Keratosis Pilaris: Causes and Treatment

Keratosis Pilaris – a mouthful of a name for a condition that is the bane of my summer time when I want to wear cute sleeveless tanks.

(Ok maybe it isn’t the bane of my summer time but it is really really annoying!)

I’ve spent years exfoliating, moisturizing, and all sort of other attempts to get rid of them. So I finally decided to dive in a really learn more about this frustrating (but harmless condition.

If you also want to learn a bit more about this common skin condition, and how to treat it, read on…

What Is Keratosis Pilaris?

Keratosis Pilaris is a very common – and very harmless – skin condition. It results in small, hard bumps that might feel a bit like sandpaper.

(If you want to know how to pronounce it, it is “ker-uh-TOE-sis pih-LAIR-is”.)

You will often find them on your upper arms, thighs, and buttocks. Sometimes on your lower arms and legs, and rarely on your face.

The bumps are light-colored, and there may be some redness or swelling.

It doesn’t hurt or get worse, but may itch a little.

It is most common in children or teens, and persists for years. It usually disappears as you get older, most often by the age of 30. (Maybe someone should tell that to my 33 year-old arms?)

What Is The Cause Of Keratosis Pilaris?

Keratosis Pilaris is caused by a buildup of the hair protein keratin.

This hard protein protects your skin from infections and other harmful substances – so it is very helpful. The problem comes in when there is too much keratin, and it builds up, which causes a scaly plug over the hair follicle, that blocks the opening of the hair follicle.

It is common for many plugs to form, which results in rough and bumpy skin.

Doctors don’t yet know what causes the build up, but do know that if you suffer from dry skin, you are also more likely to suffer from Keratosis Pilaris.

It is not contagious.

When the air is drier and less humid, such as in winter, it tends to be worse.It may also worsen during pregnancy and puberty, due to hormonal changes.

If you suffer from eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis – yup, me too), then you are more likely to suffer from Keratosis Pilaris.

It is also commonly found in people with ichthyosis, hay fever, melanoma. Women suffer from Keratosis Pilaris more than men, as well people who are obese.

Interestingly – it is also more common in those with Celtic ancestry.

For your doctor to determine if you have Keratosis Pilaris, they just need to look at your skin. No additional tests are required.

How To Treat Keratosis Pilaris

There is nothing to do to prevent Keratosis Pilaris occuring, and there is also unfortunately no cure. But, there are some things you can do to treat it.

Treatments can take month to result in any improvement, if there is any improvement at all. But it is definitely worth a try!

Home Remedies To Treat Keratosis Pilaris

These home remedies won’t eliminate the Keratosis Pilaris, but it will help improve the skin’s appearance.

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

Firstly – and most importantly – keep your skin moisturized. This will lessen its effects (especially as this condition is found in people with dry skin).

A good quality moisturizer or cream will help your skin look and feel better.

The best time to moisturize is right after you step out of the bath or shower, when your skin is still damp.

Use a moisturizer that contains either lanoil, petroleum jelly, or glycerin. These ingredients will not only trap the moisture, but also soothe the skin. Look for a thicker moisturizer – Eucerin and Cetahpil are great options. (I really love Eucerin – I started using it recently and it makes a big difference for my skin.)

And don’t think once a day is enough – keep reapplying several times throughout the day.

Limit Water Time, And Reduce The Heat

Limit your time in the water, and when bathing or showering use warm – not hot – water.

Long showers or baths, and hot water, remove the natural oils from the skin. Try limit your baths and showers to 10 minutes.

Treat Your Skin Gently

Use a soap that has added fat or oil, so it is not so drying.

You can exfoliate gently to remove the dead skin cells with a loofah or washcloth, but be gentle. Scrubbing vigorously can aggravate the skin and make the condition worse.

A gentle sugar scrub is also a good exfoliator, and generally isn’t too rough on the skin.

And when you get out of the bath or shower, dry yourself gently by patting or blotting skin, so some of the moisture remains on the skin.

Use Coconut Oil

You can use coconut oil as a moisturizer, and also as an ingredient in an exfoliant. Mix the coconut oil with sugar for a homemade sugar scrub.

Use A Humidifier

If possible, add a humidifier to your home. Low humidity dries out the skin, so using a portable humidifier will help your skin from getting too dry.

Avoid Tight Clothes

Tight clothes will cause friction against the skin, so try to avoid tight clothes on the affected areas.

And – very importantly – don’t scratch or pick your skin! Many people treat it like acne or pimples, but that will make the condition worse.

The above steps should help minimise the redness and swelling, and improve the appearance of your skin. But if this isn’t having too much effect, there are other steps you can take to minimise the Keratosis Pilaris.

Additional Treatments for Keratosis Pilaris

Topical Exfoliants

A topical exfoliant removes the dead skins cells from the surface of your skin. It comes in the forms of creams that contain either urea, lactic acid, alpha-hydroxy acid, or salicylic acid.

These creams will also moisturize and soften your dry skin.

You can get these over the counter, or with a prescription (depending on the strength). Your doctor will be able to recommend the best option for your skin.

These acids are not recommended for young children as they may cause redness, irritation, or slight burning.

Topical Retinoids

Topical retinoids are linked to vitamin A.

These types of products help the hair follicles from getting plugged up. They typically include the ingredients tretinoin and tazarotene.

The downside to topical retinoids is that they may cause irritation and drying of your skin, redness, or even peeling.

If you are pregnant, nursing, or planning on becoming pregnant, then you should avoid using topical retinoids.

With either of the above creams, with treatment the condition may improve. But as soon as you stop, the condition will return

Laser Treatment

Laser treatment can sometimes be used to treat severe redness and inflammation.

It isn’t a cure, but can be used to provide relief if the creams and lotions aren’t having an effect. It may take several sessions for the laser treatment to work.

Microdermabrasion or chemical peels may also be recommended by your dermatologist.