If you have rough, sandpaper-like bumps on the backs of your arms or legs or other areas of your body, you may have keratosis pilaris, or KP. While harmless, KP bumps can be unsightly and annoying and can be a long-term skin problem for both men and women. Luckily, there are some things you can do to get rid of KP bumps and maintain smooth, healthy-looking skin year-round.
What Is Keratosis Pilaris?
Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition that causes small, rough bumps to form on the skin. These bumps can be red or the same color as the rest of your skin tone, and they do not usually hurt or itch (except if your skin is dry).
Often confused with small goosebumps or acne, keratosis pilaris occurs when a skin-based protein [keratin] forms hard plugs within hair follicles. The result is skin-colored bumps about the size of a grain of sand, along with a fine, bumpy texture. Some cases are accompanied by redness.
Keratin is an important protein that is present in your hair, skin, and nails. However, when too much keratin is produced, it can form these small scaly bumps on your skin. People with dry skin tend to be more susceptible to keratosis pilaris, since flakes of dry skin can become trapped inside pores, causing the buildup of debris and excess keratin within hair follicles.
Keratosis pilaris is found most commonly on the back and outer sides of the upper arms (though the lower arms can also be affected). It can also be found on the thighs, hands, and the tops of the legs, flanks, buttocks, and face, where it is commonly mistaken for acne (especially in adolescents).
Keratosis pilaris also appears to be linked with atopic dermatitis, or eczema. Like eczema, KP bumps may go away on their own as a child grows into adulthood. For others, KP bumps can be a long-term skin concern.
Various Types of Keratosis Pilaris
- Keratosis pilaris rubra (red, inflamed bumps which can be on arms, head, legs)
- Keratosis pilaris alba (rough, bumpy skin with no irritation)
- Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii (reddish rash on the cheeks)
How Do I Get Rid of KP Bumps?
The best treatment for KP bumps involves proper moisturization and exfoliation. In some more severe cases, your dermatologist may recommend prescription retinoids or in-office treatments.
Treating KP bumps:
The best way to get to the root of the problem is to use a leave-on exfoliant that contains the ingredient salicylic acid (BHA). BHA is an amazing multitasking ingredient because it gets beyond the skin’s surface to exfoliate inside the pore, removing the hard clog that causes the problem. Clog gone, problem relieved!
Glycolic acid can be used to lower the pH of the skin and therefore loosen the “glue” that holds skin cells together. This allows the flakes of dead skin and debris to detach from the fresh new cells underneath.
Moisturize with a barrier repair cream. Dry, dehydrated skin worsens KP bumps, so use a barrier repair moisturizer to strengthen the skin barrier, reducing dryness and dehydration.
Are KP Bumps Preventable?
Because KP bumps are caused by genetics, they cannot always be entirely prevented. However, you can reduce their appearance and the likelihood that they will show up on your skin again by keeping your skin moisturized and exfoliating several times throughout the week.
DermExcel products that will treat Keratosis Pilaris: