You’ve finally found out what those little red bumps on your arms and legs are and now you’re looking for a keratosis pilaris treatment. If you have this condition, then you know how stubborn, frustrating and unsightly it is. You’ve probably tried everything and found that nothing really seems to work.
You’ve been told to exfoliate. You do this until you scratch the spines off the keratosis pilaris bumps and they bleed. You’ve been told to use a urea cream. You do this religiously and you get acne-like welts that are worse than the keratosis pilaris itself. You’ve been told to use an ammonium lactate product. But you end up smelling like you’ve showered in cat pee. Oh, no! And then you’re told there’s nothing you can do about it and you’ll just have to live with it.
Your heart sinks. You can’t understand how we can create robotic arms controlled by brain signals, but we can’t find a way to overcome keratosis pilaris? How can an effective keratosis pilaris treatment be so evasive!
My experience with keratosis pilaris
How do I know all this? Because I’ve had severe keratosis pilaris ever since I can remember and no doctor or dermatologist was ever been able to help.
Sadly, the medical literature says that “ketosis pilaris is harmless”, so you don’t need to treat it.
As a child, my mother was told it would go away in my teenage years. It never did. As a teenager, I was told it would go away in my adult years. It never did. As an adult, I was told it would improve. It never did. And despite all the years of having it, I can’t say I’ve ever felt happy to just live with it.
When I was a teenager, I became acutely aware of it when a school ‘friend’ pointed out to everyone that I had chicken skin. There was a lot of finger pointing, sneering and giggling. From that moment on, I started wearing long sleeves and long pants, even on summer holidays, because I was too embarrassed to have people notice the very obvious red spots all over my arms and legs.
Some people, these days, more kindly refer to this condition as strawberry skin, and maybe that would have been a little less hurtful than when I was at school, but I doubt it would have helped me embrace it.
My family doctor wasn’t too sympathetic to my plight as a teenager. I was sternly told it was nothing to worry about and to just live with it. At the time, I couldn’t exactly remember the term keratosis pilaris so for years I went around calling it pellis vulgaris, which I think is pretty apt. It really is ugly skin, after all!
In my adult years, I tried everything suggested by doctors and dermatologists. If anything, I over-tried, everything from clinical peels, dermabrasion, IPL and LED light to nutritional changes and supplements.
I hated my keratosis pilaris and you may too. I would often scratch or squeeze some of the larger ones, and this left me with quite a bit of post inflammatory pigmentation.
I was determined to not allow those dreaded red horrors rule my world. I set out to find a way to find a keratosis pilaris treatment, or at least give myself smooth skin and be able to wear summer clothes, just like everyone else. Now I call the shots, not my keratosis pilaris. My skin is no longer obviously rough, red and spotted.
I developed a keratosis pilaris treatment protocol, so now it’s barely visible. No longer does my skin look obviously red, irritated and discoloured.
If you’ve landed on this page, then I suspect you too want to find a way to deal with your keratosis pilaris and not have your arms and legs look like those of a plucked chook.
What is keratosis pilaris?
Keratosis pilaris is a skin condition that appears as angry goose bumps on the upper arms, upper and lower legs, buttocks and possibly even the sides of the face. The skin looks and feels rough, and even red.
It’s also referred to as also follicular keratosis, lichen pilaris or chicken skin.
The skin cells that line the hair follicles are sticky and form a plug that doesn’t come out easily. Some of the plugs may also contain trapped hairs.
Usually it’s associated with dry skin conditions and atopic dermatitis, however simply keeping your skin moisturised doesn’t make it go away. You may find that low humidity environments worsen it, including winter heating and summer air-conditioning.
What causes keratosis pilaris?
Keratosis pilaris spots contain a buildup of a type of hard protein the body produces, known as keratin. It’s the key structural protein that makes up our skin, hair and nails, and it can be found in other organs in the body too. In the skin, keratin enables cells to adhere to each other and form a protective barrier that keeps out chemicals, irritants and pathogens. In those with keratosis pilaris, adhesive bonds prevent skin cells from shedding properly. The keratin forms a hard plug that blocks the opening of the hair follicles and these form little raised bumps that are red and make the skin look and feel rough. The skin may be dry and itchy too.
