Keratosis PilarisIf you’ve contracted a skin condition that seems like acne or small pimples, but doesn’t respond to the usual treatments, you may very well have keratosis pilaris. A visit to the dermatology office can “clear things up” about the nature of your skin condition and how to treat it. Keratosis pilaris are rough bumps on your skin that some say look like the skin of a plucked chicken. If you do have keratosis pilaris, don’t be alarmed. It’s a very common skin condition that is made up of clumps of dead skin cells on the surface of your skin. These clumps or plugs usually appear on your upper arms and the front of your thighs. Children may develop this skin condition on their faces and cheeks.
Symptoms of Keratosis PilarisA board-certified dermatologist should evaluate all symptoms and signs for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan to be formed Your arms, thighs and other areas where you develop keratosis pilaris may become dry and itchy. If your skin is dry, the effects of keratosis are more noticeable. People who live in a dry climate find they only develop this skin condition in the winter when it’s drier. If you live in a warm, dry climate and swim throughout the year, you may experience this condition year round. If you spend a lot of time in direct sunlight, you may have a variation called solar keratosis. This condition, also known as actinic keratosis, appears as scaly, rough patches on your face and head. Older people are more at risk to experience this skin condition, which is harmless. However, there is a small risk that it can become skin cancer, so you should visit your dermatologist to receive a full examination and any recommended treatment.
Treating Keratosis PilarisThere is no known cure for keratosis pilaris. But don’t lose heart if you have it. In some cases, it goes away on its own. In others, its symptoms can be controlled and treated. Talk to your dermatologist about the treatments that may work best for you. Fortunately, there are many skin care recipes and treatment options available to you. People get the condition for a variety of reasons. Plus, different people have different types of complexions. These and other factors prohibit a one-size-fits-all treatment. No therapy for keratosis pilaris is effective for everyone across the board. So you may have to try a number of treatments before you find some that work for you. One general treatment to prevent dry skin is using a mild cleanser that doesn’t contain soap, such as Cetaphil or Dove. Exfoliation is also helpful for getting rid of the small plugs of keratin in the top layers of your skin. The best results are typically found by combining therapies. You can see improvement by adhering to an ongoing skin care plan. Many people respond well to skin care programs designed to treat keratosis. Just remember that treatment has to be ongoing. If you don’t use the lotions or therapeutic creams as directed, the condition can return. In some cases, a complete clearing of keratosis isn’t possible even when diligently following the treatment plan. All symptoms, potential procedural/surgical options should always be discussed with your physician after a thorough consultation and examination for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Prescription Medication for KeratosisDermatology doctor may prescribe a topical steroid cream like Cloderm or Locoid Lipocream. These are typically prescribed for seven to 10 days, applied one to two times daily to inflamed or red areas. Once the swelling is reduced successfully, you can treat the remaining rough, dry bumps with a mixture of urea cream and salicyclic acid. Another effective treatment for keratosis is the intermittent application of topical retinoids. These are stronger medicines that are applied weekly or biweekly. When your condition starts to clear, milder creams may be used as part of an ongoing regimen.
Co-Occurring ConditionsIf you are experiencing hyperpigmentation, which is an ongoing skin discoloration, you can treat it with a fading cream that contains hydroquinone (HQ), azelaic acid and kojic acid. If your skin discoloration is more extreme, consult your dermatologist for specific treatments. You may need a stronger concentration of HQ — possibly six, eight or 10 percent. Be aware that a higher concentration of HQ can cause irritation and possibly even ochronosis, during which your skin may turn a bluish-black color. Topical immunomodulators are also effective at treating keratosis. These include creams with the active ingredient tacrolimus or pimecrolimus, which go by the brand names Protopic and Elidel. These treatments are typically used if you have severe inflammation or redness in the affected area.
