Conditions Similar to Keratosis Pilaris

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Keratosis pilaris (KP) is pretty common. The affected skin can be covered by some or lots of patches /acne-like bumps. There is no specific test to diagnose it. The diagnosis is usually based on an examination of the affected skin. But there are also other conditions similar to this chicken skin problem!

Sometimes it may be mistaken as acne or acne vulgaris

KP occurs when there are excessive keratin buildups that block the opening of hair follicle. And theoretically, it can affect all skin surfaces with hair follicles.

Many times, it is found on the upper arms, buttocks, or thighs. But rare variants of this chicken condition can affect face, scalp, eyebrows, or even the entire body.

On face, the physical symptom of KP (especially its acne like bumps) can resemble the symptom of acne. See more about KP on face in this section!

Acne itself is the common cause of spots. It is commonly found on the face. But sometimes it can affect neck, chest, or back. The severity can vary. And boys are more affected than girls.

The blocked hair follicle’s opening is also the major reason of acne, but it has nothing to do with keratin.

Acne is usually caused by the excessive sebum (oil) that comes on to the surface of the skin through tiny pores where hair grows. The oil can mix with other bad things such as dead skin cells, which then will trigger and cause acne.

In general, the more sebum (oil) that come on to your skin surface, the worse acne is likely to be! Some people can produce more oil than others.

The age has a role, too. Mostly, it affects people at the age of about 12 to 30 years old. And typically, the peak level of sebum production occurs during the teenage years. However, some younger and older people are affected, too!

Atopic dermatitis

Another common skin condition that can be one of differential diagnosis for keratosis pilaris is atopic dermatitis, a chronic (long-term) skin condition that usually involves itchy and scaly rashes.

It is also often called as eczema. And there are several forms of eczema. These include seborrheic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, nummular eczema, and dyshidrotic eczema.

Interestingly, both atopic dermatitis and keratosis pilaris can get worse by the same factor (low humidity or other things that can worsen dry skin). Furthermore, both skin problems are also more likely to occur in individuals with dry skin!

The challenging question, how do people get eczema? Well, some theories have been presented.

But in general, most theories are talking about the combination of different factors – from genetic issues to environmental factors. In other words, the cause is still debatable and not fully understood yet.


*Image credit to Mayo

And the symptom can vary, depending on the severity of the problem. See more the symptoms of eczema in this post!

Eruptive vellus hair cysts

As the name suggests, these harmless cysts are small /tiny papules containing small vellus hairs (blond, fine hairs normally growing on trunk, climbs, and face). This skin condition is quite rare.

How do the cysts look like? They are usually characterized by small brown /red bumps, typically found on the sternum (sometimes on the limbs). A few cysts usually present on the affected skin, but sometimes there may be numbering in the hundreds.

Eruptive_vellus_hair cysts

*Image credit to Dermnet NZ

Experts believe that this skin problem is a hereditary condition. The good news, again it is harmless and not related to other skin abnormalities. That’s why the treatment is usually unnecessary!

However in a few cases, it may coexist with other health conditions such as pachyonychia congenital, steatocystoma multiplex, or hidrotic ectodermal dysplasia.


It is a condition associated with the inflammation of hair follicles. Typically, the problem starts with clusters of white-headed acne or small-red bumps surrounding the affected hair follicles.

Other symptoms include:

  1. It can be so itchy. You may also feel a burning sensation on the affected skin that may come with pain or tenderness.
  2. Inflamed skin, redness.
  3. Mass or a large swollen bump.
  4. Pus-filled blisters. They may break and crust over!

The symptoms may vary, and the following image can be one of examples.



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