ZocdocAnswersWhy do I seem to have some sort of acne on my arms?

Question

Why do I seem to have some sort of acne on my arms?

I'm a 21 year old college student who takes showers once daily in the morning. Over the last 4 months I have noticed frequent breakouts on my upper arms close to the shoulder. When it goes away there seems to be some minor scarring. Are there any medications that could help this problem. I've tried Clearasil Pads and they didn't seem to help.

Answer

I am almost certain that what you have going on here is something called keratosis pilaris. Keratosis pilaris is a benign, inherited condition in which the skin produces excess amounts of the skin protein keratain. This protein builds up in the outer layer of the skin and plugs up pores, much like acne also results from plugging of pores. The difference is that in keratosis pilaris the pores are plugged by keratin whereas in acnea they are plugged by other debris, oils, and bacteria. Although there is no cure for keratosis pilaris (and in fact if it does not bother you, you do not need to even treat it), based on the fact that it is similar in its development to acne, some of the same treatments will work to minimize how it looks. These can include regular exfoliation of the skin. Additionally you can talk to your primary care doctor about the possibility of using a tretinoin cream to increase the sloughing of the dead keratin and free up the pores. In more inflamed or itchy cases, a steroid cream may also be indicated. Started by talking to your primary care doctor or dermatologist, and they will help you pick the right treatment.

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