Keratosis Pilaris

by Allergy Guy

Keratosis Pilaris | Allergy Symptom

Keratosis pilaris is a skin condition, where the skin on the back and outer sides of the upper arms are rough and bumpy.  It can also appear almost anywhere else on the body, especially on the thighs and tops of legs.  It does not generally occur on palms or soles of feet.

It can be related to an allergy, including a gluten allergy.

Keratosis pilaris is also called chicken skin because it resembles goose bumps.  Many people are unaware they have this condition, confusing it with acne, especially when it appears on the face.

There are several types of keratosis pilaris:

Keratosis pilaris rubra red, inflamed bumps

Keratosis pilaris alba rough, bumpy skin with no irritation

Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii reddish rash on the cheeks

The condition can become more of an irritated rash.  Scratching it can make is spread.

It affects an estimated 40% of the adult population, and up to 80% of adolescents.

Keratosis pilaris is causes by an excess of keratin (a skin pigment) in the body.  The excess keratin a cream coloured substance, collects in the hair follicles, blocking them and forming hard plugs.  You can feel this as hard bumps.

Dry conditions make it worse, which is why it is often worse in the winter.

No medically accepted cause is known, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it can be related to diet and allergies in some cases.

Some people find that gluten may be a trigger, caused by a gluten allergy or by celiac.  In this case, a gluten free diet will clear up the keratosis pilaris problem, along with many other symptoms.


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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Olivia March 4, 2017 at 12:12

please can someone help me, I have Keratosis Pilaris quite bad on my upper arms and a similar condition on my face eyebrows and upper lip, whenever I go swimming it always inflames and go’s really red, its embarrassing and puts me off going which is a shame as I love to swim. Any suggestions on how I can deal with this, please let me know! thank you x

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2 kathleen August 19, 2013 at 09:43

My 11 year old has always had Keratosis pilaris Arms, chest and cheeks. She also was getting pimples and white heads on her face for years. I took her off wheat 5 days ago and it is almost gone completely. I had her tested for Celiac 2 years ago as my nephew has it, but it came back negative. I suspect this is just a wheat sensitivity. We are both now on a gluten free diet!

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3 Allergy Guy August 19, 2013 at 12:20

Great news that you found the problem! Some celiac tests may not always provide an accurate result, but it doesn’t really matter if she sticks to a gluten free diet.

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4 Jean E July 20, 2012 at 10:52

I have been gluten free for 17 days. I was tested 2 years ago and told that I didnt have any problems with gluten. Meanwhile I suffered stomach pain, upper ab bloating,IBS, rashes, joint pain, extreme hot flashes that radiated for my stomach outward, depression and the last thing that broke the camels back was eye swelling and redness. Within 2 days of being gluten free my stomach issues completely disappeared as well as the hot flashes and joint pain. The rashes and eyes are taking a little longer but I see improvement everyday. Ive also lost 4 pounds!!!!

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5 Christina March 17, 2012 at 11:04

I have had kp as long as I can remember on the tops of my arms and legs. I found out a had a gluten intolerance wheN I had latent food allergy testing conducted by a holistic doctor.

I went completely gluten free and completely vegan and stayed that way for almost two years. I was VERY strict about avoiding gluten that entire time as well as dairy, eggs and meat (taking my own food almost everywhere and not really eaing out much). While it helped other issues I had, I did not see any difference at all in my kp. So, the gluten allergy/gluten free eating does not remove kp for everyone.

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6 Allergy Guy March 17, 2012 at 17:20

If only it were as simple as X symptom = Y problem! Too bad eliminating gluten doesn’t solve the kp problem for you.

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7 Gretchen January 27, 2012 at 22:56

My 10 year old daughter has terrible KP on her face. She’s had it since about age 2 but it has recently gotten much worse. I’m worried about her going into her teen years with this and being teased. I am gluten free and have been for a year because of joint pain & high inflammation levels and feel so good that I’m not even tempted by foods that I used to love. I took my daughter off gluten last year for 6 weeks and didn’t notice any difference at all with the KP. It sounds like from this forum that maybe I didn’t give it long enough? We never cheated, but one time I made a mistake and let her have chicken nuggets. But if she didn’t get any better at all in those 6 weeks do you think it’s even worth trying again for a min of 8 weeks? Do you think gluten sensitivity or allergy (or whatever I have) could be genetic but present differently in her? How likely would a dairy allergy be with KP in your opinion?

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8 Allergy Guy January 28, 2012 at 15:03

That sucks for your daughter has KP on her face.

You say you had her on a gluten free diet for 6 weeks, but that you made a mistake with chicken nuggets. The clock got reset to zero at that point, so you didn’t really have her on a six week diet. When in the diet did that occur? Can you be sure she was 100% gluten free when she wasn’t under your protective loving gaze? Kids can be kids for one thing, and someone else may have made mistakes along the way also.

It would be worth for both of you to be tested for celiac disease. Celiac disease is genetic and not everyone has the same symptoms, even though most people have a range of typical gluten allergy symptoms. Gluten allergy is another matter altogether. I can’t tell you if it is genetic or not, but symptoms do vary widely between people.

