Conditions & Treatments

Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin disorder characterized by small, pointed pimples.

Keratosis Pilaris

What is keratosis pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin disorder characterized by small, pointed pimples. The pimples usually appear on the upper arms, thighs, and buttocks. The condition worsens in the winter and usually clears up in the summer. Keratosis pilaris has no known cause, but tends to run in families.

This disorder does not get worse over time. It is harmless, and often disappears as the person ages. 

Treatment for keratosis pilaris

Usually no treatment is necessary for keratosis pilaris, since it normally clears up by itself. Treatment may include:

  • Using petroleum jelly with water, cold cream, or salicylic acid (which removes the top layer of skin) to flatten the pimples

  • Using a tretinoin cream (a drug which is chemically related to vitamin A) 

Contact your health care provider if the condition does not respond to over-the-counter moisturizing lotions. Since this is a common, harmless skin condition, you can also discuss it during a routine office visit. 

Treatment Programs


Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients' health care decisions. That's just one reason why we're dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.

Select a treatment program for more information:



Department of Dermatology

  • The Medical Dermatology Program
    The Medical Dermatology program at Massachusetts General Hospital is a full-service dermatology practice that provides care for all skin, hair and nail conditions.

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