Light Therapy for KeratosisDermatologist may also suggest a two-step combination of a light source and topical photosensitizer for temporary treatment of keratosis. Light sources such as sunlight, red light, blue light and laser devices activate a chemical in the photosensitizer that temporarily treats keratosis. This type of photodynamic therapy can be useful for severe cases when you need relief quickly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer long-term treatment, but light therapy can be used in conjunction with other, more lasting treatments.
Surgical Care for Keratosis PilarisIf creams and other treatments aren’t effective in treating your keratosis, your dermatologist may recommend surgical treatments, such as a minor surgery called gentle acne extraction. This surgery is performed with a diabetic lancet to cut the skin. Then instruments are used to remove the trapped coiled hairs or keratin plugs formed below the skin, causing your keratosis. Your dermatologist can perform several surgical procedures as well as more conventional treatments right in the office. These include:
- Vacubrasion, which uses a synthetic diamond to exfoliate your skin and a vacuum to remove dead skin cells
- Chemical peels
- Photodynamic therapy
- Laser treatments
- Blue light therapy
- Pulsed light instruments
- Surgical extraction of trapped hairs or keratin plugs
Preventing Keratosis PilarisYour dermatology specialist may provide you with in-home treatments to keep your keratosis from returning. Proceed with care and make sure you follow the directions of the dermatologist and maintain the prescribed therapy regimen. At-home therapies include:
- Retinol creams
- Exfoliation pads such as Buf-Puff
- Topical emollients
- Gentle suction exfoliation, such as Vacubrasion
- Glycolic acid peels with a strength of 10 to 20 percent
Keratosis Pilaris FAQ
What is keratosis pilaris?Our doctors are best-in-class board certified physicians. Please call for an appointment. Keratosis pilaris (KP) is commonly referred to as a harmless skin condition that leads to dry, rough patches and tiny bumps. They typically appear on the thighs, upper arms, cheeks, or buttocks. These bumps do not tend to itch or hurt. This skin disorder cannot be cured or prevented. However, it can be managed with the use of moisturizers and prescription creams for the purpose of improving the appearance of the skin. KP normally disappears by the age of 30.
What are the causes of keratosis pilaris?This skin disorder is believed to result from the buildup of keratin, which is a hard protein that protects the skin from harmful infections and harmful substances. Keratin forms a scaly plug that blocks the opening of the hair follicle. Normally, many plugs form causing patches of bumpy and rough skin. It is still to be discovered why keratin builds up. Although, it may occur because of genetic diseases or in association with other skin conditions. Keep in mind that dry skin has shown to worsen keratosis pilaris symptoms.
How to get rid of keratosis pilaris?Keratosis pilaris, also known as chicken skin, cannot be cured but you can still manage its symptoms if you do not feel confident with the way your skin looks. This skin condition typically disappears by itself as a person ages. KP skin condition is generally treatment-resistant but there are several methods that can ease its symptoms. It is also possible to address this skin disorder in home settings with the use of a warm bath, exfoliation, coconut oil, and humidifiers. People who got exposed to KP should also avoid wearing tight clothes.
What does keratosis pilaris look like?Keratosis pilaris causes hard and small bumps that make a person’s skin feel like sandpaper. These bumps are normally light-colored and they sometimes appear with redness and/or swelling. Furthermore, they can also show up on the face but it is very uncommon.
Who is prone to developing keratosis pilaris?People with the following health conditions are at a higher risk of developing “chicken skin”: dry skin, ichthyosis, eczema, hay fever, melanoma, obesity, and Celtic ancestry. Chicken skin is more common in teenagers and children. However, you need to be aware that anyone can encounter KP skin condition and it typically clears up by the age of 30.
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not a definitive medical advice. Please consult a dermatologist about your specific condition. Only a trained, experienced board certified dermatology doctor or pediatric dermatologist can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. Do you have any questions about Keratosis Pilaris Treatment? Would you like to schedule an appointment with an internationally recognized, award winning, best rated dermatology specialist Dr. Susan Bard of Manhattan Dermatology? Please contact our clinic for consultation with cosmetic and laser dermatologist. Dr. Susan Bard has either authored or reviewed and approved this content.
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