Warmer weather brings short sleeve tops, so this time of year, patients increasingly ask us about keratosis pilaris (KP). KP appears as tiny bumps on the skin. Some people describe it as plucked chicken skin while others think it looks like small pimples. KP can be different colors ranging including white, red, pink, brown, black, or flesh-colored. The bumps are most common on the upper arms and thighs, although it can extend farther. Children may also see it on their cheeks.
Keratosis pilaris typically begins early in life, so it is more common in children and teenagers. KP will gradually improve in adulthood, although up to 40% of adults report having it to some degree.
The bumps are plugs of dead skin cells, and they are harmless. Keratosis pilaris is not contagious, and treatment is not necessary. However, if the appearance bothers you, then there are some treatments you can pursue at home to improve your appearance. Keep in mind, however, that there is no cure.
- Use warm water rather than hot for bathing and showering. Limit time in the water to 10 minutes or less.
- To reduce the appearance of the bumps, exfoliate gently using a loofah, buff, or washcloth. Avoid harsh, drying soaps, and do not scrub which can exacerbate the condition. Gently slough off the dead skin cells. After washing, pat dry.
- Use a creamy moisturizer to relieve dry skin and itching. Apply within 5 minutes after bathing, while your skin is still damp. Reapply 2 to 3 times a day to affected areas. Look for creams that contain alpha-hydroxy acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, or urea to help exfoliate the skin. An over-the-counter moisturizer we often recommend for KP is Amlactin. You may also include a thicker moisturizer to trap moisture in the skin, such as Eucerin, Cetaphil, or Aquaphor.
- Avoid tight clothes which can cause friction.
- Increase omega 3 fatty acids in your diet through fish oil.
It will take daily treatment for 4 to 6 weeks before you start seeing improvement. If you don’t see improvement, your dermatologist can prescribe a topical medicated treatment.
Once you find a treatment plan that works, you will need to continue it long term to maintain results. There is no cure for keratosis pilaris, so if you stop treatment, the condition will return.
Vanguard Skin Specialists is a dermatology and plastic surgery practice with locations in Colorado Springs, Canon City, Pueblo, and Woodland Park. Our team of medical dermatologists can help address skin concerns like KP, as well as other dermatology conditions such as acne, eczema, skin cancer, warts, etc. Call 719 355 1585 to schedule your appointment.