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keratosis pilaris black skin

Keratosis pilaris occurs when keratin, a protein that shields your skin against bacteria and infections, builds up in pores. It forms scaly plugs which clog hair follicles and give off an uneven tone to your complexion.

Keratosis pilaris can be especially prevalent on black skin, and can affect many parts of the body such as the thighs, buttocks, arms and face.

It’s a harmless skin condition that may cause small bumps to appear. They feel rough and dry like sandpaper.

Understanding Keratosis Pilaris in Black Skin

manage keratosis pilaris black

What is Keratosis Pilaris?

KP is a harmless non-inflammatory skin condition that causes tiny bumps that resemble plucked chicken skin or goosebumps on upper arms and thighs. It typically affects teens and adults but can also occur in children.

Skin types can be affected, though dry or irritated skin tends to get worse. It isn’t contagious and typically resolves by age 30.


Keratosis pilaris, also known as chicken skin or strawberry skin, is a harmless skin condition that affects an extremely small percentage of people. It causes small bumps to appear on armsthighs and other body areas.

Bumps on darker skin may appear brownish or black, while those on lighter complexions may be red or white. They usually feel rough and itchy like sandpaper when touched.

Keratosis pilaris can become worse with dry skin, particularly for those living in dry climates or who swim frequently throughout the year.

Keratosis pilaris is an inherited disorder, so your family history may influence whether or not you develop it. It can affect anyone at any age but is more common among women. A doctor can easily tell if you have it by looking at your skin and asking about any symptoms you experience.


If your skin tone is predominantly black, then you are more susceptible to keratosis pilaris. This condition causes small bumps on the upper arms, thighs (front), and occasionally cheeks.

These rough, red bumps are caused by dead skin cells clogged with keratin. They resemble goosebumps or the skin on a plucked chicken.

The condition tends to worsen in cold weather, but usually subsides during the warmer summer months. It can affect adults, adolescents, and children alike.

These bumps are generally harmless and don’t need treatment; however, if they cause you any discomfort or itching, consult a dermatologist.

To promote healing of your skin, exfoliate with a loofah or buff puff and moisturize. These steps will break up keratosis pilaris and replenish moisture levels in your skin.


Keratosis pilaris black skin cannot be cured, but treatments can help control its appearance. Dermatologists suggest a skin care routine that includes exfoliation to keep pores clear.

Retinoids: Topical retinoids have been known to be effective at speeding cell turnover and exfoliating dead skin cells that lead to clogged pores, while helping reduce redness and rashes.

Chemical Peels: Glycolic acid, salicylic acid and lactic acid are all effective treatments for keratosis pilaris. They’re safe to use on the face and can be used several times a week or more if necessary.

Microdermabrasion: Microdermabrasion is an intensive exfoliation treatment that uses crystals to remove the top layers of your skin, then uses suction pumps to absorb debris simultaneously. While this can be a highly effective remedy for rough bumps, it may cause slight bruising or swelling.

If you want to improve the appearance of keratosis pilaris, speak with your dermatologist about treatments that work best for you. A dermatologist can determine which option will provide maximum relief from symptoms.


Keratosis pilaris black skin can be prevented by moisturizing your skin and avoiding harsh soaps that dry it out. Additionally, talk to your healthcare provider about medications that help remove dead skin cells.

Topical exfoliants that contain alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid or urea can help improve your keratosis pilaris by exfoliating away dead skin cells. You can use these products daily for maximum benefit and reduced bump visibility.

Westbay suggests applying a moisturizer with ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid can improve skin hydration. She emphasizes the importance of selecting an oil-free moisturizer for best results.

Your dermatologist may suggest other medicines, such as retinoids that prevent hair follicles from getting blocked. Examples include tretinoin (Atralin, Renova and Retin-A), adapalene and tazarotene which may also prevent new keratosis pilaris from developing.

What is the Fastest Way to Eliminate Keratosis Pilaris?

keratosis pilaris black skin treatment

If you have this skin condition, there are several steps you can take to improve its appearance. Exfoliating helps remove dead cells and keeps pores clear.

Topical exfoliators containing alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid and lactic acid, or salicylic acid plus urea can be used to gently remove dead skin cells. You could also apply creams that contain antioxidants like retinol (Avita, Altreno, Renova and Retin-A) or tretinoin (Atralin, Avage and Tazorac).

If you suffer from dry skin, using a humidifier in your bedroom may help alleviate symptoms of keratosis pilaris. This will add moisture to the air and reduce patchiness on the surface of the skin, helping alleviate symptoms associated with this condition.

Eating a nutritious diet that includes fruitsvegetables and omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial for those suffering from keratosis pilaris. 

These foods supply essential vitamins and minerals necessary for proper skin cell growth, healing of lesions and hydration of your skin.

Keratosis pilaris diet should include plenty of anti-inflammatory food, like beets, green leafy veggies and berries. Additionally, these items can be infused with oils and herbs that reduce bump appearance.

Keratosis pilaris can be treated with creams that promote cell turnover and keep your hair follicles clear of dead skin cells. These typically come from vitamin A-containing products, like tretinoin (Atralin, Renova, Retin-A), as well as tazarotene (Avage and Tazorac).

Keratosis pilaris can affect people differently; some cases don’t require treatment at all while others do. People with dry skin or atopic dermatitis (an itchy type of skin condition) are particularly prone to developing this issue.

When To See A Doctor for KP?

keratosis pilaris

Some doctors suggest using exfoliating lotions, cleansers and scrubs that contain ingredients such as lactic acid, urea or alpha hydroxy acids to help remove the buildup of keratin in pores. These should be sprayed or applied onto affected skin several times daily and massaged in gently.

If the keratosis pilaris does not improve with these treatments, you may want to discuss with your doctor about prescription-strength moisturizers that contain hyaluronic acid and glycerin.

Keratosis pilaris can sometimes be improved with medicated vitamin A creams such as Retin-A. However, these creams tend to dry out the skin and cause irritation; thus they should not be used on children.

For a more natural approach, you can try using an oil-based cleanser such as AmLactin Lotion that contains ammonium lactate and jojoba wax beads to gently exfoliate skin. 

You could also try using tan colored body wash formulated with jojoba oil and other beneficial plant oils to hydrate skin.