What's With My Rough, Bumpy Skin?

If you’ve noticed areas of skin that appear rough and bumpy or that feel uneven or coarse to the touch, you may have one of several common skin conditions. 

At Manhattan Dermatology in New York City, our board-certified dermatologists provide general and cosmetic dermatology services and skin care to patients at our Murray Hill and Midtown East offices in Manhattan. 

Our experts have put together this informative guide to help you better understand several common causes of rough, bumpy skin and the treatments available to help.

On your arms and legs

If you’re struggling with rough, bumpy skin that resembles goose flesh or chicken skin on the backs of your legs and arms, you may have a common skin condition called keratosis pilaris (KP). 

Keratosis pilaris results when your skin accumulates a protein called keratin. As it builds up, the keratin particles block your hair follicles, creating small bumps. The small, painless bumps most often appear on the back of your arms, legs, and buttocks though it’s possible to get KP in other locations. 

If you suspect you have KP, it’s best to see one of our skin experts at Manhattan Dermatology to get an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment recommendations. KP may resolve on its own, but there are steps you can take to improve your skin’s feel and appearance, including:

Topical creams to remove dead keratin cells

Look for creams with lactic acid, alpha hydroxy acid, urea, or salicylic acid, typically available in over-the-counter form in lower strengths or as a prescription for stronger doses. 

Topical creams to prevent blocked follicles

Look for topical retinoid creams or creams with vitamin A.

Daily moisturizing lotion

Dry skin can make KP worse, so keep your skin soothed with a daily application of a moisturizing lotion, especially after showering or bathing.

Steroid creams to treat redness and itching

Dry, itchy KP can create redness and irritation, so talk to your doctor about steroid creams if this describes your skin.

Depending on your unique symptoms and skin condition, we may also recommend other treatments, including laser resurfacing, chemical peels, or microdermabrasion. 

On other areas or with dry patches 

Skin that feels rough and bumpy to the touch, especially when it appears on your hands, feet, or face, is usually a symptom of dry skin and dead skin cell buildup. This condition often gets worse with age since your skin renewal processes slow down as you get older. 

Sometimes rough, bumpy skin with dry patches may be caused by an underlying skin condition. We evaluate your skin and medical history to expertly diagnose the cause of your rough, bumpy skin. Possible causes include psoriasis, eczema, sun exposure, and folliculitis (ingrown hairs).

Most of the time, using a lotion for rough, bumpy, and dry skin helps restore your skin’s smooth, soft texture. We can make specific lotion recommendations based on the location of your skin problems and whether they’re caused by an underlying condition. 

With scaly patches

There are many reasons your skin may feel rough and bumpy and be accompanied by scaly patches. In fact, dry, scaly skin is usually the result of a combination of factors, making it important to seek an evaluation from a trained dermatologist. 

Some of the common causes of rough, bumpy skin with scaly patches include:

Most of the time, our patients can eliminate rough, bumpy skin and scaly patches with regular use of a moisturizing lotion, the use of hydrating skin care products (e.g., body wash, face wash), and gentle exfoliation. Look for products that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, and ceramides. 

If your scaly skin doesn’t improve with over-the-counter products, see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. We make specific medical-grade skin care product recommendations based on your unique skin condition. 

Learn more about what’s causing your rough, bumpy skin and the best ways to treat it by contacting us at Manhattan Dermatology.

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