Say Goodbye to Chicken Skin: Effective Keratosis Pilaris Treatment

July 1, 2024

Keratosis Pilaris remedies, managing KP, skincare for bumpy arms, treating chicken skin

If you struggle with keratosis pilaris, which is not so affectionately referred to as chicken skin, you’re likely familiar with the bumpy, red, inflamed skin caused by this condition. If you’ve had these symptoms without a diagnosis or treatment, you can learn more about keratosis pilaris in this blog from board-certified dermatologist, Jean Charles, DO, FAAD of U.S. Dermatology Partners Cedar Park. According to Dr. Charles, “Keratosis pilaris, or KP, is one of those chronic skin conditions that can be really frustrating for patients. It’s stubborn and not always responsive to treatment. During flareups, KP can be very noticeable, so many of my patients find it embarrassing. I believe we should all learn to feel comfortable in the skin we’re in, but I also understand that’s easier said than done. Luckily, there are simple ways to treat KP at home or with gentle, minimally invasive dermatologic treatments.” Keep reading to learn more about what KP is and how to manage this condition from Dr. Charles.

 Understanding Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris is a common, chronic skin condition that occurs when skin cells that surround hair follicles harden and thicken. This process is called keratinization, which is where keratosis pilaris takes its name. When describing KP, Dr. Charles says, “The skin cells near hair follicles in people with KP become saturated with keratin. You’ve probably seen keratin as a good ingredient for your hair or nails, but too much keratin in skin creates the thickened chicken skin appearance that’s characteristic for KP. While anyone can develop KP, it’s much more common in children. For those who continue to see symptoms of KP as teens and adults, the condition can be a little more noticeable, causing shame or embarrassment surrounding this condition. Despite the potential aesthetic concerns, KP is a completely benign condition. That means it won’t cause any serious skin health or medical concerns, and I can help you improve any cosmetic irregularities or other symptoms you’re concerned about.”

People may experience a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Bumps of scaly skin around hair follicles, especially on the cheeks, upper arms, thighs, and buttocks.
  • Dry skin that may form patches over or around the bumps.
  • The appearance of goosebumps over skin.
  • Coloring of the bumps varies, but they are typically red or slightly lighter or darker than the natural skin tone.
  • Dry skin around the KP bumps may feel itchy, but the bumps themselves are typically painless.
  • Skin feels like rough sandpaper.
  • Symptoms worsen during the winter or in dry conditions.

Causes of Keratosis Pilaris

When it comes to the cause of keratosis pilaris, Dr. Charles says, “There’s not one thing that causes KP. In most cases, this condition runs in families, so researchers believe there’s a genetic component. It’s also commonly diagnosed alongside other chronic skin conditions like eczema. Additionally, KP seems to impact those who have health conditions like asthma and allergies. Dry, cold weather also seems to trigger keratosis pilaris flareups.”

Treatment Options for Keratosis Pilaris

Dr. Charles recommends, “If you’re struggling to clear up KP symptoms, talk to your dermatologist! They will provide good skincare product recommendations as well as walking you through keratosis pilaris treatment options.” There are numerous ways to address KP symptoms, including:

  • Develop a skincare Routine for KP – the most important thing is to choose products that are gentle and non-irritating. Look for fragrance, dye, and paraben-free options. When in doubt, consult your dermatologist.
  • Exfoliation Techniques – it can be tempting to use a harsh exfoliant to scrub away hard, dry skin. However, this may make KP worse. Instead, consider a gentle exfoliating body wash. You may also want to incorporate keratolytic products into your skincare routine. These products are designed to breakdown rough and bumpy skin.
  • Moisturizers and Creams – KP often develops around the hair follicle, so you don’t want to choose very oily skincare options that clog pores. However, dry skin typically occurs in conjunction with KP flareups. For this reason, oil-free or non-comedogenic moisturizers that won’t clog pores are your best option.
  • Professional Treatments – if KP symptoms aren’t responsive to changes in skincare, we may recommend dermatologic treatments like laser or light therapies and microdermabrasion. These procedures work to remove the hardened skin cells at the surface and reveal healthier new skin below.

