White Bumps That Aren't Acne
Q: I'm not prone to acne-in fact, my skin is very dry. So I can't figure out why my arms and legs are covered with whitehead-like bumps. But they aren't filled with pus...I squeezed really hard to pop a few and tiny, hard "pearls" came out. What are these bumps, and how can I make them go away?
Dr. Donnica: It is impossible to diagnose skin conditions without seeing them, but it sounds like you're describing keratosis pilaris, a benign, genetic condition in which the overproduction of keratin (a skin protein) causes tiny hair follicles to become plugged, causing the appearance of rough bumps on the skin. Primarily, it appears on the back and outer sides of the upper arms, but can also occur on thighs and buttocks or any body part except palms or soles. There are several different types of keratosis pilaris: keratosis pilaris rubra (red, inflamed bumps), alba (rough, bumpy skin with no irritation), and rubra faceii (reddish rash on the cheeks). While there is no cure for keratis pilaris, keeping skin well-moisturized and clearing follicles of keratin may make bumps much less noticeable. To do: Gently exfoliate affected areas with a washcloth and a mild, non-drying cleanser. Then apply a lotion or cream containing urea (like Eucerin) or lactic acid (like AmLactin) to damp skin. These ingredients add moisture while dissolving the cellular glue that holds the keratin deposits together. You may quickly notice an improvement in your skin's appearance, but since topical treatments won't correct your underlying tendency to produce excess keratin, you'll need to keep this regimen up. If the area becomes inflamed, itchy or painful, consult a dermatologist. For further information (including photographs, more treatment tips, and an online support community), go to www.KeratosisPilaris.org.
Donnica Moore, MD
Created: 7/24/2006  - Donnica Moore, M.D.