Keratosis pilaris is one of the most common skin problems. It makes the skin dry and rough, with small bumps on its surface. It is a harmless condition and the bumps don't cause any pain. They are usually found on the cheeks, buttocks, upper arms or thighs.
Because of its harmless nature, some doctors don't even consider keratosis pilaris to be a disease, but actually a normal skin type. It usually heals by itself until the age of 30 and it can't be stopped or treated in any way. Some creams and moisturizing cosmetic products can be used to make the affected skin look better.
Keratosis pilaris is common for kids and teenagers and normally disappears later. However, it can occur at any age and adults are not immune to it. It usually starts around the age of 10 and becomes more severe at puberty, but this is not a rule and it can start at any time. It appears to affect more females than males. While the mechanism of action is not well understood, it seems to have genetic causes since it is inherited and very common in twins. It is linked with other skin conditions and often found on people who have dry skin or suffer from atopic dermatitis.
Keratosis pilaris is triggered by high amounts of keratin. Keratin is a protein with a hard structure, which shields the skin from infection and toxic agents. In this case, keratin builds up into a kind of scale, acting like a plug on top of hair follicles. The plugs unite into larger areas of dry and rough skin.
So far, the exact cause of the keratin excess has not been identified. It seems to have a genetic trigger and the symptoms are worse on people with dry skin. It could also be caused by other skin problems, such as atopic dermatitis.
The main symptom of keratosis pilaris is the rough aspect of the skin, which looks to be covered with "goose bumps". These are usually the same color as the skin but can turn red if they become inflamed. The bumps are never painful, although they can be itchy. The condition looks very bad on the face, since it causes the skin to become very dry and can be confused with acne.
In most cases, the skin is not affected in any way. Sometimes, the color of the skin might change, becoming lighter or darker than normal. These changes are known as hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation. The risk of pigment changes is higher if the bumps are scratched or hurt.
Since keratosis pilaris is not really a disease, there is no cure available. There are many home remedies that can provide relief. The symptoms can also be treated with medication, following the advice of a doctor.
The most effective are lotions with a content of lactic acid. These make the skin softer and reduce the roughness of the keratin bumps. Lotions based on glycolic or alpha hydroxyl acids can keep the skin hydrated and decrease the number of scales. Creams with urea are also helpful because they keep the skin moisturized, while removing dead layers. The same effect can be achieved with salicylic acid lotion. If the bumps are itchy, topical corticosteroids provide an effective relief.
Among the available home remedies, the easiest one is to just wash the area with caution. The skin should not be scratched or scrubbed. Do not use hot water or cosmetic products with an aggressive action or strong perfume. Mildly warm water and a normal soap are the best for this purpose.
After washing or showering you have to be careful to dry your skin gently, by patting it. Normal cosmetic moisturizers can be used twice per day. The most effective are the ones with a content of urea, because of the stronger effect on dry skin. Natural products like Elma 01 Skin Ointment are also a great choice. A humidifier can help by making the air less dry.
While keratosis pilaris can't be prevented, a doctor can teach you how to effectively treat the symptoms. Most of the therapies are long term and there might be months until the symptoms become less severe. If the treatment works, it's a good idea to continue it even after the bumps are gone, since the condition can return.