Reader Q & A On Keratosis Pelaris

I was asked on Facebook, ” Can you help me with my son’s white, rough bumps on the arms and shoulders. I’ve tried everything to get rid of them but to no avail. Help!!”. This mother’s cry for help hit me hard making me write this post on Keratosis Pelaris. I wanted to reach out to more who find Keratosis Pelaris real annoying to live with. After all, 4 out of every 10 adults are diagnosed with this skin condition.

What is Keratosis Pelaris? Keratosis Pelaris or Chicken bumps is an easily identifiable skin condition, but for it being real annoying and aesthetically unappealing. It is manifested by the appearance of rough bumps on the surface of the skin. These bumps resemble goose bumps and are small, hard and rough but are seldom sore and itchy. The places where it most appears are the upper arms, back of thighs, flanks, buttocks and sometimes on your chest and hands as well. Though this sand paper like skin condition is completely harmless , it can be a little frustrating to deal with.This skin condition affects approximately 40% of the entire world’s population out of which almost 50 -80% are adolescents. This condition presents itself as:

  • Bumps that are small and acne like
  • Bumps that can be red and inflamed, white or skin colored but are painless
  • Skin that has dry and rough patches
  • Bumps that are sometimes itchy

Normally Keratosis Pelaris resolves itself on its own. Mostly by the age of 30 these bumps tend to dissolve.

What causes Keratosis Pelaris? This skin condition is due to the buildup of a protein found in skin called Keratin. Keratin protects the skin from harmful substances and infections. However, when excess keratin is produced by the skin it surrounds and entraps the surrounding hair follicle in its pore. This causes hyperkeratinization, that is formation of hard plugs. Though this condition is experienced year round, it is in the colder months that it becomes worse since the moisture levels in the air tend to dip.

Treatment and care- You may want to visit your dermatologist if you are dealing with Keratosis Pelaris. Though there is no lab test confirming this skin condition a skin examination will confirm if you are suffering from this condition or not. Some treatment options are:

  1. Topical exfoliants:Ask your dermatologist about some topical exfoliants which contain Alpha Hydroxy Acids or AHA’s, Salicylic Acid or Lactic Acid. Some derms. also recommend a urea moisturizer to provide intense moisturization for softening the dry hard skin and facilitate cell removal. However, these creams might cause redness, stinging and skin irritation especially in children.
  2. Topical corticosteroid ointments:Low potency corticosteroid ointments are anti inflammatory in nature, reduce cell turnover and are used for short term treatments or for temporary relief. Doctors do not normally refer this as a long term treatment since long term absorption of corticosteroid ointments can cause the skin to thin.
  3. Topical retinoids:Retinoids are derived from Vitamin A and work by promoting cell turnover while preventing the hair follicle from being entrapped. Though retinoids are perceived as an effective treatment for some, they can lead to skin irritations, severe dryness and skin peeling.

Home remedies– You can try some home remedies to alleviate your problem:

  • Go easy on the vigorous skin scrubbing and do not use harsh drying soaps.
  • Use warm water to bathe and limit your bathing time to prevent the skin from loosing excess moisture.
  • Use a hydrating and lubricating moisturizer or cream immediately after you bathe. Try creams containing urea or propylene glycol.
  • Apply an over the counter lactic acid product twice daily to remove the excess keratin.
  • Increase the moisture levels in your environment by using a humidifier.

How have you treated your Keratosis Pelaris? Write in and let us know.

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