Do you have scaly bumps on the backs of your arms, front of your thighs, cheeks and even your buttocks? Your rough skin may be due to keratosis pilaris (also known as KP).
Keratosis pilaris is extremely common. Some people only have a few rough bumps. Other cases are more severe. Although the condition tends to get better as your get older, your KP bumps won’t go away without specialized treatment.
What causes keratosis pilaris?
Dead skin cells cause the bumps we love to hate. Your skin’s dead cell layer (made of a protein called keratin) builds up around the hair follicles and plugs up the entire follicle opening. If your skin feels bumpy, rough and like sandpaper, KP is probably the culprit.
Redness often develops around the hair follicles, giving the skin a dusky pink color. It’s like a red, neon sign that screams, “Look at my chicken bumps.” Unfortunately, hair can also become trapped under the bumps, making them look just like pimples.
Although you may have had KP as a child, the condition often worsens at puberty - just about the same time that body image becomes really important. It also shows up more when your skin is really dry (like in the winter.)
Yes, you can treat the “chicken skin” bumps and have soft skin again!
The key is loosening the buildup of dead cells around the hair follicles and moisturizing your skin. The three treatment regimen steps to follow are:
1) Exfoliate your skin (otherwise known as removing the dead skin cells.) You want to “buff” or “sand down” the dead skin cell plugs that are sticking out of the follicles. You can do this by simply using a rough shower cloth or sponge and/or a gritty body scrub when you bathe.
2) Use skin care products with keratolytic ingredients (a “keratolytic” is something that breaks up keratin-containing dead skin cells.) Keratolytic ingredients exfoliate by loosening the glue that holds the dead cell plugs together. Combining physical exfoliation with keratolytic ingredients is extremely helpful.
The keratolytic ingredients we use to treat KP are:
- Alpha hydroxyl acids (including glycolic acid and lactic acid)
- Retinoid (like prescription Retin A)
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Salicylic acid
If you notice that your skin is redder or chapped when you use products containing these ingredients, it means you should back off on your keratolytic usage. Or, use a keratolytic product that’s also a moisturizer. This combination helps to counter skin dryness.
3) Soften your skin (and your dead skin cells) with a good moisturizer or lotion.
Using a KP treatment regimen that includes all three of these steps works best to get you soft skin again.
The good news: As the plugs of dead cells go away the skin surface will become softer and the redness around the follicle often lightens.
The bad news: The redness may not go away entirely. But it will be much less noticeable as your KP bumps improve.
I have KP myself, which has motivated me to try everything over the years and to create the perfect product combination.
By far and away the most effective treatment for KP is my Anti-Aging Body Skin Care Kit (yes it treats more than aging skin, but it will do that too!). I’ve used it for years to control my KP. This powerful kit includes:
- the Salux Cloth, which is a rough shower cloth
- Glytone Exfoliating Body Wash, a strong glycolic acid skin cleanser with 8.8% glycolic acid
- Glytone Body Lotion, an intensive keratolytic moisturizer with 17.5% glycolic acid
I start my patients with the Anti-Aging Body Kit twice a week and work up to more frequent use as their skin adjusts to the strong ingredients. A soothing non-keratolytic moisturizer (such as my All Natural Face, Hand and Body Lotion) can be applied after bathing on the days that the Glytone Body Lotion is not used. This keeps skin soft and helps prevent sensitive skin from becoming chapped from these strong treatment products.
If you don’t want to start with my Anti-Aging Body Kit, you can try using a different keratolytic cleanser and moisturizer. Look for ones with high levels of salicylic acid, glycolic acid, benzoyl peroxide or urea. Use the cleanser with a shower cloth or sponge (such as the Salux or Body Buf Puf) to increase exfoliation and apply the moisturizer within three minutes after toweling dry.
Alternative cleanser options include my Foaming Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Cleanser or Panoxyl Acne Bar or Wash (both with 10% benzoyl peroxide) and my Foaming Acne Treatment Cleanser, Extra Strength (10% glycolic acid and 2% salicylic acid) or Neutrogena Acne Cleanser (2% salicylic acid).
Keratolytic body moisturizing product options to treat KP include AmLactin Moisturizer (12% lactic acid) or AmLactin XL and Eucerin Repair Lotion (10% urea).
Remember, all keratolytic cleansers will cause some skin dryness so you’ll need to apply a moisturizer. Moisturizers are only effective when applied within three minutes after toweling skin dry; they lock in the water that your skin absorbed during your bath or shower.
This combination of skin problems is common. Alternating my Anti-Aging Body Skin Care Kit products with the Back and Body Acne Kit products is the best treatment for this skin problem combination. Pityrosporum yeast often plays a role in body acne in KP patients - the pyrithione zinc in my Back and Body Acne Kit specifically fights this body acne-causing germ. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid alone will also treat body acne but don’t address pityrosporum yeast.
To fight both conditions at once, I have my patients alternate their KP cleansers with their body acne cleansers. The twice-weekly treatment with my Anti-Aging Body Skin Care Kit allows them to alternate the Glytone Body Wash with the Body Acne Cleansers in my Back and Body Acne Kit.
Having “chicken bump skin” is embarrassing and frustrating. Fortunately, it’s something you can successfully treat at home. If you faithfully use the right products that specifically target your KP, you should enjoy soft, smooth skin in no time!
What’s the bottom line and fastest way for treating your KP?
Try my Anti-Aging Body Skin Care Kit, which could also be called a KP-911 Kit! I’ve used it for years to treat my own KP and it works beautifully to keep KP skin soft and attractive.
“As for the Glytone Body Wash and Lotion...it’s like a miracle! I have suffered from tiny bumps on the backs of my arms for as long as I can remember. Within 2 weeks of use, my arms were smooth and soft. I live in a warm climate and my extremities are always exposed so smooth skin is very important to me.” - S. Marshall, February 2012
Please remember, the information presented on Dr. Bailey Skin Care’s Blog and web site, and any related links, is provided for general information and educational purposes only and are the opinions of Dr. Cynthia Bailey. Consult with your physician or health care provider for any specific medical conditions or concerns that you have. (This also applies to patients in her medical practice; the information here is not a substitute for, or an extension of, the medical care she provides for you.) Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read here.