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9 Gretchen February 5, 2012 at 01:30

The mistake I made with the chicken nuggets was probably about half way through. I didn’t realize I should have started over at that point. I will keep that in mind.

I homeschool my daughter and she is rarely ever without me or her dad so I was 99% sure she was gluten free even out of my sight.

I was tested for Celiac disease a few years ago when I started having some intestinal problems and it was negative.

I’m thinking at this point I should take her off gluten again, but this time I’ll start over if I make another mistake. Would you suggest that we do dairy and gluten at the same time, or take her off one at a time to see how she does?

Thank you so much for your help. It’s comforting to know people understand and can give advice about a condition like this. I appreciate your help!!

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10 Allergy Guy February 7, 2012 at 09:01

If your celiac test was a biopsy type, then a negative result doesn’t mean you don’t have it. Depending on how severe your case is and where they take the biopsy, they can miss it.

So you may or may not have celiac. Still, you could have a gluten allergy so if a gluten free diet works for you, the celiac test doesn’t matter.

Yes, take her off gluten and dairy at the same time. Plus anything else you suspect. Multiple food allergies are common.

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11 Gretchen Tripp March 4, 2012 at 14:55

I think I just need some encouragement! I took my daughter off gluten 3 weeks ago and things were going well, until yesterday when she accidentally had regular waffles instead of the gluten-free waffles I bought her. Her face has not gotten any better since we started but actually got a little bit worse after about a week of being GF. Strange, but I thought maybe the toxins are leaving her body and it might get worse before it gets better. Anyway, she and her dad both don’t want to reset the clock since her mess up. My husband thinks if we haven’t seen any improvement in the 3 weeks then it probably isn’t going to work. My daughter is just frustrated (10 yr. old) because it’s hard to be GF and doesn’t want to start over. I wouldn’t quit just because she wants to because I know this could be a really good thing for her in the end, but with my husband’s attitude on top of hers I’m just not sure if I should keep doing this. Keep in mind, we tried this last year for 6 weeks with one mistake (I know you said it wasn’t truly 6 weeks because of the mistake, but from the perspective of actually being GF, it was 6 weeks with NO improvement). So, any words of encouragement to help me along the way? I would love to hear how long it took some of the other readers on here to notice a difference. If people say it took longer than 3 weeks to see even a tiny improvement, that will help me forge through. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks!

12 Corrine January 4, 2012 at 00:24

I have battled with KP my whole life and I have a very severe case…which is almost all over my body and my face :(. I am happy to finally say that I have been on a gluten free diet and finally, finally I am actually seeing results on my skin. I was concerned with the time that it was taking to fully clear but after reading the comments it seems I will probably have to wait another month and no cheat days. Ive noticed the supermarkets are very supportive of this diet…at least in my area. I can get gluten free pastas, cereal, cake/cookie mix and rice flour. The products are not hard to find and I cant really tell the difference. There are also great websites that tell you what you can and cant eat on the diet along with recipe ideas. I actually even lost 10 lbs just by changing my diet. So overall I am feeling the best I ever have at age 30 and its a great feeling…thanks everyone for sharing your stories and experiences ๐Ÿ™‚ I finally feel like I see the light at the end of the tunnel

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13 Allergy Guy January 4, 2012 at 09:06

Hey Corrine, that’s great news! I’m sure you’ll notice other improvements as gluten clears out of your system.

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14 Heidi Elliott April 5, 2011 at 14:49

My son has KP. I recently have read about gluten being a factor but no doctor told me of this. He lives on bread. Is a gluten free bread okay to substitute and hopefully his KP will diminish.

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15 Allergy Guy April 5, 2011 at 20:13

Gluten-free bread should help, assuming gluten is the problem in his case. Watch out for other sources of gluten as well. See the gluten allergy article, and links within that article (and below it) for more information.

Bread of any sort, even gluten-free, contains a lot of refined carbohydrates. Hopefully you can get him on a more balanced diet to support all aspects of his health.

Let us know how it goes!

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16 Tadeu November 16, 2010 at 14:41

I only discovered I need to eliminate gluten from my diet this summer after a turmultuous, expensive and stressful year of all kinds of chronic health problems, most of which I was not even aware were related to the gluten issue. I use the term issue because I’m not sure if I have an alergy, intolerance or celiac’s disease. I started the gluten free diet while waiting for my alergy test results that took 8 weeks to come back because I couldn’t wait any longer. Within 3 days the things started to change I had no idea about, like glue ear, didn’t even realize I had it but my ears started popping, then I had to turn down the TV from 23 to 13. I continue to add to the list of pains and discomforts I no longer have since I started but still am not sure whether it’s an alergy or more. The doctor ordered the wrong test, after waiting 3 weeks to take it and 8 for the results. I did a donut test on myself recently, and boy did I enjoy that donut, knowing it was pure sin to eat and began to develop the rash on my forearms about 4 hours later; my eyes also began swelling (the conjunctiva) and became red. Does that sound like an alergy to anyone, or intollerance? Maybe both? Other symptoms I no longer have since I went gluten free: Joint pain, inflamation in joints, lower back pain, the gammot of gastro intestinal issues, itchy rash on back of neck and back, rosacea, depression, gout, sweats, libedo, sinus issues particularly at night and ansomnia; all gone as a result. It’s really profound.

