When keratin—a protein in the skin—builds up within the hair follicle, it can cause small, rough bumps to appear on your arms, thighs, butt, or face called keratosis pilaris (KP). Over-the-counter creams can help to exfoliate and calm inflammation due to KP, according to board-certified dermatologist, Emily Arch, MD.
The causes of keratosis pilaris are mostly genetic, and there is no cure. However, Arch notes that treatments can help manage symptoms especially when practiced daily. She says to look for creams that exfoliate and smooth out the texture of the skin with a blend of acids; two common ones are lactic and glycolic. Hyaluronic acid, glycerin, soothing shea butter and anti-inflammatory niacinamide are ingredients to look for to help reduce KP-associated inflammation.
To find the most effective over-the-counter KP treatments available, we tested out a handful of top-rated products, from skin-smoothing exfoliators to ultra-soothing moisturizers. Our testers used these products for weeks at a time, noting how well the product smoothed out bumps, calmed redness and irritation, and left skin supple and hydrated. Our team then combined these results along with our own research and dermatologist recommended picks to compile this list.
Ahead, find the best lotions for keratosis pilaris for limbs, hips, and face.
CeraVe SA Lotion for Rough & Bumpy Skin
Available at most major drugstores
Arch like that this formula exfoliates and hydrates, with a combination of salicylic acid and hyaluronic acid. It also contains three different skin-strengthening ceramides for barrier repair. It’s great for those who have KP and have really dry skin, who need both exfoliation as well as deep moisture, says Arch. The same active ingredients are in a heavier, cream variant as well, should you desire a thicker application.
Price at time of publish: $41
Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid, ceramides, hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 8 fluid ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
What Our Testers Say
"As someone who doesn’t always take the time to moisturize from the shoulders down post-shower, using this nightly has been a game-changer for my skin. Not only have the dry patches on my legs, elbows, and heels disappeared, but the texture on my back has started to smooth." — Bianca Lambert, Product Tester
Best With Lactic Acid
Perrigo Ammonium Lactate Lotion
Effective acid based formula
Exfoliating lotions that contain alpha-hydroxy acids are choice for helping to combat KP, says Arch; this particular formula touts a 12% concentration of lactic acid, one of the gentlest yet most effective AHAs out there. Plus, because it’s fragrance-free, it’s less likely to irritate skin that might already be red or inflamed from KP.
Price at time of publish: $33
Active Ingredients: Lactic acid | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 14 fluid ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
AmLactin Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion
May sting sensitive skin
Lactic acid is a key ingredient in this soothing exfoliating cream. “This lotion is always a favorite,” says Arch. “It’s a gentle exfoliating treatment that’s suitable for all skin types and has an appealing lightweight texture,” she adds, noting that you can use it either once or twice per day.
Dermatologist Nava Greenfield, MD of Schweiger Dermatology Group in Brooklyn, NY, is also a fan, noting that it’s very similar to a prescription cream she often recommends.
Price at time of publish: $16
Active Ingredients: Lactic acid | Skin Type: Dry, sensitive | Size: 8 fluid ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Extra Strength
Glytone KP Kit
Contains parabens and sulfates
For those with pretty intense KP, Arch suggests using an exfoliating body wash in the shower, followed by applying an exfoliating lotion. She’s a fan of this set, which contains both. “Even my patients who haven’t found relief with other over-the-counter products tend to respond well to this easy-to-use kit,” she says. Along with helping to combat bumps, the high glycolic content in this formula also helps to even out both skin tone and texture, she adds.
Price at time of publish: $69
Active Ingredients: Glycolic acid | Skin Type: Acne-prone, combination, dry, mature, balanced, oily, sensitive | Size: 6.7 ounces (body wash), 8.4 ounces (body lotion) | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Eucerin Roughness Relief Lotion
Doesn't contain glycolic acid
“This contains urea, another alpha-hydroxy acid that’s highly effective at breaking up keratin plugs and also helps the top layers of the skin retain moisture,” explains Arch. The addition of creamy shea butter to soften and hydrate dry spots makes this a soothing pick.
Price at time of publish: $12
Active Ingredients: Urea, shea butter | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 16.9 fluid ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Rich Formula
Skinfix Resurface+ AHA Renewing Cream
Arch says beta-hydroxy acids, such as salicylic, are highly effective on KP. This rich cream uses AHAs and willow bark extract (a natural alternative to salicylic acid) to do the exfoliating duties. It’s fragrance-free but still has a nice, naturally-derived scent.
