Chicken skin bumps – such a simple yet instantly identifiable description of the skin problem named keratosis pilaris (commonly dubbed "KP"). Can't you just visualize it? These minute, rough bumps with their grater-like texture are most frequently scattered along the upper arms and thighs. However, the cheeks, back and buttocks can all become involved at one time or another. They're annoying, unsightly, chronic and incredibly commonplace.
If you don't have this condition, odds are that you know somebody who does. Whenever I talk about KP, inevitably the individual with whom I'm conversing pauses, gasps, then exclaims, "I didn't know that's what that was! My child, husband, coworker (fill in the blank as appropriate) has that!"
Because keratosis pilaris affects 50% of the entire world's population, this reaction isn't surprising. KP is somewhat more common in children and adolescents; 50 to 80% of children have KP. Adults needn't feel neglected. Keratosis pilaris affects 4 out of every 10 adults, too. Women are slightly more prone to developing keratosis pilaris. Most people with KP are unaware that not only is there a designated medical term for the condition, but that treatment exists.
Keratosis pilaris is hereditary, inherited as an autosomal dominant gene. This is similar to the brown versus blue eye color phenomenon. All it takes is a single gene from either parent to find oneself with less than perfectly smooth skin. But not everyone can point a finger at who's to blame since only 30 to 50% of KP patients have a positive family history.
In general, keratosis pilaris is aesthetically displeasing, but medically harmless. It's always possible that it might become more noticeable at puberty. It's caused because excess skin cells build up around individual hair follicles. Sometimes, a hair is unable to reach the surface and becomes trapped beneath the debris. During puberty, this is an ideal set-up for triggering follicular acne. But more often than not, KP improves with age.
Keratosis pilaris creates havoc with the skin's surface as a raised, rough, bumpy texture and uneven nutmeg-grater appearance forms. It is often quite noticeable. Inflammation within each hair follicle can cause embarrassing pinpoint red or brown polka dots to form beneath each miniature mound of keratin. Seasonal fluctuations can be seen with improvement more likely during the summer.
Controlling Your Outer Self
Since keratosis pilaris is genetically predetermined, it may not be curable but should be controllable. There is no reason to passively take a “wait and see” approach. After all, there's no guarantee that you'll outgrow it. And while most with KP may not realize there really is something they can do about it, KP can really traumatize some sufferers.
Treatment is all about smoothing away the bumps. Therapy can eliminate the bumps, improve the texture, eliminate acne-causing plugs, and improve the overall appearance. Chemical exfoliation needn't be fraught with irritation, redness or discomfort.
- Glycolic Acid
An array of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are utilized in a dermatologist's quest to smooth out keratosis pilaris. Glycolic and lactic acids work as chemical exfoliating agents. Dermatologists often turn to over-the-counter and prescription lactic acid products to palliate KP.
Urea is one of those special little known ingredients used by dermatologists to dramatically soften the crustiest of skin concerns. It is an awesome additive in improving the appearance of KP.
- Vitamin A Treatments
Patients may turn to prescription vitamin A creams to help restore a smooth texture in recalcitrant cases, or as a way to help treat keratosis pilaris complicated by acne. Potent over-the-counter retinols (up to 1%) are another option. Overeager use won't help hasten silky skin. Instead it can leave the skin parched, peeling and painful. A tiny dab every other night is more than adequate for beginners.
Since keratosis pilaris is often thought of as a manifestation of eczema, it stands to reason that new prescription medications may play a role in treating keratosis pilaris. I tend to reserve this for more complex cases or for the patient who already has a tube at home; occasional use may be a helpful, off-label option.
- Scrubs, Rubs and Peels
It's true that scrubbing at dry, bumpy skin can make it a tad smoother. But it doesn't entirely smooth KP away. Nor does it eradicate the little pink polka dots. But incorporating a scrub, a series of microdermabrasions or even getting a chemical peel can certainly jumpstart your way to smoothness, especially as we get nearer to sleeveless weather. Just remember that since keratosis pilaris is a chronic condition, committing oneself to never-ending weekly sessions of more medically useful microdermabrasion or chemical peels rapidly adds up financially.
Treatment for keratosis pilaris is ongoing – if discontinued, skin begins reforming around hair follicles. Maintenance is the best way to maintain silky smooth skin. Letting your keratosis pilaris show is unnecessary and so easy to control. Get ready for sleeveless fashion now and look your absolute best!