Got KP (keratosis pilaris)? If so, Beautyinthebag has some simple solutions to help you reign in your chicken skin once (and hopefully, for all).
Some people refer to KP as chicken skin because the raised, white bumps resemble those seen on the surface of raw poultry. These bumps occur when too much keratin – the protein found in hair and nails –builds up in the opening of your hair follicles where it forms numerous rough and tiny bumps (think sandpaper). KP typically clusters on the back and outer sides of your upper arms, thighs or buttocks. It is also less common on the face and cheeks. KP affects up to half of all adults and as many as 80% of adolescents and tends to run in families. KP ranges from the mild (as in barely noticeable) to the severe (as in hard-to-miss), but it usually bothers the beauty more so than the beholder.
“The self-consciousness it causes is one of the reasons to treat KP,” says Heidi Waldorf, MD, the Director of Laser and Cosmetic Dermatology at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. There is no cure, but KP isn’t dangerous or contagious and can be managed once you find what works for you. But you can expect a little trial and error. KP often flares in the winter when skin becomes dry and chapped, which is why treatment often starts with committing to a good moisturizing regimen, Waldorf says. Key goose bump fighting ingredients include urea, lactic acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, Vitamin A and D.
Choose (and religiously use) a moisturizer that contains lactic acid, such as AmLactin® or AmLactin XL® (amlactin.com), which costs around $15 at drugstores nationwide. Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that helps the skin retain moisture. This creamy doctors’ favorite moisturizes and exfoliates, which is also key to treating KP. Another option is ZO Skin Health Oraser® Body Emulsion ($80, zoskinhealth.com/oraser-body-emulsion.html) , an intensive full body moisturizer that contains lactic acid as well a cocktail of antioxidants to hydrate, nourish and gently exfoliate your skin.
Some products pack a one-two punch against chicken skin by pairing an exfoliating product with a moisturizer. For example, Dermadoctor put this condition on the map with KP Duty, a moisturizer that contains glycolic acid blends plus urea to soften and tame dry rough skin. Now this product is paired with a body scrub. The DERMAdoctor KP DUTY Regimen Duo packs a one-two punch against KP. The scrub body primes your skin via gentle exfoliation so the moisturizer can more effectively reach its target ($80, dermadoctor.com). Another KP treatment duo is Glytone’s Retexturize KP Kit ($59, skincarerx.com/Glytone-Retexturize-Keratosis-Pilaris-Kit.html). This product includes a glycolic acid cleanser that exfoliates your skin and a glycolic acid-based body lotion to moisturize, hydrate and smooth your little red bumps away.
Whatever product you choose, the exfoliation must be gentle, stresses Waldorf. Products with a combination of alpha and beta hydroxy acids or salicylic acids are often your best bet for such gentle exfoliation. “Harsh scrubbing irritates the skin and if you over-irritate your skin, it will look redder,” she says. “You can also get microtears in your skin,” she says, so don’t get rough.
So what’s Dr. Waldorf’s Rx for KP? Moisturize daily and use a mild exfoliating scrub once daily to once weekly. And whatever you do, “don’t pick at the bumps because you may get scarring and inflammation,” she says. Another tip is to avoid hot showers and baths because they tend to dry out your skin.
In severe cases, topical steroids including over-the-counter strength hydrocortisone, and vitamin A-based creams such as Retin-A® may be prescribed. Retinols can also help treat KP. “Some laser therapies may play a role in treating KP if there is severe redness,” she says. “The more severe cases often get milder as someone gets older,” says Waldorf. Once you find something that works for you, stick with it to keep your KP under control, she says.