Keratosis pilaris


These guidelines have been produced to guide clinical decision making for general practitioners (GPs). They are not strict protocols. Clinical common-sense should be applied at all times. These clinical guidelines should never be relied on as a substitute for proper assessment with respect to the particular circumstances of each case and the needs of each patient. Clinicians should also consider the local skill level available and their local area policies before following any guideline.



Keratosis pilaris is a common but harmless condition which results in rough, bumpy papules on the upper arms, thighs and less commonly on the face and back.

It affects 50% to 80% of adolescents but can also occur in children and adults. It can often look more prominent in winter due to increased dryness of the skin and changes in humidity. In some cases, there can be underlying erythema, referred to as keratosis pilaris rubra.

Keratosis pilaris is, in most cases, a genetic condition and is more common in people with eczema. There is no cure for this condition. It often improves over time with no specific treatment needed.

Pre-referral management

Recommended treatment of keratosis pilaris, for people wanting to improve the appearance of their skin, is directed towards increasing the moisture of the skin and smoothing the appearance of the papules. This can be achieved by:

  • Regular moisturising and use of soap free washes.
  • Gentle regular exfoliation (e.g. with a face cloth).
  • Use of creams containing urea, salicylic acid, lactic acid or glycolic acid.

When to refer

Routine referral of keratosis pilaris to PCH Dermatology is unlikely to be needed.

Referral is warranted however if there is failure to conventional treatment listed above or if there is associated significant psychosocial impact. 

How to refer

  • Routine non-urgent referrals from a GP or a Consultant are made via the Central Referral Service
  • Routine non-urgent referrals from a nurse practitioner, non-medical referrers or private hospitals are made via the PCH Referral Office
  • Urgent referrals (less than seven days) are made via the PCH Referral Office. Please call PCH Switch on 6456 2222 to discuss with the relevant specialty registrar. 

Useful resources

Reviewer/Team:   Dr Stephanie Weston and Jemma Weidinger – Dermatology Department Last reviewed: Feb 2022

Review date: Feb 2025
Endorsed by:   Dermatology department Date:  Feb 2022

This document can be made available in alternative formats on request for a person with a disability.

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