Keratosis pilaris is an annoying, but generally not serious condition that can affect the skin of anyone, resulting in the skin appearing bumpy, and occasionally red. The condition is quite common in children, often resolving as kids age, but some people continue to be affected by it for most of their lives. Though there’s no treatment that will take away the condition, and there’s normally no need to treat the condition, there are some medicines and some self-care tips that can help reduce the look of bumpy skin.
Most poeple get keratosis pilaris on the arms, legs, buttocks and face. It often occurs in patches, so that a whole area of skin will look like it has constant goosebumps. The skin may also feel rough or sandpapery. Unless irritated by other things, these bumps don’t tend to itch, but the appearance may be annoying to some, especially when bumps appear on the face where they actually can scar the skin.
What causes keratosis pilaris is a build up of the protein keratin. It can form plugs in hair follicles, resulting in the skin’s bumpy appearance. Often there is no identifiable reason why people get the condition, though in some cases, if your parents had it, you’re more genetically inclined to have it too. It is not caused simply by skin being dry, as many think, but dry skin can cause the bumps to have an even rougher feel.
Diagnosis can usually be made at a doctor’s office, and a dermatologist will definitely be able to identify the condition, usually by examining the little skin plugs, often called “horny plugs” made by keratin build up. Once the condition is diagnosed, unless it is causing considerable concern about appearance, prescribed medical treatment is usually unnecessary. When a person wants to minimize the look of the condition, any of the following might be prescribed:
- Retinoid or Vitamin A creams, which can help unplug hair follicles.
- Creams or Lotions with Urea, a urine protein, which can soften the skin and help reduce any skin irritation caused by the condition.
- Topical corticosteroids usually of low strength may be used on areas that might scar, like the face.
- Ammonium lactate, which can soften the plugs and the overall feel of the skin.
These treatments have to be applied daily in order to see reduction in the appearance of keratosis pilaris, and they won’t remove or cure the condition. For those who would prefer home treatment, it’s important to realize that scrubbing the skin roughly can actually make the problem worse. It’s recommended that you don’t use skin sloughing products, and that you towel off very gently after showers.
Moisturizers that contain lactic acid generally work best to treat this condition. Lactic acid tends to act on keratin and remove it from the skin. Getting a little, but not too much sun, can help too. Many people find the condition gets better over summer, but comes back with a vengeance during the other seasons. Unless any of the skin bumps show signs of infection or irritation, follow up visits with a doctor after diagnosis are usually not required, unless you’re on prescription medications to treat the condition.