Some skin conditions may be easier to ignore than others, but it doesn’t change the fact that they still put a significant dent on your quest for soft, smooth and healthy-looking skin. Take keratosis pilaris, for example. Commonly known as chicken skin or goose flesh, these tiny bumps seem harmless enough. Aside from making you feel wary about wearing arm-baring tops, they don’t really cause any itchiness or discomfort, so it’s no surprise that they don’t rank high on your list of skin concerns. Ironically, despite the fact that it’s so common, not many know much about what causes keratosis pilaris—or even how to address it.
What is Keratosis Pilaris
“Keratosis pilaris (KP) is a common and benign disorder of hair follicles in the skin,” says Seattle-based dermatologist Heather Rogers, M.D. “It typically presents as rough 1 to 2 mm little bumps on your skin, particularly on the backs of arms but can also affect the buttocks, upper thighs and even cheeks. It’s often described in association with other dry skin conditions like eczema.”
According to Dr. Rogers, 50 to 80 percent of adolescents and 40 percent of adults have keratosis pilaris, and because it’s inherited, about half of patients also have family members with the same skin condition. It’s typically at its worse during puberty and improves with age, but as with most skin conditions, it can also be affected by the changing seasons. “Keratosis pilaris improves during summer months and worsens as the skin tends to dry out during the winter,” she explains.
How to Treat Keratosis Pilaris
As annoying as those pesky bumps are, Dr. Rogers says that there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. “Keratosis pilaris is genetically determined, something that many of us will have for our entire lives,” she explains. “Figuring how to keep things in check at home is the best long-term solution.”
While there’s currently no treatment that will absolutely get rid of KP, you can improve its appearance and symptoms with some TLC—and one of the best things you can do at home is to keep your skin moisturized all the time. “Moisturize your skin after a shower or before bed with a thick, bland moisturizer,” says Dr. Rogers. “To address roughness and texture changes, use a body wash and body cream with chemical exfoliators like glycolic acid three times a week.” And although it might be tempting to do, Dr. Rogers warns against scrubbing and picking those tiny bumps.
When it comes to natural treatment alternatives, raw coconut oil is a popular choice because of its hydrating and mild anti-inflammatory properties. However, since studies show that oil mixed with water (emulsions) hydrate the skin better than oil alone, Dr. Rogers suggests reaching for thick creams infused with nourishing oils instead. To treat redness, she usually prescribes a topical steroid to temporarily ease the discoloration. “You cannot do this forever, but for special events, it will make things look nicer.”
Ready to give your skin an extra dose of pampering? We’ve listed our top product picks to help you keep keratosis pilaris at bay!