We don’t really know why people with keratosis pilaris have this buildup of keratin, although it’s thought to be linked to a genetic disorder or the skin condition atopic dermatitis. Dry skin tends to make keratosis pilaris worse. However, in my case, no amount of moisturisation really helped me, and over-moisturising or using thick and occlusive creams actually created further skin problems.
The medical literature says it often disappears by the age of 30, but this was not the case for me or for the many others who’ve struggled with it their entire lives.
Types of keratosis pilaris
In dermatology, keratosis pilaris is classified according to type. The more regular types of KP are:
- Keratosis pilaris rubra appears as raised red spots.
- Keratosis pilaris alba is appears as raised white spots.
As mentioned, this condition primarily appears on the upper arms, thighs, buttocks and sides of the face. However there are some more unusual types, referred to as keratosis pilaris atrophicans. These are:
- Keratosis pilaris pustulosa: looks similar to acne (papules and pustules) and therefore can be misdiagnosed.
- Keratosis pilaris atrophicans faciei: keratosis pilaris involving the eyebrows.
- Ulerythema ophryogenes: involves facial papules that may result in scars, atrophy and alopecia.
- Erythromelanosis follicularis faciei et colli: involves red and brown keratosis pilaris on the face and neck.
- Atrophoderma vermiculatum: primarily affects children and appears as symmetrical pitting on the cheeks, but may also affect the ears and forehead.
Keratosis pilaris treatment — in clinic
There are a number of in-clinic treatments available. The problem, however, is that they only bring about temporary improvement and can be costly.
An exfoliant, usually AHA or BHA, is used at a strength of 20-50% to treat the skin and bring about peeling. Chemical peels may be helpful because keratosis pilaris is caused by the build-up of keratin in the pore. High-strength exfoliants remove the topmost and clogged layers of skin, thereby smoothing out the bumps, improving texture and reducing discolourations. Depending on the strength of the peel, they can be quite irritating.
This is an intense exfoliating treatment that removes the bumps and pigmented skin. Microdermabrasion involves the use of a crystal tool that physically removes the top layers of the skin. As surface layers of skin are removed, the keratosis pilaris plugs and any trapped hairs are cleared away, leaving smoother skin. Redness, swelling and burning usually occur. And a number of treatments are needed.
IPL and laser
IPL and laser treatments are sometimes used by dermatologists and aestheticians. Lasers used include Potassium Titanyl Phosphate Laser, 595 nm Pulsed Dye Laser, 1064 nm Q-switched Nd: YAG laser, Long-pulsed Alexandrite Laser and Fractional CO2 Laser. These work to reduce redness and discolourations, and they may also help smooth the bumps. Often, treatment will involve more than one laser. The response is variable and you’ll need a series of these expensive treatments. Unfortunately, the bumps will usually return in a short time.
Doctors and dermatologists can prescribe retinoids to reduce the clogging of the pores with keratin. Prescription retinoids have side effects and can be highly irritating, causing dryness, burning, itching and peeling. They need to be used under the direction of a doctor. The two most commonly used are Tretinoin and Tazarotene. Prescription retinoids must not be used by anyone who is pregnant or breast-feeding.
To learn more about retinoids, you can read our indepth blog article What are Retinoids?
Topical corticosteroids are typically used in conjunction with chemical peels and retinoids to reduce irritation. These are usually only used for a short period, rather than ongoing. They help reduce swelling, redness and irritation, but are not a treatment in themselves. Topical corticosteroids have side effects and can trigger or worsen skin conditions.
Because keratosis pilaris cannot be cured, you need to keep in mind that once you stop your clinical treatment, your condition will return after a short while. Given the expense and downsides involved with clinical treatment, they’re usually not a top choice for most people.
