Keratosis Pilaris: What You Need to Know

keratosis pilaris causes and treatments

Keratosis Pilaris: What You Need to Know

Have you ever wondered what those hard, white bumps are on the back of your arms? You could very well have Keratosis Pilaris, which is a skin condition affecting the upper arms, thighs, buttocks and even the cheeks of our face. It’s a super common condition and I myself have even suffered with it since my teenage years. 

What is Keratosis Pilaris?

Keratosis Pilaris is often referred to as ‘KP’ and it’s a condition in which our skin produces too much of the protein keratin, that then clogs up our hair follicles and causes hard bumps to develop. These bumps can look hard and white, red and rash like or even quite inflamed like acne. A rough, dry ‘chicken skin’ texture and a red undertone is also something to accompany the main symptoms.

KP is not a serious skin condition and is not known to cause any pain or itching, however it can cause some insecurities for some sufferers due to the unpleasing aesthetic appearance of it, especially when wearing short sleeve tops or skirts in the summer months. 

What is the cause?

There isn’t a specific cause for KP, but there have been links to vitamin A deficiencies, gluten intolerance, and genetics and hormones. Most of the time, people grow out of it by the time they reach 30. In fact, I turned 30 this year and have noticed that it isn’t as bad as it usually is (finally one good reason for getting older!) especially for this time of year. Being in the sun can exacerbate the condition and make the skin in these areas feel a lot drier, not to mention that sun damage can make the appearance of it worse too, so it’s very important to still protect your skin in the summer with a good SPF!

How can I treat KP?

We often get a lot of clients come to us in search of curable treatment to help remove this harmless condition and while we have some incredible services to offer, unfortunately there is no proven magic wand to remove it completely. But don’t let that put you off as we have seen dramatic improvements and lots of happy smiles as a result of the in-clinic treatments we often use for KP!

Chemical Peels

Peels are such a quick, painless way to dissolve stubborn keratin build up with very minimal recovery time! Sometimes when I’m at work in the clinic I will notice the KP on my arms is flaring up again, so my superstar colleague Elli will make me get straight onto the treatment bed to apply an Aspect Lactobotanical peel (made up of 60% lactic acid and hydrating botanicals). After a week passes, I’m always so happy that she motivated me to do something about it because the improvement is really noticeable! You’ll find your skin can get a little dry post peel as the redundant thickened skin cells start to desquamate (flake off), then you’ll be surprised at how smooth and silky your skin feels. Another reason to love peels is that they are an affordable way to treat KP and you may find you only need to do a couple of treatments to see confidence boosting results. Like anything, results need maintenance and that is why us girls at CL are here to be your skin go-to’s! 

Pico Genesis FX

While this might be a more expensive and intensive way to treat KP, the results speak for themselves. Our Pico FX treatment is a fractionated laser designed to resurface and retexture our skin, and you will also notice winning improvements for sun damage, redness and skin tone too. In conjunction with some internal and topical products to use at home, you may only need one treatment. How good is that?!

If your KP is on the more severe side, we may suggest combining both a Chemical Peel and Pico Genesis FX treatment for more powerful results. 

How can I maintain my KP at home?

There are so many wacky remedies for KP out there, but here are some at-home solutions that I’ve tried and tested to help combat KP symptoms:

Eat your Essential Fatty Acids – chia seeds, walnuts, leafy greens, salmon, flaxseed oil are all very reliable sources. Since KP can cause a very dry surface of the skin, essential fatty acids can play a significant part in your KP management programme as they provide significant moisturising benefits for your skin. To make sure you are getting the recommended daily allowance, we suggest taking a spoonful of Bestow Beauty Plus Oil.

Use an AHA or BHA product: As tempting as it may be, it is really important not to use an invigorating scrub to erase bumps and lumps as it can cause more redness and only work superficially. Our chemical peels are made up of Alpha and Beta hydroxyl acids, so it makes sense for you to be using them at home to start the exfoliation process that a KP skin needs. AHA/BHA products also contain hydrating benefits and you can find these gentle acids in body lotions and washes. We recommend using something of a low percentage, as TOO much exfoliation can lead to more inflammation. Our PCA Dry Skin Relief Bar (containing 3% salicylic acid) and PCA Body Therapy (contains lactic acid and hyaluronic acid) are a body wash and moisturising lotion that is a match made in heaven for KP.  

Vitamin A: As I mentioned earlier, KP can be linked to a vitamin A deficiency, so applying a topical retinoid (derivative of Vitamin A) to your face or body can work to overcome KP! Retinoids are evidently proven to help our skin naturally exfoliate and regulate any skin abnormalities. Usually KP affects smaller patches of our upper arms, face and upper thighs, so using a retinoid on those areas only won’t break the bank. One product we love is Cosmedix Define for a cocktail of retinol and lactic acid. 

What should I avoid?

Laser hair removal

There are some dermatologists who recommend laser hair removal for the treatment of KP, because KP affects the hair follicle and technically traps our little hairs (causing in-growns), removing them with laser makes so much sense, right? Not exactly. The areas that KP affects are mostly very hormonal. As trained skin technicians who perform laser hair removal 7 days a week, we know that there’s a good chance you can stimulate NEW hair growth on those areas, so unless the hair growth is significant and affecting you more than your KP, it might be best to give it a miss. 

Avoid Sodium Lauryl Sulphates

This is a foaming agent that is found in a lot of over the counter body washes. It’s not just a marketing ploy when a product is advertised as containing no sulphates, because sulphates DO actually cause more harm for our skin than good. They can clog pores and cause irritation as well as dry our skin out. Many products may have lower, less concentrated levels of SLS, but if you’re not sure of the ingredients listing, it’s better to steer clear of these products altogether.

Have you had any success stories with KP or tried our treatments yourself? Let us know in the comment box below! 

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