For those with a condition called Keratosis Pilaris, the thought of warmer months, short sleeves and exposed skin can induce a near panic attack!
Keratosis Pilaris is a common skin condition that causes tiny acne-like bumps and dry, rough patches on the arms, thighs, buttocks and cheeks (it looks a little like goose-bumps). Depending on your skin type, the condition can ask make your skin develop dark patches as well.
The small bumps associated with Keratosis Pilaris are usually white and do not hurt or itch, although the dry, rough areas can become itchy, especially in the winter months when the air is dry.
The Mayo Clinic’s definition of Keratosis Pilaris is a “result of buildup of keratin — a hard protein that protects your skin from harmful substances and infection. The keratin forms a scaly plug that blocks the opening of the hair follicle. Usually many plugs form, causing patches of rough, bumpy skin.”
Keratosis Pilaris Treatment
Keratosis Pilaris can be frustrating, embarrassing, and difficult to treat and can last for years. Using a medicated cream regularly may improve the appearance of your skin, but if you stop, the condition usually returns. There are not too many treatment options and they all involve some method of exfoliation and cellular turnover:
Home remedies including moisturizing damp skin immediately after showering or bathing will help to keep the skin soft. Try applying a moisturizer to a polyester sponge (like a Buff-Puff) to help free blocked hair follicles and avoid the bumps. However, while these preventive methods can help prevent the condition, if you already have Keratosis Pilaris, you will need to take stronger measures to treat it.
Topical exfoliants and medicated creams made with alpha-hydroxy acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid can help remove dead skin cells and soften the skin. These acids may cause skin irritation, redness, or stinging, especially in young children with the condition.
Topical retinoids, (derived from Vitamin A) work by preventing the plugging of the hair follicle and promoting cell turnover. While retinoids may be effective, they can cause as severe dryness, redness and peeling of the skin. Pregnant or nursing women should not use retinoids or retinoid derivatives and should seek an alternative treatment or wait until they can safely use this treatment. Using a medication regularly may improve the appearance of your skin. But if you stop, the condition usually returns.
Laser therapy can be an effective treatment therapy for Keratosis Pilaris. This treatment uses intense bursts of light into targeted areas of skin and may require repeat sessions over the course of a few months, depending on your response to the treatment. Laser hair removal therapy has been used in keratosis pilaris to decrease hair growth in affected areas which may help prevent the appearance of bumps caused by ingrown hairs. Other laser therapies including more aggressive resurfacing lasers, carbon dioxide, fractional lasers, have been used in limited cases for keratosis pilaris.
Chemical peel is considered one of the best, and most effective, treatments for Keratosis Pilaris. A chemical peel will remove the upper layers of skin, freeing the hair follicles and removing excess pigment. The most effective chemical peel is a mix of trichloroacetic, retinoic and salicylic acids called an VI Peel. This particular cocktail of chemicals is also a safe choice for darker skin tones that tend to hyperpigment if treated with chemicals.
How VI Peel Works
After the solution is applied to the affected skin, a mild tingly sensation may be felt. The solutions is then neutralized with retinoic acid and Vitamin C. Depending on your skin you may begin to see a darkening or reddening of the skin and flaking within a matter of hours. Most patients experience a slight reddening of the skin after treatment, but this is normal and expected and usually fades within 24 hours. After a few days, the skin begins to peel. This peeling process can last several days, and is the goal of the treatment. This is the process that removes dead skin cells and reveals smooth, even-toned, healthy skin that should remain bump-free for several months. This is especially true if treatment is followed by daily application of 40% urea foam lotion and a retinoid cream applied twice a week. Urea is one of those specialized ingredients used by dermatologists to dramatically improve the appearance of Keratosis Pilaris.
Caution: If you use this or any treatment that involves acids to peel the skin, take care to avoid sun exposure during this time and to apply special moisturizers to keep the skin from becoming dry.
Sources: Mayo Clinic: Diseases and Conditions: Keratosis Pilaris