Have you ever had tiny bumps on your arms and legs that look like chicken skin? This is most likely keratosis pilaris.
This condition is quite common, affecting 40% of adults and up to 80% of adolescents. The bumps look similar to small pimples and feel rough to touch.
They are usually light in color, and often affect your arms, legs, and buttocks. Sometimes, these bumps are accompanied by inflammation or redness.
They may affect the face too, but this is a rare occurrence. Keratosis pilaris is fairly harmless apart from the fact that they can be itchy.
However, they can be quite unpleasant to look at or touch and can lower your confidence.
What causes it?
The exact cause of keratosis pilaris still has to be determined. Experts believe that it is associated with the accumulation of keratin in the pores.
Keratin is a protein found in your skin, nails, and hair. It is vital for skin regeneration and makes up your skin’s outermost layer.
Dead skin cells that contain keratin would normally just peel and come off on their own. For some individuals though, the keratin accumulates and clogs the pores.
This results in the formation of plugs in the hair follicles—the bumps we know as keratosis pilaris.
Because this condition can be triggered by dry, dead skin, it can be aggravated during low-humidity weather or during winter.
As a matter of fact, several studies have shown that the severity of the symptoms of keratosis pilaris differs depending on the season.
Many experience improvement in the symptoms during summer and these symptoms became worse during winter.
In addition, it is believed that age also plays a role in the development of keratosis pilaris. More often than not, it manifests in childhood, reaches its peak in adolescence, and disappears in adulthood.
In fact, the results of a study published in a reputable scientific journal showed that the symptoms of keratosis pilaris got better with age.
Another factor strongly believed to play a role in the development of keratosis pilaris is genetics. You are more likely to develop it if someone else in your family had it at some point in their life.
There is no medical test for diagnosing keratosis pilaris. There is no need to take a skin sample.
Your doctor just needs to take a look at your affected skin. Just through this, he or she will be able to tell if it’s keratosis pilaris.
How can it be prevented?
There are some steps you can take to prevent keratosis pilaris from getting triggered.
They are the following:
Use an air humidifier
As mentioned earlier, the symptoms of keratosis pilaris become worse during winter or when the humidity of the air is low.
Thus, it is a good idea to use a humidifier for your home or at least your bedroom. This will ensure that there will always be additional moisture in the air, particularly at night when you’re asleep.
This will prevent your skin from drying out, therefore preventing keratosis pilaris. If you already have it, an air humidifier will help in relieving its symptoms.
Use a good and natural moisturizer every day
By now, it has been made clear that keratosis pilaris is triggered by dry, dead skin. Thus, it is of utmost importance that you keep your skin hydrated and moisturized.
The moisturizer you should use is made of only natural ingredients, is hypoallergenic, and non-irritating. Some examples of ideal moisturizers include pure aloe vera gel, jojoba oil, coconut oil, and raw shea butter.
Avocado is also an excellent moisturizer. After dry brushing or gentle exfoliation, apply mashed avocado to the dry areas of your skin.
Leave it there for 15-20 minutes, and then rinse gently with warm water. This will speed up hydration and get rid of inflammation.
Thus, instead of feeling flaky and rough, it will leave your skin supple and dewy. Coconut oil is popular for its wonderful effects against not only keratosis pilaris but many other skin conditions.
It is very helpful in healing, moisturizing, and cleansing skin.
To use, after cleansing and while your skin is still damp, apply it to your whole body, with extra focus on the patchy and rough parts of your skin to lock in moisture.
You may let your skin air-dry or you may pat your skin dry with a clean towel. Again, “pat” dry. Never rub your skin.
Use mild cleansers
Plenty of soaps and cleansers out there are drying to the skin. Choose a soap or cleanser that is mild and contains absolutely no chemicals.
Examples of good soaps are those made of goat’s milk, for instance. Castile soap is also another great option.
It is made of olive oil, which is a good moisturizer too. Just remember, go for those that are made of only natural ingredients.
This way, you are keeping your skin nourished without making it dry and triggering or aggravating the symptoms of keratosis pilaris.
Other prevention strategies
- Always use warm water when showering or cleansing your skin.
- Avoid rubbing or scratching your skin.
- Keep your time in the water limited.
How can it be treated?
Keratosis pilaris cannot be treated. There is no single, definite cure for it.
However, what you can do is to lower the severity of the symptoms. As mentioned earlier, the best way to minimize the symptoms is by keeping your skin moisturized and hydrated.
In addition to this though, you may also do the following:
Use topical retinoids
Topical retinoids are effective in preventing your skin’s hair follicles from getting clogged. These include products containing tazarotene and tretinoin.
Be careful when using these though because they have a tendency to cause peeling, redness, or irritation. Thus, always do a patch test first before using any topical product.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, topical retinoids should not be used.
Use topical exfoliants
Topical exfoliant products help getting rid of dead skin cells.
They may come in cream or gel forms and contain ingredients such as urea, salicylic acid, lactic acid, and alpha-hydroxy acid.
However, these may result in slight burning or redness, so younger individuals and those with sensitive skin should not use them.
To be safe, do a patch test first.
Note that you need to use both topical retinoids and exfoliants every day for a couple of weeks before you could expect to see improvements.