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Everyone dreams of soft, smooth skin. But when you rub your hands over your face and body, do you find rough and bumpy skin instead?
“Rough skin” doesn’t just happen at random for no reason — it occurs because of an underlying cause. If you have problems with rough skin, fixing them means figuring out the underlying issue and correcting it.
To help you get the skin of your dreams, let’s look at some possible causes of rough and bumpy skin. We’ll also explore treatment options to help you achieve a smoother complexion.
Table Of Contents
- Symptoms Of Rough And Bumpy Skin
- Possible Causes Of Rough, Bumpy Skin
- Pinpointing The Cause
- Treating Rough And Bumpy Skin
Symptoms Of Rough And Bumpy Skin
As the name suggests, rough and bumpy skin is characterized by rough patches and bumps on the skin's surface. When you feel your skin, you'll notice an uneven texture. It may be rough like sandpaper or covered in tiny bumps like goosebumps.
Except, unlike traditional goosebumps that only appear in cold temperatures or when you're frightened, these can be present all year round.
Where Is Rough Skin Common?
Rough and bumpy skin can appear anywhere on the body. However, you’ll often notice these symptoms on your face, arms, legs, and back.
The parts of your body where rough skin appears can help you determine what’s causing the problem, as we’ll discuss later.
Possible Causes Of Rough, Bumpy Skin
Eczema is a skin disorder that causes rough, itchy patches of skin. You may also notice redness around these areas or the beginning of cracks.
There are several different types of eczema, but the most common type is technically known as atopic dermatitis. This condition is extremely common, affecting millions of people in the United States alone.
There is no single, simple explanation for what causes eczema, and also no simple, permanent “cure.” People who have eczema tend to experience periods of clear skin interrupted by “flare-up” periods that can last for weeks or longer.
Environmental factors such as stress, pollen, and pet dander can negatively impact eczema. Genetics, allergies, and certain medications are also potential causes.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that can cause rough and bumpy patches of red, scaly skin. While there are different types of psoriasis, plaque psoriasis is one of the most common. It causes a buildup of skin cells, leading to scaly areas called plaques.
In essence, instead of new skin cells only replacing old ones, your skin cells reproduce too quickly, resulting in an excess buildup.
Similar to eczema, psoriasis tends to “flare up” as a result of triggers. These flare-ups usually last a few weeks or months. Remission periods when your skin is completely clear are possible and typically last a month to a year.
Scientists believe an overactive immune system partly causes this condition. Other potential causes include stress, genetic predisposition, and environmental factors.
Different types of acne can cause rough and bumpy patches of skin.
Acne occurs when sebum, bacteria, dirt, or dead skin cells clog your pores. This clogging can lead to red bumps filled with pus on your face or body. Whiteheads and blackheads also have a bumpy texture.
Although acne is often associated with puberty, many adults also struggle with it. Causes of acne can include stress, not washing your face effectively, some cosmetic products that make it difficult for your skin to “breathe,” and foods that cause your body to make more sebum.
If you have acne-prone skin, rough and bumpy patches can occur even after the acne has cleared. This is because the bacteria and inflammation that cause acne can damage your skin and leave scars.
Buildup Of Dead Skin Cells
We usually think of “dead skin” as, at best, unattractive, and maybe even a sign of a skin problem to be corrected. But some dead skin is entirely natural. In fact, all of your skin is constantly in the process of dying and being replaced.
The problem occurs when the rhythm and balance of the cycle is thrown off.
We touched on this earlier when we mentioned that plaque psoriasis is related to new skin cells being produced too quickly. But when your body does not shed enough dead skin cells, the old cells remain on the surface for too long. This can give your skin a rough texture.
Typically, the shedding process is supposed to take about a month, but it slows down as you age. Other factors, such as cold weather, can also affect the rate at which your skin sheds.
A common skin condition that's considered harmless, keratosis pilaris causes patches of tiny bumps on your skin. These patches can appear similar to the goosebumps you get when you’re cold.
You may notice these bumps on your upper arms, thighs, or cheeks. It’s possible for keratosis pilaris to appear anywhere on your body that has hair follicles, however.
This condition is caused by an excess production of keratin, a protein that helps form the protective outer layer of your skin. Experts believe keratosis pilaris is hereditary, so if your parents have it, you may also inherit it.
Keratosis pilaris is so common that some dermatologists have argued it should be considered its own skin type. It’s most often seen in children and young people.
While it can’t be prevented or cured, the good news is that for most people, it disappears by the time they turn 30.
