What are those pesky skin colored bumps on the back of your arms? You pick at them, but they don’t go away. It looks like you have chicken skin. You’ve tried countless creams and concoctions, but nothing seems to work. Maybe your mom or dad had them. Maybe your kids have them. Maybe they worsened with pregnancy or appeared after childbirth. Those troublesome bumps have a funny name–they are called keratosis pilaris.
Keratosis pilaris (or KP for short) is a common skin condition that tends to run in families and tends to affect people with sensitive skin or a history of eczema. They most commonly affect the back of the arms, but they can appear on the cheeks, thighs, and buttocks. Sometimes they are confused with acne. The bump is actually dead skin material (keratin) that can’t get out of the hair follicle because it’s “sticky,” a trait that is probably genetic.
Although we can’t cure KP, we certainly can try to improve the appearance and soften the bumps. Treatment consists of gentle manual exfoliation combined with chemical exfoliating agents like glycolic acid, lactic acid or urea-containing creams and lotions. I usually recommend Glytone’s Keratosis Pilaris Kit, which comes with an exfoliating wash, a loofah, and a rather potent moisturizer containing 17.5% glycolic acid, Glytone Retexturize Body Lotion). Daily use of the glycolic acid containing moisturizer can be irritating for some people if used everyday, so I often tell my patients to alternate the use of the Glytone Retexturize Body Lotion with a more gentle CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion or Moisturizing Cream.
Dry skin can make KP worse so it’s really important to maintain a good skin barrier with daily use of a moisturizer. CeraVe lotion or cream is a fabulous daily moisturizer as is Glytone’s less potent Retexturize Body Lotion SPF 15 (with 6.2% glycolic acid).
Sometimes the bumps can get red, itchy and angry—when this happens, you may benefit from a lotion containing a topical steroid, either over the counter or from your dermatologist. If you want to do more, you could choose to do microdermabrasion or a series of chemical peels. The most important thing—try not to pick! You may run the risk of leaving a blemish that may take months to go away, or even scar.
If you would like to discuss treatment options for KP, please give us a call at 310.546.1188 to schedule an appointment, or contact us online.