How to get rid of small red bumps at the top of your arms: What is the condition?

Many people will find they have small bumps at the top of their arms and may in the past have put this down to sensitive skin. But these bumps are actually linked to a health condition – keratosis pilaris. This is a harmless condition that can last for a long time, but it may eventually clear up by itself. The British Skin Foundation says the condition may be present in half the population.

The small red bumps on your skin are actually linked to a health condition known as keratosis pilaris

It says it affected 50 to 70 per cent of adolescents and approximately 40 per cent of adults.

But why does it appear?

The UK skin charity explains: “Keratosis pilaris appears when extra keratin accumulates in the hair follicles. This usually starts in childhood and becomes more obvious during adolescence and in adulthood.

“For reasons not fully understood the condition seems to be better in the summer than in the winter perhaps because in winter the skin often gets dry while in summer the sweat makes it less dry.

“Keratosis pilaris may be associated with ichthyosis vulgaris and atopic eczema, however this may be coincidental.”

What are the symptoms of keratosis pilaris?

The Mayo clinic outlines the following symptoms:

  • Painless tiny bumps, typically on the upper arms, thighs, cheeks or buttocks
  • Dry, rough skin in the areas with bumps
  • Worsening when seasonal changes cause low humidity and skin tends to be drier
  • Sandpaper-like bumps resembling goose flesh

The bumps can be red, white, skin-toned or darker than your skin, according to the NHS, and sometimes skin can feel itchy.

Should you see a doctor?

Treatment isn’t necessary for keratosis pilaris, but if you are concerned about the appearance of your skin you should consult your GP.

If you can’t speak to your GP and don’t know what to do next you can call 111.

How to get rid of keratosis pilaris

While the condition may eventually clear up by itself after a number of years, there are things you can do to help improve the appearance of your skin, says the NHS.

You should:

  • Moisturise your skin – ask pharmacist what’s most suitable for you
  • Use mild and unperformed soaps and bathing products
  • Gently scrub your skin with washcloth or exfoliating mitt
  • Have a cool or lukewarm showers and baths
  • Pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it after washing

You should not:

  • Use perfumed soaps or bathing products that can dry out your skin
  • Use harsh scrubs on your skin – this can make it worse
  • Not have hot baths or showers
  • Not scratch, pick or rub your skin

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