Big name, little bumps. You might not know the technical term, but chances are you, or someone you’re close to, suffers from the incredibly common genetic skin disorder known as Keratosis Pilaris. In fact, approximately 50% of the population is afflicted with ‘chicken skin’, little (or not so little) bumpy red or purplish patches on the backs of the arms, backside or thighs. It’s more of a problem for women, as we produce more keratin, which ends up trapped inside the hair follicles.
I am one of the 50%. While I only have the faintest hint on my arms these days, it used to be much more obvious and was something I was very sensitive about as a child. I saw various doctors and specialists who prescribed me all manner of potions and lotions (one particularly unpleasant ‘cure’ involved squeezing the bumps and then applying an eye dropper of some incredibly stingy substance). However, the most common advice I received was that I’d grow out of it. I did, to a degree, but I sure wish I’d known about some of the amazing treatments that are on the market now.
If the thought of baring your arms as the warmer weather rolls around makes you break out in a cold sweat, here are our top tips for tackling this unpleasant condition head on.
Keratosis Pilaris most commonly occurs on the backs of arms, legs, or on the cheeks.
3 Things to Avoid
Scrubbing – simply going at it with a heavy duty loofah is not going to solve the problem. Essentially, the issue is clogged pores, where skin cells have become hardened inside the pore, giving the problem area its lumpy, white-head like appearance. The skin appears inflamed and redness draws further attention to the problem. The root of the problem occurs deeper than the surface of the skin. Excessive scrubbing just serves to irritate the skin further.
Irritants – avoid drying soaps and washes, as well as most bar soaps which can clog the pores further. A mild soap substitute like Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is a safe option
Picking. Do not, I repeat, do not pick at your skin. This simply exacerbates the problem and can leave you with scarring.
Learn to Love Acids
The aim of the game when treating Keratosis Pilaris is to both reduce inflammation and unblock clogged pores. AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) such as glycolic or lactic acid work at the surface, to help exfoliate, giving the skin a smoother appearance. BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) products contain salycilic acid and tackle the root cause of the problem. Possessing anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, these are the real game changers. Salicylic acid can be irritating though, so ask a professional which treatment is right for you.
Now Kick KP to the Kerb
Keep skin hydrated – as dry skin increases the severity of the problem. Designed with sensitive skins in mind, Moo Goo Full Cream gently moisturises easily-irritated skins with natural ingredients including sweet almond oil and apple cider vinegar and is said to be popular with many KP sufferers. A more active solution that addresses the actual bumps is DERMAdoctor KP Duty Dermatologist Formulated Moisturising Therapy for Dry Skin. It may be a mouthful, but we’re sold – this wonder blend of glycolic acid, green tea extract and urea is said to exfoliate and calm the skin, improving the appearance of bumps, while leaving skin smooth and soft. NeoStrata Ultra Smoothing Cream can be used on the face or body and contains a mix of glycolic and lactic acid to unclog pores and improve skin clarity and texture.
Wipe your bumps away – Paula’s Choice Clinical KP Treatment Cloths are easy to use wipes that take a two-pronged approach, formulated with 8% lactic acid and 2% salicylic. Also ideal for acne skins, they promise to reduce the appearance of your tell tale bumps, giving you smooth, healthy skin.
Look into professional grade chemical peels – If over the counter formulations haven’t done the trick, consider discussing the problem with a trusted beauty aesthetician. Clinics are able to administer ingredients like glycolic acid in much higher formulations. They may suggest a course of peels to tackle your not so lovely lumps and bumps.
See a dermatologist – who can prescribe medical-grade products. They may even suggest laser treatments to tackle your KP.