Have you ever experienced dry or acne-like bumps on the back of your arms, thighs or cheeks? It might be keratosis pilaris. Also referred to as “chicken skin,” keratosis pilaris is harmless, but can be stubborn. It is extremely common, and can flare up from time to time even after it’s been treated.
We asked Amy Knoetze (owner of Pulse Dermatology & Laser) about the causes, treatments and prevention methods available.
What is keratosis pilaris?
Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition (which I have personally been managing since my teens), which appears as tiny bumps on the skin. These bumps may resemble goosebumps or mild acne. This is, however, not a form of acne. These rough-feeling bumps are actually plugs of dead skin cells and people experiencing this skin condition usually have quite dry skin. The plugs appear most often on the upper arms and front of the thighs. Children may have these bumps on their cheeks. It is completely harmless but, if like me, you are bothered by its appearance, there are a few ways you can manage these bumps.
Can anyone get keratosis pilaris?
Anyone can get keratosis pilaris. It is not contagious, but I find it is generally inherited from a family member. Mine started in my teens but it usually reduces in your 30’s.
Is it treatable?
Absolutely. I recommend using a gentle loofa in the shower with a creamy wash (soap bars tend to dry out the skin, making it worse). I combine this with my favourite three-step program:
MD Prescriptives Mandelic Toner
Use with gauze directly after a shower to deep clean skin and remove the dead skin in the pores.
Mesoestetic Brightening Peel Booster
Apply a thin layer to affected area. The Glycolic Acid (from sugar cane) will continue to renew the skin and clean out pores, and the Phytic is a beautiful antioxidant that will make the skin beautiful and radiant.
Mesoestetic Anti Stress Face Mask
This mask is decongesting and counteracts the effects of stressed skin. This can be used on any area of the body and will keep the skin soft and reduce the redness!
*All of the above aim to deep clean pores, moisturise, soften the skin and reduce the PIH (Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation) left after the bumps clear.
Is it preventable?
This is a long-term condition and there are no overnight fixes. Many patients at Pulse opt in for our pain-free laser hair removal as this condition is directly linked to our hair follicles. When the hair is removed by laser, it eases any irritation. I would strongly advise against waxing and shaving the affected area as these methods of hair removal can irritate the follicles and will cause a flare-up.
Sonette Donker (Skin Specialist at Dermaceutic) suggests taking a holistic approach when dealing with keratosis pilaris. “Keratosis pilaris is normally an indication that the body has an acid pH. When the body’s pH is more acid it causes inflammation – that’s why these little bumps are often red. Add more alkaline type foods to your diet and cut down on the acid-forming foods.”
Sonette suggests dry body brushing as a method of exfoliation, and using a gentle exfoliator twice a week. “Retinol has also proven to work really well. Apply a Retinol serum or cream to that area every night after your shower,” she adds.
Products to try at home:
Optiphi Classic Refine-Foliant 30ml (R820.00)
A potent chemical exfoliant that effectively smooths rough skin texture. The triple advanced complex of Ascorbic, Lactic and Salicylic Acids in this ‘home-peel’, brightens the complexion, softens and moisturises the skin. This powerful exfoliating action refines rough skin, allows for better product penetration and improves skin tone.
Skin Functional Multi-Tasking Fixer 30ml (R260.00)
This multi-tasking, potent formulation reduces redness, post-breakout marks, stubborn blemishes and soothes irritation. It contains 10% Azelaic Acid, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties to soothe skin. It also has the ability to reduce the production of keratin which can lead to blocked pores and breakouts, and of course, keratosis pilaris.
NeoStrata Problem Dry Skin Cream 100g (R570.00)
A highly emollient skin conditioning cream that is formulated to exfoliate, smooth and moisturise severely dry, rough and thickened skin in areas such as the knees, elbows, and heels. As this is a high percentage AHA it is not suggested for those with sensitive or red, rosacea-prone skin.
Avène Trixera Nutrition Nutri-Fluid Cleanser 400ML (R195.95)
Biodegradable, soap-free formula gently cleanses and nourishes even the most sensitive skin. Helps protect skin while moisturising and soothing dry to very dry skin. Helps restore skin’s natural barrier by replenishing lipids.