Have you ever been warned that eating too much chocolate will cause your skin to break out? While it's not quite that simple, and a few candy bars won't lead you to wake up with a face full of acne, there is a link between the food you eat and your skin health.

This means that certain skin conditions can be exacerbated by a steady diet of sugar, oil, dairy, alcohol, and more. Recently, there's been a lot of chatter about keratosis pilaris being caused by food choices—namely, gluten. Does gluten cause keratosis pilaris? A Dermatologist dives in.

What Is Keratosis Pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris (KP) is a skin condition that results from little keratin plugs that set up residence in the hair follicles. Keratin is the main protein in hair, skin, and nails, but too much of it can cause skin problems, like the telltale rough and red bumps of KP. This condition commonly appears on the upper arms, thighs, cheeks, and buttocks. Often referred to as "chicken skin," due to its similarity to the skin of a plucked chicken, it typically looks worse than it feels. KP is generally asymptomatic; it is not typically painful or itchy. That being said, the condition can be a source of concern, so seeking treatment by a board-certified Dermatologist can prove helpful.

Does Gluten Cause Keratosis Pilaris?

Dermatologic research indicates that the ingestion of gluten may exacerbate existing skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis in those who have celiac disease. Keratosis pilaris can sometimes flare up and become red or irritated, leading many to draw conclusions that foods like gluten and dairy are the root cause. If you have a diagnosed gluten or dairy sensitivity, there is a possibility that your KP can be made more severe when you ingest those foods. However, this has not been scientifically corroborated and is only speculated by some Dermatologists. So far, no research has linked KP with celiac disease and more data is needed before a definitive correlation can be made.

So, does gluten cause keratosis pilaris? Does dairy cause keratosis pilaris? The answer is no; dairy and gluten are not the causes of KP. According to the Mayo Clinic, keratosis pilaris can't be cured or prevented because it's thought to be inherited in an autosomal dominant manner. This means your mom or dad are likely afflicted by the same condition, as most people with KP have family members with similar bumps on their skin. At this point, this condition cannot be blamed on any particular food group—it comes down to DNA, not donuts.

How Can You Treat Keratosis Pilaris?

Keeping a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is important to maintaining skin health and overall wellness. That said, you likely will not see many changes to keratosis pilaris if you cut out dairy or gluten from your diet. Although KP is not harmful, many patients seek treatment to minimize the appearance of these patchy red bumps. If you find the condition bothersome or irritating, a good place to start is your board-certified Dermatologist. They can provide treatments like alpha-hydroxy acid, Retinoids, or anti-inflammatory creams amongst other therapies that work to hydrate, moisturize, and soothe your skin.

At home, you should focus on keeping your skin moisturized with a gentle product fit for sensitive skin, like the EltaMD Moisturizer. This everyday essential absorbs deeply to moisturize and soothe inflamed, irritated, and flaky skin, letting your inner glow shine through.


  • Mona Gohara, MD

    Dr. Mona Gohara is a Connecticut-based Dermatologist and associate professor of Dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. She has a particular interest in skin cancer prevention and treatment for skin of color. Dr. Gohara spends a lot of time outdoors with her husband, son, and two dogs, Coco and Cleo. They all wear sunscreen.