Lifestyle Changes to Manage KP

In addition to taking steps to treat KP symptoms directly, there are some general lifestyle changes that may improve KP, including:

  • Managing your diet – foods do not cause KP, but giving your body proper nutrient resources to produce healthy skin cells improves your chances of developing and maintaining soft, supple skin.
  • Skipping the bath – long, hot baths can be very drying. Instead of soaking in hot water, take shorter, lukewarm showers to avoid overly drying skin.
  • Removing hair carefully – because KP is most often concentrated around the hair follicle, it’s important to be careful with hair removal. Shaving, waxing, and plucking hair in the areas with KP flareups can make it more difficult to manage symptoms. Talk to your dermatologist about alternative options like laser hair removal.

Myth Busting Common Misconceptions about KP

When it comes to myths about KP, Dr. Charles says, “Most of my patients have either never heard of KP, or they’ve heard something that isn’t correct. As a dermatologist who’s dedicated to patient education, I love myth busting common misconceptions about skin health to help people better understand how to care for their skin.” Below, Dr. Charles busts some of the most common KP myths:

  • Exfoliation cures KP – light exfoliation or the use of glycolic or lactic acid scrubs to gently remove hardened, dry, scaley skin can be beneficial for those with KP. However, using rough exfoliants or exfoliating too frequently can cause irritation and worsen KP symptoms.
  • Hydration will improve KP symptoms – dry skin is a common cooccurring symptom related to KP, but simply moisturizing skin won’t get rid of symptoms entirely. Look for lotions that have glycolic and lactic acid to remove dry patches and dead skin cells while hydrating skin.
  • Gluten free diets are the cure – people have reported that consuming a variety of foods, including gluten, seems to worsen KP. However, there is no scientific evidence or clinical research to support this. If you notice certain foods seem to exacerbate KP symptoms, it may be beneficial to limit these items in your diet, but removing them is unlikely to cure KP.
  • Acne treatments work on KP – while KP can look and feel similar to acne, it is actually a very different condition. In fact, acne medications are often very drying to skin, and they can worsen KP symptoms.
  • There’s no way to treat KP – while it doesn’t have a cure, with consistent care over time, most people are able to significantly improve KP symptoms.

Boosting Self-Esteem with Keratosis Pilaris

Dr. Charles says, “I’ve always been a big advocate for improving self-confidence and loving the skin you’re in. I never want anyone to feel like a benign skin condition like KP is something that needs to be treated. Instead, I want them to feel gratitude that they are healthy. KP is a very common concern. It’s nothing to worry or feel ashamed about. For those who want to seek treatment to improve the way KP looks or feels or improve overall skin health, I have you covered!”

Manage KP for Healthier Skin

According to Dr. Charles, “Keeping the symptoms of KP at bay is all about consistent care, using the right skincare products. That starts with a trip to the dermatologist. A dermatologist can help you develop a skincare routine to alleviate KP flareups and prevent or reduce the severity of future flareups. As a dermatologist, I am passionate about empowering my patients with education to help them feel healthy and confident in their skin, so I always start the KP treatment process by helping patients develop a personalized skincare routine designed to manage KP symptoms. From there, we can discuss more advanced interventions if they’re desired. The most important thing to me is that my patients always feel comfortable and confident in the skin they’re in right now.”

Schedule a Dermatologic Appointment

Want to take the guesswork out of managing KP? Schedule an appointment with Dr. Charles at U.S. Dermatology Partners Cedar Park. Not in the Cedar Park, TX area? There are more than 75 U.S. Dermatology Partners locations, and we make getting started working with a knowledgeable dermatologist simple. You’ll just take a few moments to complete our online scheduling request form. Once we hear from you, a local dermatology team member will be in touch to schedule your appointment.

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