Do you have small, rough bumps on the backs of your arms or legs? These bumps could be a common skin condition called keratosis pilaris (KP). KP is harmless but is ugly and annoying. There are at-home and in-office remedies that can get rid of most cases of KP.
What Causes Keratosis Pilaris?
Keratosis pilaris occurs when a protein produced by skin cells called “keratin” builds up inside the lining of the hair follicle. This buildup of keratin forms at the base of hair follicles, forming a rough, sandpaper-like bump. These bumps are usually the same color as your skin, although they can become red. They are usually painless but cause a pink sandpaper look and feel to the skin.
Genetics may play a role in the development of KP. Most people who experience KP bumps as children “grow out” of them by age 30. However, KP can come and go through adulthood as well. People who struggle with other skin conditions like dry skin and eczema may be more likely to experience KP. KP is much more common in dry climates and in body areas that experience friction like the backs of the arms and thighs.
How Are KP Bumps Treated?
KP bumps are usually easy to treat, although some people have more severe cases that are more difficult to treat. Two key steps to getting rid of red bumps on the arms and legs are exfoliation and moisturization.
Step 1: Exfoliate Skin to Treat Keratosis Pilaris
Chemical or mechanical exfoliation can be used to treat unsightly red bumps on the arms.
Chemical exfoliation: Hydroxy acids are chemical exfoliants that help to remove dead, flaky skin from the surface by lowering the pH and dissolving the attachments between skin cells. The hydroxy acids can be in a cleanser, scrub, or a leave on product. Glycolic acid and lactic acid are popular hydroxy acids used to treat keratosis pilaris. Amlactin lotion is a professional-strength hydroxy-acid body moisturizer that contains lactic acid and is available at most drugstores. Use hydroxy acid cleansing products for two to four weeks, along with an exfoliating skin brush such as the Clarisonic Spin Brush on the affected areas. If the condition has not improved after two weeks of using a hydroxy acid cleanser or scrub, add a hydroxy acid body product like Neostrata Problem Dry Skin Cream to the skin after exfoliating.
Mechanical exfoliation: Mechanical exfoliators tear the skin cells away from each other allowing them to exfoliate off of the skin’s surface. Exfoliating scrubs like Pidanti Exfoliating Scrub or St Ives Apricot Scrub help unclog the keratin plugs from the hair follicles.
Step 2: Use a Barrier Repair Moisturizer to Treat Red Bumps on the Arms and Legs
Keratosis pilaris is caused when dry skin cells cling together and clog hair follicles. Improving the skin’s ability to hold onto water with a barrier repair moisturizer is critical to prevent recurrence of kerarosis pilaris. Barrier repair moisturizing creams such as Zerafite Ultra Rich Body Cream are ideal treatments for KP. They should be used twice a day.
Step 3: Add A Retinoid If Red Bumps Do Not Improve in a Few Weeks
If the bumps are still not improved in four weeks, consider adding a retinol like Essopi 5x Retinol Smoothing Serum every night. If it still does not improve, ask your dermatologist about other options. Some resistant cases of keratosis pilaris require prescription topical steroids such as triamcinolone two times a day for a few weeks.
At-Home Treatment Schedule
When using the products listed above, apply them according to these morning and evening schedules:
- Pidanti body scrub
- Neostrata or Amlactin hydroxy acid body cream
- Pidanti body scrub
- Zerafite Ultra Rich Body cream
- Essopi 5C Retinol Serum
If we prescribe triamcinolone ointment, it would go between steps one and two in the morning and evening.
This at-home regimen can be used in addition to a series of chemical peels or microdermabrasion in our office.
KP is usually a harmless, painless skin condition, but it can be frustrating to deal with, especially during the summer months when you want to wear tanks and shorts. If you’re looking to get rid of these bumps and achieve smooth, even skin, try the at-home treatment schedule listed above.
If you’re still not seeing results, contact us online or call our Miami office at 305-532-5552 to schedule an in-office treatment.
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