Keratosis Pilaris – How to Treat the Bumpy Skin on Your Arms

woman inside bathroom

These bumps are also known as KP and can worsen in winter. Experts share their recommendations for products that you can use right now.

You may notice that the red bumps appear slightly more severe in winter if you have them. Known as “strawberry skin” or “chicken skin,” this common condition is technically called keratosis pilaris, or KP. Experts say there is no cure for this condition, but you can reduce the number of red spots.

KP is believed to affect between 40% and 80% of adults, and 50% to 80% of adolescents at one time or another. “It’s such a common skin problem that many dermatologists consider it a skin type rather than a skin condition”, Ife Rodney, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Eternal Dermatology and Aesthetics in Fulton, Maryland, told us.

KP can be described as chronic, with dry bumpy skin most commonly appearing on the arms and legs.

Rodney stated that the good news is that it is not dangerous or deadly and won’t spread to other parts or affect other body functions. Some may claim it is cosmetic.

KP can be made to look more slender and smoother. Rodney said that you need to continue the treatments for the long-term.

What causes KP?

KP occurs when hair follicles, or pores, get clogged with excess keratin (the protein found in hair, skin and nails) buildup and dead skin cells, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Your skin can feel bumpy and scaly due to the thousands of hair follicles.

Rodney stated that KP is not a skin condition per se but rather a variant on normal. Rodney stated that KP is a common skin condition, or type that many people have.

Rodney said that KP is available to anyone of any skin type and color. It may look different on different skin types. She explained that it can appear as reddish or dark brown bumps to people with darker skin. “On darker individuals, it can appear as darker brown bumps.”

It is important that the bumps are evenly distributed, uniformly centered around hair-follicles. Rodney stated that sometimes, you might see tiny hairs growing from each bump.

woman inside bathroom

Experts don’t know why people get KP. However, it is believed to be a genetic condition and may be linked to dry skin.

According to AAD, people with hay fever, eczema and acne are more likely to get the condition.

KP isn’t harmful Hirsch stated, “It’s just visually unpleasing to some, and for other people just that it’s there makes them itchy.”

Does KP get worse in winter?

According to AAD, KP can be more apparent in winter and for those who live in dry climates. Hirsch explained that KP can worsen during winter months due to low humidity, blustery weather and cold temperatures.

Rodney stated that KP can be linked to an excessive production of keratin which can block pores. Dry skin (which is more common in winter) can take longer for extra keratin to be shed. This is usually due to cell turnover.

She said that cold, dry air can cause skin to lose moisture and impact keratin production. It has to do more with temperature than humidity.

Is it possible to get rid of KP?

KP is a chronic condition that cannot be treated. Hirsch stated that managing it and adapting to it are the key factors.

Certain treatments can increase cell turnover and help you shed excess skin cells and keratin. Rodney stated that KP can appear less obvious with certain treatments, but that once they are stopped, tiny red bumps may reappear.

To increase cell turnover and eliminate dead skin cells, dermatologists use chemical peels, microdermabrasion, or prescription medication. There are many products that you can use at your home to treat KP. Hirsch suggested looking for products that contain urea and lactic acid. These substances are known to exfoliate the skin and break down keratin.

These products can be used to treat Keratosis Pilaris

1. AmLactin Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion

This moisturizer has 12% lactic to increase skin renewal and alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) for exfoliation. Rodney recommends applying the lotion twice daily, one right after your shower to lock in moisture. Overusing KP treatments can cause skin irritation.

Amazon has it for only $12.97

2. First Aid Beauty KP Bumper Body Scrub 10% AHA

The scrub is 10% glycolic and 10% lactic acids. It exfoliates the skin in a similar way to a microdermabrasion or chemical peel. Rodney stated that the scrub also contains microbeads. These can be used to remove excess keratin from the skin and help minimize KP.

Sephora sells it for $28

3. Dermadoctor KP Duty

The scrub is 10% AHAs and contains poly-hydroxy acids (PHAs), which offer similar benefits to microdermabrasion and chemical peels. Rodney stated that it also contains beta-hydroxy acid, which Rodney claimed can penetrate oil glands.

It’s only $50 to get it at Dermstore

4. Eucerin Roughness Relief Cream

Hirsch stated that the body lotion contains urea which Hirsch claimed breaks down keratin to get rid of skin cells. Ceramides are also included to moisturize the skin and improve dry, bumpy patches.

It’s available at Amazon starting at $9.97

5. Soft Services Microcrystal Exfoliant Buffing Bar

This exfoliating bar is for people who have KP, ingrown hairs, and rough, dry skin. This exfoliant softens the skin, gets rid of excess keratin and dead skin. After exfoliating, apply a moisturizer.

Soft Services offers it for $28

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