Have you ever experienced dry, hard bumps appearing on the backs of your arms?
Keratosis Pilaris (KP) is a common skin condition that shows up as small, red or flesh-colored bumps on the skin’s surface. While KP is common and harmless, it can also be irritating and unsightly. The good news is there are easy at-home solutions you can use to treat this nuisance condition.
What is KP?
KP occurs when there is a buildup of keratin, a protein that protects the skin from infections and other harmful substances, around hair follicles. This buildup leads to the formation of small, rough bumps on the skin, commonly on the arms, thighs and buttocks. Although the exact cause is not fully understood, dry skin, genetics and certain skin conditions can contribute to the development of KP.
Symptoms of KP
- Small, rough bumps on the skin that are red or flesh-colored in appearance
- The skin in the affected area is dry and itchy
- The skin in the affected area is inflamed and irritated
How to Deal with KP
1. Gentle Exfoliation
Unfortunately, you cannot simply scrub the bumps associated with KP away. Since the bumps are a result of the buildup of dead skin cells (keratin) in the pore, you don’t want to rely solely on physical exfoliation (scrubbing) to resolve the issue. Additionally, physical exfoliation may be too harsh for already irritated skin.
Instead, it’s best to opt for a combination of gentle physical exfoliation such as dry brushing or body scrubs, which will help loosen the dead skin cells on the surface of the skin and leave-on chemical exfoliants containing Alpha Hydroxy Acids such as Glycolic or Lactic and/or Beta Hydroxy Acids such as Salicylic Acid or Willow Bark Extract, which will work to remove buildup and unclog the pore, aiding in getting rid of the bumps associated with KP.
When using a sugar scrub containing any oil, do not use a chemical exfoliant immediately after, as the oil will prevent the chemical exfoliant from effectively penetrating the skin. In this instance, it’s best to use a physical exfoliant one day and a chemical exfoliant on a different day. Also, irritated skin should never be double exfoliated, so alternating days is the gentler way to treat KP.
Be cautious not to over-exfoliate, as it can make KP worse. Gentleness and consistency are key.
2. Moisturize Regularly
Keeping your skin well-hydrated is crucial to managing KP. Use well-formulated products that contain ingredients such as glycerin and shea butter to lock in moisture and prevent dryness. If your skin continues to be red and itchy, use our Zinc Rescue Cream to calm and soothe the irritation.
Be as diligent about moisturizing as you are about exfoliation. Keeping your skin moisturized is key to keeping those KP bumps at bay. You can apply your favorite body lotion over your exfoliant, or alternate using a chemical exfoliant at night and moisturizing in the morning. Another option is to use an exfoliating moisturizer, such as Amlactin, that provides exfoliation and moisture in one step.
3. Avoid Taking Long Hot Showers and Baths
As relaxing as these activities are, they are also drying to the skin and will make your KP worse.
4. Avoid Harsh Soaps
Harsh soaps can strip your skin of its natural oils, making KP symptoms worse. Skip bar soaps, which typically have ingredients that can make clogged pores worse. Instead, choose mild, body washes to avoid irritation and maintain your skin’s natural moisture balance.
5. Wear Loose Clothing
Wearing tight clothing can worsen the irritation caused by KP. Opt for loose-fitting, breathable fabrics to minimize friction and allow the skin to breathe.
6. Be Diligent About UV Protection
Sun exposure can exacerbate KP symptoms, so it’s essential to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 daily on exposed skin. Additionally, wear SPF-protective clothing when you’re planning on spending a prolonged period of time in the sun.
7. See a Professional
If you’ve tried at-home care but your symptoms persist, it’s time to see a dermatologist. There are in-office treatment options as well as prescription creams that can be effective in dealing with stubborn cases of KP.
While Keratosis Pilaris may not have a “cure,” adopting a consistent treatment routine for managing it can significantly improve its appearance and relieve associated symptoms. By incorporating gentle exfoliation, proper moisturization and avoiding harsh products, you can take control of your skin health and confidently embrace smoother, more radiant skin.
Sample KP Routine:
3 x a Week: Exfoliate using a chemical exfoliant and/ or a sugar scrub or dry brush. Try applying our Coconut Lactic Peel for 15 minutes, then rinse with warm water or remove with a soft wet cloth. If your skin isn’t terribly sensitive, you may want to follow it immediately with a sugar scrub or dry brushing.
Daily: Apply a leave-on salicylic acid treatment like the Willow Bark Pore Refining Serum either morning or night. Follow with a moisturizer.
For drier skin: Our Zinc Rescue Cream is both moisturizing and anti-inflammatory. The zinc also provides some sun protection.
If your skin is fairly balanced, neither super dry or oily, you may do better with a lighter lotion like the Detox Lemon Drop Hand & Body Lotion that also helps lighten the skin and prevent dark scarring.
If you’re prone to breakouts, use the Yarrow & Willow Bark BHA Toner, followed by the Oil Free Moisturizing Gel. The salicylic acid in these products will help dissolve dead skin.
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