Dry and Bumpy Skin on Your Arms: Causes and Treatments

Dry and bumpy skin on the arms can be caused by conditions like dry skin, Lupus and many others. Know your cause and get treatments accordingly.

Dry bumpy skin is actually quite a common complaint. Many people are sensitive to things, or have just plain old dry skin. Whatever the case, it can be unsightly and uncomfortable to live with. Before you go changing your shower or laundry soap, you may want to take a look at the following things that can cause this to happen.

What Does the Dry Bumpy Skin on Arms Indicate?

Your skin may just be overly sensitive in nature and needs a little tender loving care with things you use on it. There are some other reasons that may be more serious than sensitive skin and need treatment.

1.    Eczema

Eczema is an inflammatory skin reaction that is also known as dermatitis. Rashes can break out on the face, arms, and legs. It may be related to allergies, genetics, or inflammatory conditions in the body. There is a common link between food allergies, environmental allergies and asthma. Eczema tends to be common in babies and older adults.


  • Rash
  • Dry skin in patches
  • Thickened skin
  • Crusty sores
  • Tends to occur in flares or “breakouts”


Eczema may require allergy testing and treatment by your doctor. There are several prescription creams to help manage more severe cases. However, most cases of eczema may be controlled with good skin care management:

  • Use mild soaps with no fragrance or dyes
  • Unscented thick creamy moisturizer
  • Warm, not hot showers
  • Healthy diet and exercise
  • Prompt treatment of allergies
  • Removal of triggers such as stress, extreme temperatures, etc.

2.    Dry Skin

Dry bumpy skin on arms can often just be the result of dry skin on your arms, and possibly all over your body. Dry skin is usually caused by external factors or the way you eat and drink. You may just have skin that needs frequent moisturizer applied or you may need more fluids in your diet. Whatever the cause, plain dry skin with no underlying conditions is easily remedied.


  • Dry and scaly skin
  • Rough patches with bumps
  • Itching
  • Flaking of skin cells


  • Try putting moisturizer on after your shower, before you dry off to lock in moisture
  • Use moisturizer daily when weather conditions are dry
  • Wear 100% cotton clothing
  • Drink extra fluids on dry and hot days
  • Eat a diet high in essential fats like avocado, seafood, and nuts
  • Try using a moisturizer with no alcohol base as alcohol can dry the skin
  • Do not soak in a hot tub too long

3.    Acne

Acne can cause bumps and dry skin on the arms. This is due to excessive oil production, blocked pores, and even bacteria on the skin. Acne isn’t always associated with the arms because it most often occurs on the face, but it can actually occur anywhere on the body. The pores on the arms tend to be larger and produce more lubricants. You may notice bigger pimples and even a cyst. When your clothes rub on your arms the friction can shove dirt, bacteria, and oil into the pores causing them to clog.


  • Large bumps
  • Lesions that have a fluid filled center
  • Nodules with a hard fluid filled center
  • Bumpy rash of small pimples


Dry bumpy skin on arms due to acne can easily be treated. Some sufferers may need prescription or medicated creams including:

  • Benzoyl Peroxide
  • Azelaic Acid
  • Vitamin A Retinoid Cream
  • Lactic Acid
  • Glycolic Acid

4.    Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes the skin cells to grow faster than they should. Skin cells die off, but stay on the skin as new cells emerge. This causes a crusty appearance, scales, and a dry bumpy rash. It occurs on the arms, but can also affect the scalp, feet, elbows, and the knees.


  • Bumpy skin
  • Scales and crusty areas
  • Plaques that are red and scaly
  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Nail pitting and crumbling
  • Dandruff
  • Joint pain (Psoriatic Arthritis)


Treatments aim to smooth the skin by removing scales and also prevent the skin cells from growing too quickly.

  • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and relieve itchiness
  • Vitamin D analogues to suppress skin cell growth
  • Salicylic acid to promote dead skin cell slough and reduce scaling
  • Moisturizers to prevent skin dryness
  • Sunlight to slow slows skin cell turnover

There are also many other treatments, just discuss with your doctor and find the treatments that work best for you.

5.    Discoid Lupus

This is an autoimmune skin disorder that leaves a red inflamed bumpy rash on the skin. It starts out as a small patch of redness and spreads from the original site. It can occur on the arms, ears, face, and scalp areas. If you have hair on your arms, the patches may scar after a flare and cause hair loss. This condition may or may not affect the inner organs of the body. It is more common in females than males and is triggered by sunlight, stress, and exposure to chemical substances.


  • Red bumpy rash
  • Low-grade fevers
  • Swelling
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Raynaud’s phenomena (blue fingers and toes in cold temps)
  • Mouth sores
  • Seizures


Lupus is a lifelong autoimmune condition that should be managed by a specialist. They can prescribe oral medications and creams to stop the body from attacking itself. Treatments that are most common include:

  • Hydroxychloroquine (a medication that helps calm the immune system)
  • Cortisone creams
  • Oral steroids
  • Calcineurin inhibitor cream
  • Steroid injections

Good skin care is advised. You need to use a good heavy lotion to moisturize the skin to prevent cracking. Doctors also suggest the use of a good sunscreen (SPF 50 or up) to prevent flares.

6.    Keratosis Pilaris

One cause of dry bumpy skin on arms is keratosis pilaris. This condition is actually pretty common and not much to worry about. It shows up on the arms, legs, face, and buttocks. The patches tend to be bumpy and rough, with dryness. It happens due to keratin build-up, which is a protein in the skin. The protein blocks your hair follicles and the bumps are actually plugged follicles. Some say it’s genetic, but it may also be the result of another skin issue


  • Bumps that are painless on the arms
  • Rough skin that tends to be dry
  • Patches on skin that feel like sandpaper


Severe cases may need prescription creams to help calm inflamed skin. Home treatments that may help include:

  • Moisturizing creams
  • Exfoliants to open pores and slough off dead skin
  • Warm (not hot) baths
  • Soft washcloths
  • Soft clothing
  • Increase humidity in your home
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