Keratin Plugs: To Know More About Them Plug In


There are varied kinds of clogged pores, one of them being keratin plugs. Keratin is a type of protein that you can find in your skin and hair. It is present in a large quantity in the skin, and its function is to work along with other components to bind cells together. 

At times, keratin, along with dead skin cells, can block the hair follicle. There’s no known cause, but it could be due to genetics, irritation or underlying health problems like eczema. 

How to Recognise Keratin Plugs? 

  • They may seem similar to acne or pimples and are usually pink or skin-coloured. 
  • However, they do not have heads (a noticeable one) like pimples. 
  • Instead, you may find them in groups on specific parts of your body.
  • Due to the scaly plugs, they can be rough to touch. You can also confuse them with goosebumps. Sometimes, they can be itchy too. 
  • Typically, keratin plugs appear on the upper arms but can also occur on cheeks, buttocks, upper thighs and other areas. 

Given below are some of the factors that may increase your chance of getting keratin plugs. 

  • Eczema
  • Dry Skin
  • History of Keratosis Pilaris in family 
  • Asthma
  • Hay Fever

What Are the Ways to Remove Keratin Plugs?


Use gentle exfoliants to remove dead skin cells trapped along with keratin. You can try gentle acids like topicals or peels that have lactic, salicylic or glycolic acid. 

If exfoliation doesn’t work, a dermatologist may suggest stronger prescription creams to help dissolve them. 

Changes in Your Lifestyle

There’s no way to prevent them completely, but there are things that can help get rid of them and prevent future eruptions.  

  • You need to moisturise your skin regularly.
  • Limit your bathing time and use lukewarm water to bathe
  • Opt for a humidifier in cold, dry weather.
  • Reduce your hair removal sessions like waxing and shaving, as these activities can further irritate hair follicles.  
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes. 

Some Quick Points 

  • Generally, there’s no need for medical treatment, but some people may not like the appearance or find it annoying to have keratin plugs. 
  • Do not attempt to pop keratin plugs. 
  • Never pick or scratch them either, as it can cause skin irritation. 
  • Always discuss with your dermatologist to choose the right treatment option. 

Difference Between Sebum Plugs & Keratin Plugs

Sebum Plugs 

  • You may find both of them similar, but they do have their differences. 
  • Sebum plugs occur when the sebum (oil) from the sebaceous glands gets trapped in your hair follicles. Dead skin cells and later inflammation leads to acne lesions.
  • They may appear as inflammatory acne-like papules and pustules. 
  • Some of the severe forms of inflammatory acne plugs are nodules and cysts that appear as painful bumps much larger in size. 
  • Examples of non-inflammatory sebum plugs are whiteheads and blackheads. 
  • You may come across sebum plugs on the face, upper chest, and upper back.
  • Sebum plugs may have noticeable heads that are filled with pus or other debris. They may appear on the upper chest, back or face. 

Keratin Plugs 

  • They are common in upper arms, although they can appear on the back, face or upper chest as well.  
  • Keratin plugs are generally hard and rough along the surface.

Difference Between Keratin Plugs & Blackheads

  • Blackheads are also mistaken for keratin plugs, but both are different. 
  • They have a dark centre which is not the case with keratin plugs. 
  • Keratin plugs are rough and have a scale-like appearance, whereas blackheads are bumpy to touch. 

When to See a Dermatologist

If you are worried or find it irritating to have keratin plugs, speak to a dermatologist. Some severe cases may require treatment through laser therapy or microdermabrasion, but that’s only if nothing else works. You can also find out if it’s a keratin plug or not. Based on the cause, your doctor will suggest proper treatment. 

Summing Up

Keratin plugs usually resolve on their own without the requirement of any treatment, but sometimes they can also reappear. They are neither contagious nor a severe medical concern. Certain changes in your lifestyle can be extremely helpful to remove and prevent them. However, remember not to pick or pop them as it can cause skin irritation. If you are unable to see any improvement and are worried, seek medical help. Your doctor can evaluate the condition and suggest proper treatment. 


  1. Should you remove keratin plugs?

There’s no harm in removing them. However, it isn’t a life-threatening situation. If it bothers you, consult a doctor for removal. 

  1. What causes excess keratin?

Excess keratin in your body can be due to inflammation or genetic condition. 

  1. Can you pop keratosis pilaris? 

No, never pop or scratch keratosis pilaris as it can cause skin irritation, infection and scarring. 



Picture of Chaitali Nayak

Chaitali Nayak

A writer and a skincare fanatic, Chaitali believes that words and kindness can transform the world. She has a master’s degree in Advertising & Public Relations and has worked for various advertising agencies and digital marketing firms. With the help of expert dermatologists at CureSkin, she works towards creating content that helps eliminate misinformation related to skincare. The aim is to educate yet bring something exciting and new every time for the readers. When not busy writing, you can find her talking to her plants, eating, drawing or watching movies.