What Is Keratosis Pilaris During Pregnancy?

Keratosis pilaris (or chicken skin) is a common condition that causes tiny, painless bumps on the skin. These bumps are usually found on the upper arms, thighs, cheeks, and buttocks. 

The exact cause of keratosis pilaris is usually unknown. The tiny skin bumps are hair follicles plugged by dead skin cells. Hormonal changes during pregnancy may increase the risk of keratosis pilaris.

This article discusses keratosis pilaris during pregnancy and how to treat it. 

A healthcare provider examines the skin of a pregnant person.

Burger/Getty Images

Types of Skin Conditions During Pregnancy 

Hormonal changes during pregnancy may lead to a variety of skin changes. Many pregnant individuals report changes in their skin, nails, and hair at some point during the prenatal or postnatal periods. 

Possible skin changes during pregnancy may include:

Signs / Symptoms of Keratosis Pilaris 

Keratosis pilaris is a common, harmless skin condition that usually resolves on its own. This condition does not cause pain or itching and is not contagious. 

Common signs and symptoms of keratosis pilaris include:

  • Tiny, painless bumps
  • Goosebump-like bumps
  • Dry, rough patches of skin
  • Pink skin or redness 
  • Patches of skin that feel like sandpaper 


Keratosis pilaris is caused by a build-up of keratin on the skin. Keratin is a protein in the hair that protects the skin from infection. When this protein builds up on the skin's surface, it causes the hair follicle to become clogged. This leads to tiny bumps that appear like goosebumps. 

It is unknown why some pregnant individuals experience a build-up of keratin while others do not. Those with a history of dry skin may be at an increased risk of keratosis pilaris. 


Keratosis pilaris is diagnosed by a physical exam by your healthcare provider. There is no diagnostic test to detect keratosis pilaris. Your healthcare provider can make a diagnosis based on the appearance of your skin and your description of your symptoms. 


Keratosis pilaris usually resolves on its own. There is no known prevention or cure for keratosis pilaris, but it can be treated. 

Keratosis pilaris is typically treated with chemical exfoliant creams. These creams remove dead skin cells from the skin's surface. This helps to clear out the clogged hair follicles and resolve the irritation. 

However, most chemical exfoliants are not recommended during pregnancy. The skin changes during pregnancy can cause your skin to become more sensitive and dry.

Keratosis Pilaris Treatments to Avoid

During your pregnancy, avoid the following skin treatments:

  • Retinols treat keratosis pilaris by helping the skin shed old cells. However, retinol creams, retinoids, and treatments are not considered safe during pregnancy. They can lead to birth defects.
  • Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant that clears pores and helps to remove dead skin cells. It can be used in pregnancy in small quantities that are washed off quickly. Even though salicylic acid can be used in pregnancy, it is generally not recommended because it could increase the risk of possible birth defects.

To treat keratosis pilaris during pregnancy, focus on gentle ways to remove dead skin cells, dirt, and oil from the skin's surface. Gentle exfoliation methods include gently massaging the skin with a loofah or washcloth. Avoid scrubbing the skin. This could lead to more irritation and worsened symptoms. 

After exfoliating your skin, it's important to moisturize to prevent dryness. Choose a quality moisturizer and use it daily. Using a humidifier at home may also help your skin to retain its moisture.

Risk Factors

Possible risk factors of keratosis pilaris include:


To cope with keratosis pilaris during pregnancy, focusing on taking good care of your skin is helpful. Use a daily moisturizer and avoid any harsh soaps or detergents. Hot baths and showers can dry out the skin, so keep the water warm and limit your time in the tub to 10 minutes or less.

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

Talk with your healthcare provider if you suspect you’re experiencing keratosis pilaris. Pregnancy can cause several skin conditions, so it’s best to alert your healthcare provider of any changes. 


Keratosis pilaris is a benign skin condition that causes tiny, painless bumps on the skin. The bumps are caused by hair follicles clogged with dead skin cells. The hormonal changes during pregnancy may raise the risk of keratosis pilaris. It is usually treated with a chemical exfoliant cream, but many of these creams are unsafe during pregnancy. Talk with your healthcare provider about safe ways to exfoliate and moisturize your skin.

A Word From Verywell 

Pregnancy can be an overwhelming time of rapid change. You may be surprised at how different your hair, nails, or skin have become. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have recently developed symptoms of keratosis pilaris. While many treatments are unsafe during pregnancy, there are still steps that you can take to treat skin dryness and bumps. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does keratosis pilaris look like?

    Keratosis is sometimes called “chicken skin” and appears as goosebumps. The tiny bumps may be skin-colored, pink, red, or brown. They are usually painless and do not itch.

  • What keratosis pilaris treatments are safe during pregnancy?

    The typical treatment for keratosis pilaris is a chemical exfoliant cream that contains retinol or salicylic acid. These creams are unsafe during pregnancy because they may lead to birth defects. Talk with your healthcare provider about safe ways to exfoliate your skin during pregnancy.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. MedlinePlus. Keratosis pilaris.

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  4. Jackson JB, Touma SC, Norton AB. Keratosis pilaris in pregnancy: an unrecognized dematosis of pregnancy? W V Med J. 2004;100(1):26-28.

  5. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Skin conditions during pregnancy.

  6. Kumari R, Jaisankar TJ, Thappa DM. A clinical study of skin changes in pregnancy. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2007;73(2):141. doi:10.4103/0378-6323.31910

  7. Zasada M, Budzisz E. Retinoids: Active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments. Advances in Dermatology and Allergology/Postȩpy Dermatologii i Alergologii. 2019;36(4):392. doi:10.5114/ada.2019.87443

  8. Bozzo P, Chua-Gocheco A, Einarson A. Safety of skin care products during pregnancy. Canadian Family Physician. 2011;57(6):665.

By Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH
Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH, is a health writer with over a decade of experience working as a registered nurse. She has practiced in a variety of settings including pediatrics, oncology, chronic pain, and public health.