Clogged Pores and Tiny Bumps on the Skin

Side view of a beautiful young woman examining her face
Young woman examining her face in the bathroom mirror. (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Lightwavemedia/Getty Images)

Your skin provides a layer of protection between you and the outside world. Occasionally, areas of the skin can experience breakouts and eruptions from blockages inside the pores. Common acne and keratosis pilaris are conditions that involve clogged pores. About 40 million to 50 million Americans have acne, while keratosis pilaris develops in up to 40 percent of the population, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Although these are two different medical conditions, some of the symptoms are similar.

Acne Symptoms

Both acne and keratosis pilaris may appear as small bumps on the skin. Although large acne lesions, known as cysts, nodules and pustules, form deep within the clogged hair follicles, smaller bumps, known as papules, cause the appearance of tiny pink bumps on the skin. These little bumps commonly form on oily areas of facial skin, chest and upper back skin. They often have small, visible centers, known as blackheads or whiteheads.

Keratosis Pilaris Symptoms

Keratosis pilaris usually affects individuals with dry skin and appears as numerous small bumps that form closely together, usually on the upper arms and thighs of children. Keratosis pilaris may cause the skin to feel like bumpy sandpaper. These flesh-colored bumps can itch and turn pink. When these tiny bumps occur on the face, they may resemble acne.

Causes

Clogged pores lead to the formation of the tiny bumps in both acne and keratosis pilaris. Clogged pores in acne usually occur when excess oil fails to exit the pores and bacteria begin to form in the blockage. The reason people get acne remains a mystery, but it commonly occurs during adolescence when hormones cause an overproduction of sebum, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Dry skin causes the clogged pores found in keratosis pilaris.

Self-Care

While acne and keratosis pilaris often clear up on their own, certain measures may help reduce the appearance of these tiny bumps. Common treatments for acne include over-the-counter cleansers, creams and lotions that include salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Applying lotions and moisturizers, especially ones that contain lactic acid, may help reduce the dryness associated with keratosis pilaris.

Medical Treatments

Acne often responds well to prescription topical medicines that contain antibiotics or retinoids. Oral medications may also help clear up acne-prone skin. Topical retinoids may also help treat keratosis pilaris. Gentle chemical peels may also help to reduce the appearance of these tiny skin bumps.

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