It's not unusual for rough textures to occur when your skin is dry. Your imperfections are more noticeable whenever your skin doesn't have enough moisture.
When we talk about moisture, we’re talking about two things: oil and water. Both are necessary to keep your skin healthy.
Everyone has a skin type. Skin type is largely (although not entirety) determined by the amount of natural oil (sebum) that your skin produces.
People with oily skin produce too much sebum, people with dry skin don’t produce enough. There’s also “combination” skin, which means that you may have oily skin on some areas of your body and dry skin on others.
People with a dry skin type may be more prone to struggling with rough skin than others. (Although oily skin can lead to its own set of problems, such as acne.)
The other half of the dry skin equation is water. Your skin, just like the rest of your body, also needs the proper amount of water to stay healthy. Dehydrated skin can’t look and feel its best.
When we talk about excessive dryness or just “dry skin,” what we mean is any condition where your skin doesn’t have the proper amount of water, natural oil, or both.
Many things can cause dry skin, including:
- Frequent use of hot water when cleaning your skin
- Harsh soaps and cleansers
- Not using moisturizer after washing your face or body
- Cold weather conditions
- Environmental factors such as air pollution
Diabetes doesn't only impact your endocrine system, it also affects your skin. People with diabetes often experience rough patches of dry skin on their legs and feet. This is caused by high blood sugar levels, which can lead to decreased circulation and dryness.
Ironically, the things we do to try to keep our skin beautifully silky smooth sometimes have just the opposite effect.
If you notice bumps shortly after you shave, you could have a case of razor burn. This condition occurs when your razor blades pull or tug at your hair follicles. This irritates the area and produces an inflammatory reaction.
With razor burn, you’ll notice red bumps, ingrown hairs, or rough patches of skin. You may also experience some pain or itching.
Pinpointing The Cause
Now that you know some of the most common causes of rough skin, how can you be sure which one is to blame in your specific case?
Some causes of rough skin are easier to figure out than others. If you’re not quite sure what’s making your skin feel rough, you can usually narrow down the cause quite a bit by considering four factors: where the rough skin appears, when it appears, how it looks, and how it feels.
If patches of rough skin seem to pop up at random, analyzing these four factors can often give you a good idea of what’s keeping your skin from looking and feeling consistently great.
You may have noticed that for many of the causes of rough skin we’ve talked about, we mentioned specific areas of the body where the rough patches are most likely to appear.
Rough skin caused by some factors is more likely to appear on certain areas of the body, like the hands and feet. Other causes can result in rough skin anywhere on the body, or all over.
When your rough skin patches appear is another clue about what might be making them appear.
Changes in weather can dry out your skin and cause flare-ups of chronic skin conditions. If you just started using a new cosmetic product and suddenly notice rough skin, it’s not hard to put two and two together.
When your skin changes, ask yourself what else has recently changed.
“Rough skin” is a very broad, general description. You can tell a lot about what’s making your skin rough by taking a closer look.
Some rough skin may not look much different than normal skin, just maybe a little duller. On the other hand, some specific rough skin culprits have a distinctive appearance.
For example, keratosis pilaris can appear similar to goosebumps, and psoriasis has a scaly (as in fish or reptile scales) look.
The last thing to consider is how your skin feels. Not all rough skin causes any real discomfort.
Keratosis pilaris, for example, doesn’t usually hurt or itch. In contrast, skin affected by eczema is usually itchy and inflamed during a flare-up.
Treating Rough And Bumpy Skin
No one wants rough and bumpy skin! Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to help improve your skin’s texture and make it smoother.
Your skin needs moisture to stay soft and supple. Without it, your skin will dry out, and you'll be more likely to develop rough patches.
Weather and environmental factors, chemicals in household products and some personal care products, and even (paradoxically) too much time in a hot shower or bath deplete the natural oil and water your skin needs.
To avoid this, add a high-quality moisturizer to your regular skincare routine. Any time you bathe or shower, apply moisturizer immediately afterward. This helps seal in moisture so your skin stays smooth.
Restore Your Skin’s Natural Barrier
Your body has a natural barrier to help protect its largest organ, your skin. This barrier sits on the outermost layer of your skin and helps protect it from irritants and environmental damage.
When this barrier is weakened, rough patches can develop more easily. To help strengthen your skin's natural barrier, take care of yourself from the inside out.
Eat a nourishing diet, drink plenty of water, and get enough sleep. In addition, take time to relax. Stress is terrible for your skin (and the rest of you!)
