Why Is My Skin So Bumpy and What Should I Do About It?

There are any number of reasons (beyond acne) for the bumps on your skin. And while the only way to know for sure is to have a dermatologist check them out, you’re likely Googling for answers anyway, so we put together a starter guide to help you through this (ahem) rough patch.

If your bumps are inflamed, red and itchy: It could be eczema

  • Location: Eczema presents itself anywhere on body but tends to favor folds of skin like the arms, wrists, neck and behind the knees.
  • Causes: It depends on the type (atopic, contact, dyshidrotic, etc.) but can be anything from dryness to an irritating substance (like solvents, detergents or certain fabrics).
  • What to do: Make an appointment with a dermatologist to come up with a proper course of action. In the meantime, try your best not to scratch the bumps (they can be very itchy) and use gentle, fragrance-free cleansers when you shower. 

If your bumps are red, raised, scaly (possibly with a silvery white coating): It could be psoriasis

  • Location: It’s usually found on elbows, knees, scalp, lower back.
  • Causes: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the exact causes are still unknown (though they have found that your genes and immune system play a part).
  • What to do: See a dermatologist who can properly diagnose it and suggest treatment options (like identifying potential triggers, prescription creams or phototherapy).

If your bumps are small and rough, but colorless: It could be keratosis pilaris (or KP for short)

  • Location: KP is usually found on the upper arms, legs and butt.
  • Causes: KP is caused by a buildup of keratin that forms a plug and blocks the opening of hair follicles.
  • What to do: Most cases of KP can be managed at home with the right moisturizers and exfoliants (formulas with lactic, glycolic or salicylic acid) in them, but you have to be consistent and you really shouldn’t pick at the bumps.

If your bumps are tiny, white and sit underneath your skin: It could be milia

  • Location: Milia are most commonly found on the face (especially around the nose and eyes).
  • Causes: Very heavy, comedogenic products, sun damage and clogged pores can contribute to milia.
  • What to do: Look for non-comedogenic products and incorporate a chemical exfoliant into your skin-care routine. They're generally harmless, but if the bumps really bother you, they can be extracted by derms or lasered off.

What's the Deal with Those Small White Bumps on Your Face?

Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...