Pimples on the Upper Arms That Won't Go Away

Although most likely to appear on the face, back, chest and shoulders, where the oil glands in skin are most active, pimples can show up almost anywhere on the body, including the upper arms, according to University Health Services, Berkeley.

What could cause these bumps? (Image: spukkato/iStock/GettyImages)

Pimple-like bumps on your arms can also be caused by infected hair follicles and pores or medical conditions like keratosis pilaris (a harmless condition that causes dry, rough patches and tiny bumps). While there may not be an immediate cure, there are a number of ways to help pimples fade faster, and prevent new ones from appearing.

Clogged Pores

A pimple occurs when one of the skin's pores or sebaceous glands — which secrete oil to lubricate the skin — becomes blocked by excess oil , infected with bacteria, or is irritated by an ingrown hair.

This causes the area to become inflamed. Soon after, a small head of pus forms as the body reacts to the problem. It's not unusual for a pimples to appear on the upper arms (a condition sometimes referred to as arm acne) and the same methods used to help resolve facial acne will work fine for arm acne.

Treating Clogged Pores

While they may not prevent or completely cure the condition, some methods can reduce the size and longevity of the pimples. According to an article published in Medical News Today, washing the arms twice a day with mild soap and warm water, without scrubbing (this can make the condition worse) is a good way to remove excess oil.

To actually treat the pimples, an over-the-counter medication containing benzoyl peroxide, (like Clearasil), may help heal pimples faster. According to Medline Plus, benzoyl peroxide is an antibacterial that helps remove dead skin cells to reduce the chance of them causing blocked pores. However, this ingredient can also cause excessively dry skin, so don't use more than the manufacturer recommends.

The same article also recommends to avoid squeezing pimples, because this could force the infection deeper, possibly creating permanent scarring.

Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris is a condition that may also cause pimple-like bumps to appear on the upper arms. According to MedlinePlus, keratosis pilaris is caused by a buildup of the protein keratin, which can block up the hair follicles.

In keratosis pilaris, hair becomes trapped under the skin's surface, resulting in inflammation which causes small red bumps to appear on the affected skin. The condition is thought to be hereditary and will usually appear in the first 10 years of life, worsening during adolescence, before becoming less of a problem in adulthood, according to information from Patient UK.

Treating Keratosis Pilaris

Although keratosis pilaris may look unattractive, it's not a serious medical condition and commonly is less of a problem as an individual ages into adulthood.

However, there are some treatments that may help improve the appearance of the raised, red bumps typical of this condition. Start by avoiding overly dry skin with warm rather than very hot baths or showers. Another good idea may be to very gently exfoliate the skin.

Finally, using a skin lotion containing salicylic acid may help to remove the excess dead skin cells that can cause red, inflamed bumps on the upper arms.

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