Use Soothing Ingredients
You may be tempted to use rough cleansers on your skin, but this can irritate it further and cause even more damage. Instead, opt for gentle cleansers with soothing ingredients that are designed to cleanse without stripping away too much of your natural oil.
Many skincare products contain ingredients that can throw off your skin’s moisture balance and weaken its natural barrier.
Since your skin absorbs everything applied directly to its surface, be careful what you rub on your body. Look for products that contain soothing oils, such as almond or jojoba oil, for hydration. Salicylic acid, vitamin B3, and colloidal oatmeal are other good ingredients.
With so many options on the market, it's important to find a reliable skincare company that you can trust, such as Bodewell. We use clinically tested ingredients and soothing botanicals to help you achieve clearer-looking skin over time.
As mentioned above, a buildup of dead skin cells can cause rough skin. Regular exfoliation helps remove these rough patches, revealing softer, smoother skin.
But too much exfoliation can also cause damage, so finding a balance that works for your body is important. Start slowly, exfoliating once a week. Use a gentle scrub at first, and watch for any adverse reactions. As you get used to exfoliating, adjust your schedule as needed.
If you notice any redness, stinging, or burning after exfoliating, stop immediately and reduce the frequency. Everyone's skin is different, so you may need to experiment before finding the perfect routine for you.
Treat Underlying Conditions
If an underlying condition, such as acne, eczema, or psoriasis, is causing your skin's texture, treating the condition can help improve the roughness. Here are a few tips for you to try:
There are a few basic tips you can use for dealing with rough skin caused by acne:
- Wash your face twice daily with gentle cleansers
- Apply products with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid
- Don't pick your pimples or touch your face
If your acne is caused by hormonal factors, it will probably clear up with time, but if it doesn’t, you can try oral medications such as hormone-regulating pills or antibiotics.
Certain cosmetics with heavy ingredients can clog up pores. Try switching to non-comedogenic makeup if you think cosmetics are the culprit in your acne.
Consider your diet as well. Foods that cause your blood sugar to rise quickly, along with white grains, are known to increase sebum production. On the other hand, zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin E are all beneficial for your skin.
The basic three-part game plan for treating rough skin caused by eczema (atopic dermatitis) looks like this:
- Apply Eczema Daily Calming Cream
- Avoid any triggers that cause your eczema to flare up
- Make dietary changes
As we’ve mentioned, though, for many people who suffer from eczema, managing and treating the condition is an ongoing journey. A lot depends on identifying and avoiding the things that trigger your eczema flare-ups.
Wet dressings, soaking in a colloidal oatmeal bath, and applying honey to your skin are natural strategies for effectively soothing your skin during a flare-up.
Additionally, weather and climate conditions can trigger flare-ups. In the winter, cover your skin as much as possible and use a humidifier in your home. In the summer, wear loose clothing and apply sunscreen when going outdoors.
It’s very important not to scratch skin affected by eczema. Topical steroids can help relieve inflammation and itchiness from eczema and are safe to use for short periods. Antihistamines can also be helpful, especially if itching keeps you up at night.
If your rough skin stems from psoriasis, there are three primary things you can do:
- Eat more anti-inflammatory foods
- Avoid triggers
- Use topical treatments like Epsom salt baths and moisturizers
If these strategies aren’t improving your rough skin from psoriasis as much as you’d like, you can talk to a dermatologist about other treatment options.
One option is biologics. These are drugs that specifically target parts of the immune system to try to stop the autoimmune reaction that causes psoriasis. They’re administered by injection or IV infusion.
Another possible treatment is UV therapy, also called phototherapy. Rays of ultraviolet (UV) light slow down the excessive production of skin cells.
You can try to spend more time in the sun (wearing sunscreen on areas not affected by psoriasis) or undergo phototherapy sessions at a clinic if the climate isn’t sunny enough to soak up all of the sun you need naturally.
Talk To A Dermatologist
Sometimes, you need professional help to get your skin looking the way you want it to. So don’t be afraid to speak to a dermatologist.
They can examine your skin and diagnose any conditions you may have. They can help you customize a skincare routine that works for you and suggest additional treatment options.
Smoother-Looking Skin Is On The Way!
While you may not immediately notice your rough and bumpy skin improving, keep trying! With the right care and a bit of patience, your rough patches can give way to softer, smoother skin.
In the meantime, keep relying on Bodewell to produce high-quality skincare products, like our Eczema Daily Calming Cream, to help improve your skin over time. With Bodewell by your side, you can confidently tackle rough patches.
Smooth skin, here we come!