Healthy Living

What Is Keratosis Pilaris and How Can We Treat It?

What Is Keratosis Pilaris and How Can We Treat It?

Key Takeaways

  • Keratosis pilaris is a harmless skin condition that is often seen in children in adolescents.
  • This skin condition is mainly caused by an excessive keratin buildup. 
  • There is no cure or treatment for keratosis pilaris.

What is keratosis pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is a harmless skin condition that is often seen in children in adolescents. It is characterized by dry and tiny bumps on the skin, similar to a sandpaper texture. The small bumps usually appear on the face, arms, thighs, or buttocks. However, they are generally not itchy or painful. They also appear light-colored, but may also get irritated leading to redness and swelling. This skin condition is often mild and even considered as a normal skin variant. Thus, there is no cure or treatment for keratosis pilaris. However, you can improve your skin’s appearance by applying skin moisturizers or creams. 

The following are initial symptoms that characterize keratosis pilaris:

  • Dry skin and a continuous shedding of old dried out skin cells.
  • The appearance of tiny bumps on dry skin, which are usually not painful.
  • The commonly affected main areas of the body are the thighs, buttocks, upper arms, and cheeks.
  • Rough sandpaper texture of the skin.

As seasons change, the condition of your skin will only worsen. Low humidity levels in the weather will have an adverse effect on your skin and it will be drier than usual.

The tiny bumps will look lighter in color than the color of your skin. Keratosis pilaris is not generally known to have extreme hazardous effects on health, but like any other disease, it could turn out to be more problematic than you think if left untreated.

This skin condition is mainly caused by an excessive keratin buildup. Keratin is a major protein found in the hair, nails, and skin. A keratin buildup clogs hair follicle openings. Keratin usually protects the skin from harmful microorganisms and infection. However, its buildup can clog hair follicle openings resulting in tiny bumps on the skin surface.

Having a dry skin can often lead to keratosis pilaris. People may observe that this skin condition is at its worse during the winter season when there is less moisture in the air. The skin usually heals on its own when summer begins.

People who already have existing skin conditions such as eczema or atopic dermatitis are more prone to developing keratosis pilaris. A dermatologist is a medical expert who can easily diagnose keratosis pilaris just by looking at your skin.

The only downside is experiencing some itching, but other than that, there are no long-term harmful effects. No known permanent cure or way of prevention has been found yet. However, that does not mean that you cannot deal with the symptoms. Symptoms can be put at ease by moisturizing creams, prescribed medications, and proper skin care as well as maintaining a good hygiene. Things are going to start looking good for you if you make an effort to improve your skin condition.

Symptoms

Most of the symptoms that occur at the start of the condition usually stay the same during the whole time you experience keratosis pilaris. Keratosis pilaris is a condition that causes immense annoyance due to skin irritation. For some people with keratosis pilaris, skin itchiness may become unbearable at times. The dry and rough patches are just very little of the many things that you will have to face. However, not all people experience the same symptoms. The symptoms of keratosis pilaris can vary depending on the person's overall health, lifestyle, skin type, and environment. Moreover, this skin condition is commonly seen in all age groups but with varying symptoms.

In newborn babies

The scalp of the hair, buttocks, cheeks, and face are the commonly affected areas in newborn babies. The gentle skin of infants is still unable to bear the itchiness and irritation, which leads to a loss of sleep and cranky behavior. The application of prescription creams can help relieve the irritating symptoms to ease and calm the baby. It is important not to let the baby scratch his or her skin as it may lead to a skin infection and make the situation worse.

Children and young adults

The symptoms experienced by children and adolescents are pretty much the same to those that are seen in newborn babies. Children are careless when it comes to taking care of their skin. Thus, their skin gets easily irritated. Skin patches may look light-colored, dull, or bright red, and are usually seen on the elbows, knees, and neck. 

In adults and the elderly

The area behind the neck, edges of elbows, knees, and thighs are the usual spots of keratosis pilaris seen in most adults and the elderly. However, others may be covered with small bumps all over their body. Rough patches and dryness can still be felt on your skin. 

The root cause of keratosis pilaris

Keratosis pilaris can be caused by many factors. Genetics also play a role in this skin condition. The buildup of keratin in the follicles of our skin may stop any hair from growing. The process of excessive keratin accumulation is also called as hyperkeratinization.

If you have a pre-existing skin disorder, then your risk of developing keratosis pilaris increases. Vemurafenib, a type of therapy for cancer, can also make you prone to develop such skin condition. 

Skin disorders such as ichthyosis vulgaris and seasonal allergies such as asthma, eczema, and atopic dermatitis are some of the diseases that keratosis pilaris can coexist within our body. Looking out for the smallest of health problems and being aware of the changes that are happening in your body will always keep you two steps ahead of any health problems that may come your way.

Diagnosing keratosis pilaris

A dermatologist identifies keratosis pilaris just by physically examining the affected area. Usually, doctors can tell if it is keratosis pilaris or not just by looking at the affected areas of the skin. To recognize keratosis pilaris, there is no need for you to undergo any tests. You can even take care of it at home. If the symptoms are uncontrollable, it is better to consult the doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Treatment

Keratosis pilaris has no cure. However, you can apply moisturizers to make your skin look better. Most of these creams and moisturizers can be purchased over-the-counter. However, stronger medications usually need a prescription. 

Keratosis pilaris can be effectively managed through the following topical medications:

1) Lactic acid lotions - can be used to decrease bumpiness and soften the tiny spots. The application of lactic acid lotions on the affected area can help relax the skin, especially the affected areas. Constant application of the lotion to the affected areas can be quite helpful.

2) Alpha hydroxy acids - To reduce scaling, you can use alpha hydroxy acids or glycolic acid lotions, to reduce keratin buildup in your skin.

3) Creams with urea and salicylic acid content - can be used to moisturize and soften the skin. Salicylic acid is known for its spot reducing power. However, consult a dermatologist before its application since it may react with your skin and cause greater problems.

Treating keratosis pilaris at home

Never scratch or rub the affected area of the skin and also never squeeze the bumps as it can leave marks that can further make it worse. It may be very tempting to scratch the area, but remember, you would not want ugly permanent spots on your skin. Always use lukewarm water for bathing or showering rather than hot water. Hot water can escalate the inflammation and itchy sensations. Always keep the affected area moisturized. Apply the moisturizer or the prescribed cream routinely or as instructed. Moisturizing the area is the key when dealing with keratosis pilaris. Additionally, you can also add moisture to the air with the help of a humidifier.

These home remedies will bring on effective results, but seeking medical help never hurts. There is another easy chemical treatment available to treat keratosis pilaris. The treatment will be very quick and extremely effective, but it can be a pain in the pocket. Topical exfoliants and topical retinoids are the two methods. Please consult a dermatologist before going for these treatments.

Prevention

Keratosis pilaris is an inevitable skin condition. However, you can keep your skin hydrated and moisturized to avoid having dry skin that can lead to keratosis pilaris. Apply a good skin moisturizer and drink plenty of water. These two tips can help you keep keratosis pilaris at bay.