Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

No single treatment universally improves keratosis pilaris. Most options, including self-care measures and medicated creams, focus on softening the keratin deposits in the skin.

Treatment of keratosis pilaris can include the following medications:

  • Topical exfoliants. Medicated creams containing alpha-hydroxy acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid or urea moisturize and soften dry skin while helping to loosen and remove dead skin cells. Depending on their strength, certain creams are available over-the-counter and others require a prescription. Your doctor can advise you on the best option for your skin. The acids in these creams may cause redness, stinging or skin irritation. For that reason, topical exfoliants aren't recommended for young children.
  • Topical retinoids. Derived from vitamin A, retinoids work by promoting cell turnover and preventing the plugging of the hair follicle. Retinoids may be an effective treatment, but they can cause bothersome skin irritations, such as severe dryness, redness and peeling. Tretinoin (Retin-A, Renova, Avita) and tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac) are examples of topical retinoids. If you're pregnant or nursing, your doctor may opt to delay topical retinoid therapy or choose an alternative treatment.
  • Laser therapy. Certain types of keratosis pilaris involving severe redness and inflammation have been successfully treated with laser therapy. Laser treatment involves passing intense bursts of light into targeted areas of skin. This type of treatment may require repeat sessions over the course of a few months, depending on your response.

Using a medication regularly may improve the appearance of your skin. But if you stop, the condition returns. And even with medical treatment, keratosis pilaris tends to persist for years.

Jan. 08, 2013