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What Causes Arm Pimples?

By Madeleine A.
Updated May 21, 2024
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Arm pimples are typically caused by dry skin. The most common location for arm pimples is the upper arm, but they can occur anywhere on the arm. The accumulation of dead skin cells can cause hair follicles to clog, contributing to the formation of arm pimples or bumps. Using a loofah sponge during a shower to exfoliate dead skin can help unblock follicles, resulting in smoother-looking skin.

After exfoliating the skin with a loofah sponge, a moisturizing cream should be liberally applied to the arms and thoroughly rubbed in. Though any type of moisturizer is generally effective in relieving dry skin and pimples, stronger, prescription moisturizers may be recommended to alleviate the condition. When arm pimples become resistant to conventional treatments, a dermatologist should be consulted so he can recommend alternative treatments.

When exfoliating dry arm skin, it is important not to be overly aggressive. This can worsen the skin condition and contribute to permanent tissue damage. Exfoliating the skin using gentle but firm circular motions is the correct way to remove dead skin. Proper skin exfoliation will help smooth the surface of the skin and give it a healthy glow. Another common cause of pimples on the arm is the fluctuation of hormones. This can occur during the childbearing years or during the menopausal years. Fluctuations in hormonal levels can be evaluated and treated by a qualified health care provider.

Over-the-counter acne preparations can also help alleviate arm bumps, but if used too often, these can further dry out the skin. Some people get good results by taking vitamin E supplements and fish oil supplements. These help moisturize the skin from within the body and are typically well-tolerated by most people. They may not be suitable, however, for people who are taking medications to help thin the blood, or who have certain medical conditions. Prior to taking dietary supplements for pimples, a health care provider should be consulted.

While conservative treatments for arm pimples can be very effective in eliminating them, the results can take time. It can take up to three weeks before results are noticed and the results may not be permanent. Arm bumps can disappear, only to return when the weather becomes cold and dry, or after taking hot showers or baths, which deplete the skin of its natural oils. Pimples on the arms, although unsightly, are typically not indicative of a serious medical condition. However, if the pimples become sore, red or produce pus, they should be evaluated by a health care provider.

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Discussion Comments
By shell4life — On Jan 11, 2013

I've heard that glycolic acid can really help with getting rid of arm pimples. I used an exfoliating scrub that contained this, and it seemed to make some of them go away.

I followed each exfoliating shower with lotion, too. I knew that since I was removing moisture along with the dead skin, I needed to replenish it.

Now that I'm older, I really don't see to many arm pimples. Maybe this is because I use more body lotion now than I did before. I know that moisture is the key to younger looking skin, so I use lotion all over.

By Perdido — On Jan 11, 2013

@seag47 – I know it's tempting, but don't do it. I did it years ago, and it only caused more problems.

The cream that I got from my doctor said that it would make my skin more sensitive to the sun. Well, I had a wide-brimmed hat on, so it didn't get to my face, but once I applied the cream on my upper arms, I was inviting the sun to bake them.

I ended up with burned spots on my upper arms so severe that they caused black scabs to form. I had to get steroid cream from my doctor to treat the area, and to this day, I have dark freckles in those spots.

If you need a product for your upper arms, ask your dermatologist for one. The skin there has different needs, and you have to pay attention to side effects, too.

By seag47 — On Jan 10, 2013

My dermatologist gave me some acne cream for the pimples on my face. I'm tempted to use it on my upper arms, too. Would this be safe?

By giddion — On Jan 09, 2013

I struggled with little white pimples on the backs of my upper arms all throughout my teenage years. I never knew that they were caused by dry skin!

I figured that since the skin on my face was so oily, I must have oily skin all over. It's no wonder that benzoyl peroxide didn't get rid of them. I was only drying out my skin further by using it.

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