Price at time of publish: $48
Active Ingredients: Coconut oil, shea butter, willow bark extract | Skin Type: All | Size: 10 fluid ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
First Aid Beauty KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub 10% AHA
Mini size available
Easy to use
Should be used in moderation
If you have KP, proceed with caution when using scrubs. Aggressive physical exfoliation can cause KP to become inflamed and ultimately worsen the condition, warns Arch.
One exception to the rule: this formula. “The gentle physical exfoliators are combined with both glycolic acid and lactic acid for simultaneous chemical exfoliation, and the formula is nourishing to avoid irritation, she says.
Price at time of publish: $30
Active Ingredients: Glycolic and lactic acids | Skin Type: All | Size: 2 fluid ounces, 8 fluid ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
What Our Editors Say
"This scrub is intense. Packed with AHAs and BHAs, I use it twice a week to keep my KP and body acne in check. Nothing makes my skin quite as smooth, but if you have sensitive skin, make sure to use it sparingly." — Kathryn Vandervalk, Editorial & Strategy Director
Best Lightweight Hydration
Oui The People Featherweight Hydrating Body Gloss
Easily absorbs within seconds
Hydrates and calms inflamed skin
A combination of soothing lightweight oils, including avocado and rosehip deliver collagen boosting properties, leaving skin with KP glossy. Reviewers note the weightless texture felt great on rough patches on the backs of arms and elbows. Squalane helps to exfoliate in a gentle, and hydrating way, without any irritation.
Price at time of publish: $65
Active Ingredients: Squalane | Skin Type: All | Size: 3.3 fluid ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Our best overall pick is CeraVe's SA Lotion for Rough & Bumpy Skin a clinically proven drugstore pick that combines salicylic and hyaluronic acid to exfoliate and hydrate the skin. Another drugstore favorite is Eucerin's Roughness Relief Lotion, which contains urea, an alpha-hydroxy acid that’s highly effective at breaking up keratin plugs.
Meet the Expert
- Emily Arch, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Dermatology + Aesthetics in Chicago. She specializes in general and medical dermatology with an emphasis on inflammatory skin conditions.
- Nava Greenfield, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in Brooklyn, NY. She’s been published in many medical journals and is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, Women’s Dermatologic Society, and the American Medical Association.
What to Look For
When it comes to an effective treatment for keratosis pilaris, Greenfield says to look for formulas that contain keratolytic ingredients, which help break apart the keratin buildup on skin cells and allow for exfoliation to take place. “Ingredients like glycolic acid, ammonium lactate, and lactic acid provide this benefit while also restoring the optimal pH of the skin for healthy functioning,” she says. Urea and retinoids are also common keratolytic ingredients used in KP treatments.
Non-Comedogenic, Oil-Free, and Fragrance-Free Formulas
Look for formulas that are both oil-free and non-comedogenic. This way, you can rest easy knowing your treatment won't end up causing more clogged hair follicles or pores—or worse, bring acne and blemishes into the mix. Also, look for fragrance-free formulas since fragrance can further irritate rough and bumpy skin.
Dry skin can further exacerbate KP, so opt for formulas that'll hydrate the skin in addition to treating it. Look for lightweight, humectant moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin, which bind moisture to the skin without clogging pores or leaving behind a greasy residue.
What causes keratosis pilaris?
Greenfield explains that keratosis pilaris is a condition where dead skin—particularly keratin, builds up around hair follicles instead of being naturally exfoliated away. “This causes small, rough bumps to appear around the hair follicles,” she says. It’s not entirely clear why this buildup of keratin occurs, but it’s thought to be associated with genetic diseases or skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis. Dry skin also tends to intensify the symptoms of keratosis pilaris.
Is keratosis pilaris easy to treat?
Unfortunately, Greenfield says that keratosis pilaris is actually quite difficult to treat. “There are many products that will improve the appearance of keratosis pilaris if used consistently twice daily for a few months at a time, but this is oftentimes difficult for someone to do,” she says. “The results may also not be a complete resolution of the symptoms, but rather just an improvement.”
Does keratosis pilaris itch?
Greenfield says that keratosis pilaris may be itchy for some, but for the most part, people only find it to be “cosmetically annoying.”
How We Researched & Tested
To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. Our team also incorporated their own personal experiences testing products in their own lives. We then used these insights from our research and testing to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. For this roundup, she considered dozens of lotions, evaluating each on its ability to exfoliate and hydrate skin affected with keratosis pilaris. We tested out a handful of top-rated products, noting how well the product smoothed out bumps, calmed redness and irritation, and left skin supple and hydrated. Our team then combined these results along with our own research and dermatologist recommended picks to compile this list.
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