 3, Supplement, March 2004, Page P39.