Keratosis pilaris... My old enemy. If you aren't familiar with what those pesky bumps on your arms are, they might be keratosis pilaris. Full disclosure: I’m not a dermatologist but I am someone who has had a great improvement in my keratosis pilaris through working out an effective treatment. I have had keratosis pilaris on my upper arms and cheeks since I was a teenager, and I am now finally getting the smooth skin I dreamt of.
If you would like to learn how you can get rid of your keratosis pilaris, keep reading!
First of all, what's keratosis pilaris (KP)?
Characterised by small, red bumps on the upper arms, cheeks or thighs, KP is a very common skin condition that typically affects women more than men. For a lot of people, the rash appears in adolescence and disappears in adulthood, but it can also persist into adulthood. The bumps may have a whiteish head which can appear like a pimple, but these are NOT spots!
Apart from the visual aspect, keratosis pilaris doesn’t have any symptoms, so many people have the condition without even knowing it’s a thing! It’s harmless and it is actually considered a variant of normal skin, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t reduce the appearance and texture of the bumps if you wish to! KP does not usually hurt, although it can be itchy, and it can be tempting to scratch the bumps as they are raised and can be rough in texture. Try not to scratch them though, as breaking the skin will lead to hyperpigmentation (dark spots), making the appearance of the rash worse. The trick to caring for keratosis pilaris prone skin is to be gentle but consistent.
So, what causes it?
Keratosis pilaris is caused by an excess of keratin in the skin. Keratin is a protein that is a key building block for hair, skin and nails, and also forms a protective layer on the skin. An excess of this protein causes a build-up of keratin in the hair follicle, causing the bumps. It is unknown what causes the build-up nor why the bumps are limited to the same few areas of the body. KP is more common in those with dry skin and is worsened in the winter months, as the air is drier and colder.
How to get rid of KP
There are no known cures for keratosis pilaris, but you can treat the affected areas. For some people, treatment will lead to an improvement of the appearance of the rash, but for others it can completely clear up. My KP has completely gone from my face because of my treatment, but it has not fully cleared up on my upper arms.
Here are my top tips for improving KP prone skin...
The most important thing to remember when caring for KP affected areas is moisture. If you have KP you may have celebrated your skin clearing up in the summer, but then when winter rolls around again the familiar bumps reappear… This is because the lack of moisture in the air in winter dries out the skin and worsens the appearance and texture of the rash. So, in order to sooth and smoothen the skin, moisture is key!
I do not recommend thin lotions, or cheap hotel freebies- to keep KP skin comfortable you will want a thick moisturiser. I would recommend applying moisturiser twice a day, in the morning and at night, before bed. I use CeraVe’s Moisturising Cream. This moisturiser contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid, and it is the product that has helped my KP the most.
Alongside a good moisturiser, a hydrator will help to soften the skin. Using a hydrator like glycerin or hyaluronic acid will help to add extra hydration to the skin. You should follow up a hydrator with your thick moisturiser, to lock in all that hydration.
I talk a lot about exfoliation here on my blog, because it’s one of the easiest things you can do to have a dramatic improvement in your skin. For KP skin, exfoliation will help to get rid of the roughness and will make the bumps look smaller, and the skin feel softer. Exfoliating will also help to release the trapped hair in the follicle, making the texture of the skin look smoother.
You can use physical exfoliants made at home, like coffee scrubs or brown sugar scrubs. Check out my homemade coffee scrub recipe for a cheap and easy to make exfoliator! You can also use shop-bought scrubs if you prefer. If you feel like physical exfoliants are too abrasive on the skin, consider a chemical exfoliant. Don’t worry: I know it sounds scary but I promise they’re safe to use on the skin. In fact, you might find them gentler on your skin than a physical exfoliant; I certainly do!
The most common chemical exfoliants are malic acid, lactic acid and glycolic acid. Glycolic acid leaves my skin soft with no redness, so it is my exfoliator of choice. Plus, this glycolic acid toner from The Ordinary is super affordable, at £7 for a bottle which will last you at least 3 months. If you are using an exfoliating toner, apply to the skin with a cotton round or a reusable cotton pad. If you are using an exfoliating serum, just rub it into your skin.
Retinoids can help prevent hair follicles from getting blocked, which will help to reduce the number of bumps. Look for products with tretinoin and tazarotene but be aware that retinoids can be harsh on the skin. As with every new product you use, patch test before using for the first time.
Although it can be tempting to scratch the rough bumps, try to avoid scratching as this can cause scarring. Scarring or hyperpigmentation worsens the appearance of the rash. Also, when showering, use warm water instead of hot water. Hot water is drying to skin, and dryness is exactly what you want to avoid when you are trying to get rid of KP!
A further way to avoid scarring and hyperpigmentation is to use SPF on the affected areas. Although the summer months can help to clear up the rash, the strong sun can cause the marks to scar. To have a clearer complexion, avoid scratching and protect your skin from the sun.
Get rid of scarring
To eradicate dark spots and to help lighten the rash, use a serum or toner that will target hyperpigmentation. Products containing hydroquinone, vitamin C and alpha arbutin are just 3 ways to make your skin look even and clear. I use The Ordinary’s Alpha Arbutin 2% serum.
So what is my routine going to look like?
1- Apply your lightening/brightening product
2- Apply some of your thick moisturiser
1- Use your exfoliator
2- Apply your lightening/brightening product
3- Apply your retinoid
Make sure that lightening serum and retinoids do not interact as this can weaken the effect of your products, or it can make your skin overly sensitive. You can find this out by doing a quick internet search. If they are not compatible, choose to either use your lightening product OR your retinoid at night, and alternate between them every other night.
4- Finish off your routine with your moisturiser.
This routine will gradually improve the appearance of your keratosis pilaris and could completely eradicate the pesky bumps. The routine is completely customisable to your desires and needn’t be expensive depending on the products you buy!
If you are extremely unhappy with the appearance of the rash and you want fast results, you can cover the areas with a tinted moisturiser. Massage it into the skin (after your thick moisturiser) and apply some setting powder on top to lock it in tight!
Feel free to message me or comment below for any information.
Bye for now,
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