Keratosis Pilaris

Goose Bumps that Won’t Go Away

Keratosis pilaris or KP (often referred to as “chicken skin bumps”) is a common, medically harmless condition that affects 50-80% of all adolescents and approximately 40% of adults. It presents as rough, skin-coloured or reddish bumps over the outer upper arms, and can affect the thighs, buttocks and back. It can also appear as persistent red spots or patches on the cheeks of the face. These bumps do not cause irritation and are rarely itchy or sore, but are often a cosmetic nuisance. Occasionally they can become inflamed. Winter weather and low humidity can exacerbate the condition.

 

What Causes KP?

KP is caused by a minor genetic abnormality that causes scale to clog inside the hair follicle. Up to 50% of children from an affected parent have a degree of KP.

 

How Do I Treat KP?

Treatment is not necessary, but therapy can smoothen the texture of the KP affected skin. Treatment is long-term and often has to be applied over weeks to months before results are seen. Once discontinued, the condition may return.

 

General Measures to Help with KP

  • Use soap-free cleansers and apply a moisturizer to the area 2-3 times a day
  • Urea cream 10-40% (available over-the-counter) is a specific moisturizer that helps to soften and dissolve the buildup of skin that occurs with KP
  • Gentle exfoliation can be helpful but not when the skin is irritated or abraded. Rough exfoliation can actually make the situation worse

 

Treatment Options

  • Lactic acid, alpha-hydroxy acid (e.g. glycolic acid) or salicylic acid lotions or creams work as chemical exfoliating agents to soften the KP bumps
  • Topical tretinoin (retinoid) creams work by modulating the skin hair follicles so they are less likely to become clogged. However, tretinoin can cause irritation, and may temporarily worsen before improving as keratin plugs are being pushed out. This treatment should be overseen by your dermatologist
  • Chemical peels, such as glycolic acid peels, performed by a dermatologist can have a positive impact, helping to soften the keratin plugs of KP
  • Topical steroid creams may sometimes be prescribed by your dermatologist to treat keratosis pilaris that has become irritated or inflamed
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