The worst thing about skin conditions isn't that they're necessarily painful or dangerous to health, but that they really dent confidence. Keratosis Pilaris - aka that 'chicken skin' raised bumps thing that most commonly occur on arms and legs but can migrate to anywhere on the body - really falls into the category of totally benign, but also a pain in the backside when you want to wear strappy top.
The good news? It may make you feel a bit more self conscious about baring your skin, but it's a condition that can often be solved with the right products and a little know-how. Here's everything you need to rid yourself of them...
What are the causes of keratosis pilaris?
Dermatologist and founder of Murad Skincare, Dr. Howard Murad, explains that it is caused by too much keratin (hair protein cells) in the outer layers of the skin. He says the skin “creates small plugs that block the hair follicles on the upper and outer part of the arms and thighs which feel rough and uneven.
“It is an inherited skin concern that is often combined with dryness and itchiness and is often worse in the winter time likely because skin tends to be drier in those months.”
Dr. Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic, says: “Keratosis pilaris (KP) is heavily influenced by genetics. It runs in families and is inherited from your parents; if one parent has the condition, there is a one in two chance that any children they have will also inherit it.”
What’s the best keratosis pilaris treatment?
For your best chance at busting keratosis pilaris, look for products that contain AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids), BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) or retinol.
Dr. Mahto explains: “Alpha hydroxy acids like lactic or glycolic acid can help exfoliate skin cells, however these only work on the surface; they can’t get inside the pore to dislodge the plug of skin, This is where beta hydroxy acid products come in, as they contain the active ingredient salicylic acid and a pH low enough for exfoliation to occur. BHA also has antimicrobial properties, which work to kill any bacteria that could be making the problem worse. Acetyl salicylic acid has anti-inflammatory properties, helping to eliminate the red bumps."
“A combination of glycolic and salicylic acid is best, as they not only moisturise but also help the skin cells turn over and gently exfoliate. Retinol is also an option, as it not only unclogs but also helps to prevent re-clogging, especially when paired with microdermabrasion or ammonium lactate, which combines a gentle exfoliant with moisture.”
Your shopping list
Our best tried-and-tested keratosis pilaris products include: Murad Firming Peptide Body Treatment, £36, Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Anti-Aging Smoothing Lotion, £4.39, Avène Akérat Body Cream, £15, Hand Chemstry Retin-Oil (£18.99), Amerliorate Skin Transforming Body Lotion, £14.50.
What to avoid when you have keratosis pilaris
Though there is no scientific proof, some people with keraosis pilaris say that certain fabrics can make it worse, Dr Mahto says: “As keratosis pilaris is often associated with similar skin conditions such as eczema, you can follow the same fabric rules. Avoid fabrics which tend to be itchy anyway, such as wool, and instead stick to smooth fabrics like soft cottons which won’t rub against your skin too much.”
Another big keratosis pilaris no-no is scrubbing, Dr Mahto says: “While exfoliating is an important step in any skincare routine, it should really depend on the severity of the keratosis pilaris, as aggressive exfoliation can actually irritate it and make it worse. Therefore, it’s imperative to use a gentle exfoliator and not to rub too hard; try gently rubbing the skin with a foam pad or pumice stone.”