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17 Allergy Guy November 16, 2010 at 15:01

Hi Tadeu,

Really glad you found the source of your health problems. Simple solution, not necessarily easy to follow, but at least you know.

It is impossible to say from symptoms alone if you have an allergy, celiac disease, or something else. The only way to know for sure is to get a celiac test. According to my allergist, stool tests are the most accurate. You may have to expose yourself to gluten though, for it to be accurate.

Instead, you can assume the worst, and avoid gluten like a religious fanatic. If the symptoms are bad enough, even for sub-miniature quantities of gluten, you’ll do that anyhow. If not, a test would be a good idea.

Best of luck!

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18 elizabeth efthymiadis December 7, 2011 at 20:20

I didn’t read any other comment regarding the redness in the eyes or the rosacea issues connected to gluten allergy. These are two issues I’m struggling with (among other things) for years now. I went gluten-free early today as I long suspected some food allergy for my many “undiagnosticable” symptoms. I am cutting on all flours, pastas, sugar, never liked or tolerated milk anyway. I’m just a beginner on that path but hope the diet will bring some relief and not only to the eye and rosacea issues. thank you for the glimpse of hope!

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19 mfowler August 6, 2010 at 05:32

My toddler’s KP is much worse during the hottest days of summer. I suspect sunscreen and chlorine in the pool water really aggravate it. Anyone else experience this?

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20 kathleen August 19, 2013 at 09:49

Sunscreen just clogs the skin. I use a light sunscreen on the face and arms such as Nuetragena. But loosing the wheat is what has changed my little one’s symptoms.

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21 Gina February 25, 2010 at 14:25

gluten and KP

I def think there is a connection. My daughter is borderline gluten intolerant and has terrible KP. When she cut back on her pb and j’s on wheat it started to improve. It’s really hard for her to not eat any but we are going to try. Also have read a lot of about the carrot juice- will see if I can get her to drink it. Walnuts for omega 3 are good and I’ve also heard apple cider , coconut oil and even olive oil but you def have to treat it form the inside out as well. Also bought this aloe skin gel at henry’s it has no water added, chamomile and tons of great stuff in it. There is a tiny trial size for $2. That helps with any kind of lotion that has alpha hydroxy etc in it. I found the hand creams that are stronger work best. For her face I use a pumpkin enzyme mask and ID lotion by bare minerals. It works great but you have to do it like every other day and the ID 2x per day. Also sometimes neosporin will help and is summer with swimming and sun it has gone completely! Don’t forget to exfoliate gently in the shower too.

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22 admin February 25, 2010 at 14:35

Good tips

Thanks for the additional tips, Gina. Good luck with the carrot juice!

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23 Jennifer January 10, 2010 at 13:20

Gluten-free diet cured my Keratosis pilaris

I have had Keratosis pilaris my whole life and have always been self consious when wearing short-sleeved & sleeveless shirts. I discovered 2 years ago that I was allergic to Wheat Gluten and since eliminating this from my diet, my Keratosis pilaris went away. I tried to add wheat back into my diet over Thanksgiving 2009 and my Keratosis pilaris came back. I have gone back to the Gluten-fee diet and my Keratosis Pilaris is almost completely cleared up- (took about 6 weeks). Hope this helps!

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24 admin January 12, 2010 at 11:09

Gluten-free diet cured my Keratosis pilaris

Thanks Jennifer. I’m sure your story will help others with similar problems.

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25 Guest January 26, 2010 at 16:11

re: gluten-free diet

That’s so amazing! How did you discover you were allergic to Wheat Gluten? Did you have stomach problems? I am trying a dairy free and gluten free diet (week 2.5) and no improvement noticed yet. Was yours a gradual improvement over 6 weeks or did you not notice it until week 6? I am just wondering how long I need to be on this diet to see improvement. Thanks for letting me know.

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26 admin January 26, 2010 at 17:11

How long to wait on gluten-free diet

I suggest you try a completely gluten-free and dairy free diet for at least 8 weeks.

If you slip up and accidentally eat some gluten, you have to start over.

Some people notice an improvement very quickly, for others it takes longer.

For me it was about three weeks the first time.

Now I notice three weeks of misery if I slip up, and about 8 weeks for everything to completely clear my system.

Hope that helps.

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27 mfowler August 6, 2010 at 05:28

Do you think it will help to simply reduce gluten but not totally eliminate gluten from the diet? It seems impossible to attempt a totally gluten free diet for a toddler. Please share your gluten free diet and what you would eat during a typical day. thanks!

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28 Allergy Guy August 6, 2010 at 07:33

Reducing gluten won’t help much, if at all.

You really do have to eliminate all of it.

Compiling my gluten free diet will take quite a while. I might develop it into a product when I have the time.

You will find further information and recipes on this site.

I suggest you focus on the foods that can be eaten, rather than those which can’t.

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