How do doctors diagnose keratosis pilaris?

Doctors diagnose keratosis pilaris with a simple physical examination of the skin where the bumps are located. Some patients see a dermatologist (skin specialist), but many times it is diagnosed by a family doctor.

Medical testing is generally not required to diagnose this condition. Doctors may perform other tests if they aren’t sure if it is keratosis pilaris. They may test a tiny sample of your skin to rule out other possible causes for your discomfort.

The bumps’ location and characteristics can help you identify whether you have keratosis pilaris:

  • Location: Keratosis pilaris bumps most often show up on the arms, especially the upper arms. They can also appear on the cheeks, legs (upper or lower) or buttocks.
  • Characteristics: How any skin bumps look and feel can tell you a lot about what might be causing them. Keratosis pilaris bumps are:
    • Painless: If you feel discomfort or pain when pressing on a skin bump, it’s likely not keratosis pilaris.
    • Itchy or dry: These bumps, and the skin around them, may feel itchy or dry.
    • Rough: Running your hands over these bumps may feel rough to the touch, like sandpaper.
    • Discolored: Bumps may appear skin colored, red, white, brown, or even dark brown or black (depending on the natural color of your skin).

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/29/2018.


  • American Academy of Dermatology. Keratosis pilaris. Accessed 4/10/2018.
  • American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Keratosis Pilaris. Accessed 4/10/2018.
  • Marqueling AL, Gilliam AE, Prendiville J, et al. Keratosis Pilaris Rubra: A Common but Underrecognized Condition. Arch Dermatol. 2006;142(12):1611-1616.

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