As you age, your skin can change texture (or sometimes even color). These changes can often be masked or dealt with using makeup or lotions. However, if you've begun noticing bumpy areas that resemble chicken skin, you may be dealing with a harder-to-manage condition known as keratosis pilaris (KP). This condition may arise without rhyme or reason, creating bumpy patches on your torso or extremities that don't respond to scrubbing or other removal methods. If you're dealing with this skin issue, what are your treatment options? Is there anything you can do to prevent a recurrence? Read on to learn more about why your arms or legs have begun to develop these bumps, as well as some ways a dermatologist can help you manage this condition.
What causes KP?
Keratosis pilaris is caused by a buildup of excess skin cells around hair follicles. As these skin cells bind together with sweat and oil, they form a nearly impermeable bond over the hair follicle -- and when the hair begins to grow, it's stopped at the surface and rerouted into a small bump. While it may seem as though treatment should be as simple as scrubbing this area hard enough to remove the excess skin cells, this is often ineffective; by the time KP has become noticeable, these dead skin cells have been buried beneath several layers of living skin, making manual removal difficult and painful.
What are your best KP treatment options?
Although there's no "cure" for KP, there are some medications that can help penetrate the top layers of skin to remove the dead cells beneath. Both retinoids and acid-based exfoliators (similar to those used for chemical peels) are capable of reducing the size of KP bumps by eating away at the excess skin. As a bonus, these chemicals contain anti-aging properties that can make you look younger and healthier overall.
Alternatively, you may opt to treat your KP with a natural oil moisturizer, like coconut oil. When applied to wet or damp skin, this oil can help break the molecular bonds that are binding these excess skin cells to your hair follicles, allowing the bumps to simply be scrubbed away over time. Although it may take a week or two of your new regimen before you notice much progress, this natural remedy is inexpensive and carries no risk of side effects (other than a slightly coconut odor).
Can you prevent this condition from recurring?
Some individuals are more susceptible to KP than others—particularly those with other skin issues, like eczema or contact dermatitis. However, once you've gotten your existing bumps under control, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the odds of a major outbreak in the future.
The first is to keep your skin moisturized. While it may seem counterintuitive to layer on lotion when your skin is already struggling to breathe, moisturizing your skin reduces the number of dead skin cells available to create these bumps and helps your body slough off these impurities more easily. Because KP can worsen in winter months, making sure you always have moisturizer close at hand and apply a thin layer of lotion after bathing or showering can go a long way toward keeping you bump-free. For those whose bumps were eradicated through the use of coconut oil, using this oil as a moisturizer can keep KP away.
In addition to moisturizing on a regular basis, you'll want to put some special care into exfoliating. This will remove the dead skin cells that are at risk of sticking to your skin and help encourage healthy regrowth in their place. For more information on your options, contact services like Center Of Dermatology PC/Herschel E Stoller MD.