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  5. Keratosis Pilaris: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & Diet

Have you ever had annoying bumps on the back of your arm, leg or back that won’t go away? That’s keratosis pilaris. Also known as KP or often referred to as ‘chicken skin,’ keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition appearing as tiny, red bumps.

While there is no cure for keratosis pilaris, there are several things you can do to manage the symptoms and reduce the appearance of the bumps. Read ahead to learn more about keratosis pilaris causes,symptoms and cure.

What Is Keratosis Pilaris?

‘Keratosis’ means a thorny, tough growth on the upper layer of the skin due to excess keratin and ‘pilaris’ is derived from pilus, the Latin for hair.

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition characterized by several tiny, rough, tan or red bumps primarily found on the buttocks, legs, upper arm and sometimes cheeks. It affects people of all ages and appears like ‘gooseflesh,’ ‘goosebumps’ or ‘chicken skin.’

Keratosis pilaris may be cosmetically displeasing, but medically, it is harmless and non-contagious. [1]

Symptoms Of Keratosis Pilaris

  • The most notable keratosis pilaris symptoms are the presence of a cluster of bumps on the skin.
  • At times, these bumps feel rough and dry like sandpaper and may be irritable, itchy and cause dry skin, but they don’t hurt.
  • The color of these dots varies from your skin color and can manifest as skin-colored, red, pinkish, white or brownish-black dots.
  • When you have keratosis pilaris on the face, your skin looks flushed and appears like acne, but it’s not.
  • If you have keratosis pilaris on the arms or anywhere else, that area as compared to the surrounding skin may become lighter (hypopigmentation) or darker (hyperpigmentation). Sometimes, this pigmentation results from scratching or picking the bumps.
  • When the air is drier, like in winter, there are chances of your bumps worsening. You’ll notice an improvement when the warmth and humidity increases.
  • Typically, the symptoms are itchy or dry skin. If your symptoms linger on for longer than usual or you’re concerned, it’s a good idea to visit your dermatologist and seek professional advice. [2]

What Causes Keratosis Pilaris?

One of the primary causes of keratosis pilaris is the excessive build-up of a protein, keratin, which you can find in your skin, nails and hair.

The keratin clogs the opening of the sebaceous glands and blocks the follicle from opening, which results in bumps.

This condition involves genetic factors, but experts continue to look into the reason behind the buildup. KP often exists in conjunction with certain unrelated skin conditions, such as eczema and ichthyosis vulgaris.

The condition also flares up with extreme dryness like in summer, in salty water or when the humidity is low. It can also flare up when hormones fluctuate during periods or pregnancy.

Keratosis pilaris usually begins in childhood and becomes more obvious during adolescence and in adulthood.

Treatment Of Keratosis Pilaris

As stated earlier, there’s no cure for keratosis pilaris that zaps away the condition for good. It typically shows up after the age of ten, worsens during puberty, and vanishes by the age of thirty. It’s not uncommon for the condition to eventually go away on its own.

If these tiny bumps bother you, treatment of keratosis pilaris is available to help ease the symptoms and have more even and smoother skin.

Here’s what you can do to reduce keratosis pilaris symptoms: [3]

1. Topical exfoliants

The process of exfoliation helps remove dead skin cells from your skin’s surface. Use a rough washcloth, buff puff or a loofah to help with exfoliation.

It’s important to scrub softly and not too harshly, because if it irritates the skin, your keratosis pilaris can worsen. Anything that gently removes excess cell debris can help clear follicles and smoothen the skin.

2. Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion is a process which gently sands your skin using mildly abrasive instruments to renew overall skin texture and tone. It removes the uneven thick outer layer.

This procedure helps improve the appearance of skin-related conditions like discoloration, scarring, stretch marks, sun damage, acne scarring, wrinkles, keratosis pilaris and more.[4]

3. Chemical Peels

One of the keratosis pilaris treatments is chemical peels. Chemical peels are made up of mild chemical solutions. Once the chemical dries, you peel it off.

It’s a popular aesthetic technique that helps rejuvenate your skin, giving you a less wrinkled and smooth look.

4. Retinol Creams

When nothing works, call in the retinol as a treatment of keratosis pilaris. It’s a form of Vitamin A that unclogs pores and stimulates the production of collagen.

Retinol also gently exfoliates the skin, removes dead cells and leaves the skin looking smooth and free of imperfections.

You should see results in three to six months. Just be careful not to use too much. Overuse of these medicated creams can irritate your skin.

SkinKraft Tip:

To give your skin a chance to acclimate, apply a pea-size dollop to dry skin every other day. Once the area shows signs of improvement in texture and tone, use it every night.

5. Laser Treatments

Laser treatment involves passing intense bursts of light to a specific part of your body. This treatment is one of the keratosis pilaris remedies that reduce the condition.

Depending on the way your skin responds, you may require repeat sessions spanning across a few weeks or months.

6. Home Remedies

  • Do not scratch the bumps
  • Use only warm water and mild soap on the affected area. Stay away from harsh soap and hot water
  • It’s important to treat your skin gently and don’t use products that will dry your skin out
  • Long showers tend to make your skin dry. It’s better to have short, quick showers once a day with warm water
  • Avoid friction from tight clothes
  • Blot or pat to dry your skin and frequently apply moisturizer

7. Keratosis Pilaris Diet

A keratosis pilaris diet can help ease symptoms, especially if you combine dietary restrictions with topical treatments.

Some people cut out gluten and dairy as part of this diet. Others avoid spices and oils. Sometimes keratosis pilaris may also arise from a deficiency of Vitamin B, magnesium, zinc or other vitamins. It’s best you consult with your doctor to address the issue and determine the best way forward.

While anecdotal evidence backs this diet, there is not so much scientific evidence. Nonetheless, you can notice an improvement.

Who Can Develop Keratosis Pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is seen at a young age and increases by the time you hit puberty. But you’re more likely to get keratosis pilaris if: [5]

  • Your family has a history of asthma, allergies, ichthyosis vulgaris or eczema
  • You have light or fair skin
  • You are obese or overweight

Tips And Risks Of Keratosis Pilaris

One significant tip for keratosis pilaris is not to pick at your KP. Picking leads to scarring and can eventually lead to hyperpigmentation.

People prone to KP may have more outbreaks when the skin tends to be drier. Dry, cold climates can also make KP worse. Avoid drying your skin out more than you need to. Do not use excessive, harsh soap on affected areas, shower in lukewarm water and immediately moisturize after a shower.

How Long Does It Take For Keratosis Pilaris To Go Away?

In most cases, keratosis pilaris is only a temporary problem while there are a few people who have it for most of their lives. Often, this condition fades away with time, although how long it takes for that is difficult to predict. Treatments can help.

Keratosis pilaris can develop at any age and on different parts of the body, and symptoms may get better or worse from time to time. The condition may also go away completely. Unfortunately, there is no way to know who will see keratosis pilaris clear. You can try different options that your dermatologist suggests. [6]

How Do Dermatologists Diagnose Keratosis Pilaris?

Dermatologists diagnose this condition by looking closely and examining your skin to see if it shows any signs of keratosis pilaris as mentioned above. Typically, it doesn’t need any further investigation. [7]

Wrapping Up

Luckily, keratosis pilaris isn’t contagious, dangerous, or painful. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less of a beauty bummer! Consult with a dermatologist who can work out a customized treatment for optimal effect. You will not see changes overnight. So it’s recommended that you stick to a consistent regimen to see an improvement in the feel and appearance of keratosis pilaris and also prevent the occurrence of future flare-ups.

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