Keratosis pilaris treatment — at home
It’s often recommended that you use a loofah in the shower each day to smooth out your skin. The problem with this is that this is usually too harsh and you end up abrading your skin, scratching off the heads of some of your plugs and impairing your skin barrier. It also makes your skin too irritated and applying actives afterwards can cause stinging and burning.
Glycolic Acid and Salicylic Acid body washes don’t stay on the skin long enough and are not at the right pH to be able to do their best work. Equally, many of them can be quite drying and exacerbate your already dry skin and keratosis pilaris.
A leave-on product has more time to work, but they often are formulated in thick and heavy creams that may be too much for your skin, giving you breakouts, or just feel unpleasant to use.
Ammonium Lactate is rather off-putting too. It’s very much on the nose, literally, smelling strongly of ammonia. It has the E number E328, and you may have seen it as the active ingredients in Amlactin, Lanate and Ameliorate. Like Urea, it’s also used to treat dry and itchy skin conditions, such as xerosis and ichthyosis vulgaris, which is probably why these types of products are overly occlusive.
Vitamin A creams
Retinoids are Vitamin A derivatives that increase cell turnover. These come in various strengths ranging from prescription Tretinoin and Tazarotene through to over-the counter Retinol. Retinoids speed up cellular activity and may help in clearing the keratin plug faster. But, in the case of keratosis pilaris, new plugs are continually forming. High-strength retinoids are inherently irritating and drying and can also worsen dry skin conditions.
There are warnings that applying retinoids to the body can cause hypervitaminosis, leading to organ damage. This is not likely. The amount absorbed is very low. Nonetheless, it’s best to check with your doctor first before using a high-strength retinoid, just in case there’s a health reason why you shouldn’t be using them.
Anyone who is pregnant or breast-feeding should not use retinoids.
Keratosis pilaris treatment protocol
Currently, there’s no medical cure for keratosis pilaris. That may sound disheartening. But the good news is that there’s a lot you can do yourself, at home, so you no longer have to worry about the chicken skin curse.
Your best bet to improve the look and feel of you keratosis pilaris is to follow a multifaceted at-home skin care protocol and make some simple lifestyle and dietary changes.
Having battled this skin condition my entire life, I was determined to develop a keratosis pilaris treatment protocol that worked for me and others. I didn’t want to be covering up all the time. I didn’t want to always wonder whether people were looking at my red bumps. I didn’t want to be picking holes in my arms any more. And I didn’t want to exfoliate until my skin was red raw and burning.
You can easily adopt my protocol without having to make a big time commitment or go to a lot of expense. It isn’t difficult, complicated or onerous.
By following my four easy steps, you’ll be able to dramatically improve the look and feel of your keratosis pilaris. You’ll finally be able to feel in control of this unwelcome condition.
Have you had enough of your keratosis pilaris? Do you want to calm the angry red look? Do you want your arms and legs to feel smoother? Do you want to ease the dryness and roughness without covering yourself in grease?
Now you can finally wear summer clothes again and not have to be self-conscious about your arms and legs. You only need a few minutes a day to stop having to worry about your irritating red bumps.
Now you have access to my simple step-by-step protocol. I tell you what products to use, how to use them, what strengths you need and how to combine them to get real results. I even throw in a handy guide on what ingredients to look for in a moisturiser to improve skin health. Now you can have smooth, soft skin and stop seeing it as the chicken skin curse. Finally, something that really works.
I reveal exactly what you need to do. You don’t have to buy any expensive tools. You just need some readily available skin care products and a few minutes each day. You can choose products I know and trust or you can simply buy similar products from the drugstore. It’s easy, simple and effective.
You can access my keratosis pilaris information guide and protocol that includes:
- A four-step routine that dramatically improves the look and feel your keratosis pilaris.
- A list of the products you’ll need and the correct strengths.
- Simple lifestyle changes you can easily make at home.
- Information on what foods to include in your diet to support the health of your skin.
- An infographic guide on what ingredients to look for in an effective moisturiser.
I’ve even included steps specifically for those with sensitive skin to minimise any potential irritation.
Smoother and softer looking skin can finally be yours. Download your Keratosis Pilaris Protocol now.
Yours truly in better skin