Keratosis pilaris is a skin condition that is considered to be not so serious, although it is pretty persistent in most sufferers until they reach about age 30. Typically, the condition creates small white or red bumps that look like acne on the upper arms, butt and thighs. In some cases, the bumps have shown up on the face and look like standard pimples. The difference is that these bumps are much smaller than acne and have a dry, chapped appearance.
The bumps do not hurt, although some people have reported slight, but bearable itching. Doctors give patients medications to improve the appearance of their skin, but the medications do not take the flare-ups away. Aside from the probable embarrassment that comes from having blemishes, it causes no long-term health issues.
Causes of Keratosis Pilaris
The cause of keratosis pilaris is a build-up of keratin, a protein that is found in the outer layer of skin, hair and nails. Keratin protects the skin from infection. When the build-up starts to happen, the keratin blocks an opening of a hair follicle and creates a keratin plug. The drier the skin is, the worse this condition becomes.
Most people who have keratosis pilaris do not usually see a doctor, since it tends to go away on its own over time. Those who seek medical care will probably get a host of questions about diet, skincare habits, history of asthma, history of eczema and frequency and severity of symptoms. In most cases, the condition is genetic, so there will probably also be some questions about other sufferers in a single family.
Physicians do not do any lab work or run extensive tests to diagnose this condition. They simply examine the skin and are able to determine its presence. Usually, a cream or ointment is recommended to help make the keratin deposits soft as a measure to change the way the skin looks.
Users should prepare for the skin to improve in the short-term, but be prepared if the skin condition returns. Once the ointments have been used up, the bumps and dryness tend to return. This can be a bit of a disappointment for those looking to improve the skin, but unfortunately, the best hope for sustained improvement lies in waiting it out and letting keratosis pilaris run its own course.
Here are some of the kinds of creams prescribed for Keratosis Pilaris:
–Retinoids. These come from Vitamin A and work on the skin by trying to prevent the hair follicle from plugging up. These creams are strong and effective, but they tend to create other symptoms in those who take them. The skin peels, for example, or becomes more red and dry. Some women have been known to develop yeast infections when taking medications with retinoids. Common prescribed retinoids are Retin-A Micro and Avita (tretinoins) and Tazorac (a tazarotene).
–Corticosteroids. Doctors tend to prescribe corticosteroids for short-term treatment because over time, they can cause burning and itching or thin the skin. They are anti-inflammatory drugs and work by suppressing the immune system and decreasing the production of cells. The most common ointment of this type is hydrocortisone.
–Exfoliants. The focus of any exfoliant is to loose skin and force dead skin to shed away. Exfoliants for treating keratosis pilaris are aimed at making the skin moist and soft to loosen it. Depending on how strong the ointment is, patients may be able to purchase exfoliants over the counter at their local drug stores. Some of them, however, have stronger concentrations of alpha-hydroxy, lactic acid, salicylic acid or urea and will require a prescription. The concentrations of the drugs in these exfoliants are a bit strong for young children and can create more redness and burning, so most doctors only recommend them for specific age groups.
There are some preventive measures that can help lessen the effects of keratosis pilaris. They can become a part of a regular routine if a sufferer understands that his condition is not going to go away and incorporates some self-help measures into normal personal caretaking.
–Using a humidifier helps to keep the skin moisturized, especially during dry seasons like winter. Low-humidity worsens a skin condition like keratosis pilaris. Make sure the humidifier is kept clean of bacteria and fungus, as these tend to poison the air and can create respiratory problems.
–Choose a soap that is formulated for sensitive skin. Most soaps are full of perfumes, dyes and other chemicals that are abrasive and harsh to skin – although they smell very nice. Soaps with antibacterial ingredients and deodorants are big culprits when it comes to drying skin. Try soaps found at natural food and beauty product stores or ones made with shea butter or natural oils. They keep your skin moist and act as an extra measure to fight those keratin build-ups.
–Post-bathing or post-showering rituals should use a natural dry-off process. The tendency among most people is to wipe water off the skin as quickly as possible. Light patting helps to stop dripping, but letting the skin air dry helps retain moisture. Apply creams or ointments while the skin is still damp. Use warm water for bathing, since extremely hot water removes the natural oils from the skin.
–Find an over-the-counter moisturizing cream that contains lactic acid or glycolic acid. Both of these ingredients as a base can dissolve bumps that form in hair follicles.
–Start including flaxseed and hemp in a daily diet. Both have essential fatty acids that are good at dissolving the keratosis bumps naturally. A teaspoon of flaxseed oil can be taken each morning as a supplement.
–Organic apple cider vinegar mixed with water can serve as a natural remedy for keratosis bumps.
No matter which remedy is used, it is important to always monitor the reactions to determine what is working and what might have to be altered to improve the skin. Keratosis pilaris is a condition that may be difficult for some young people to deal with, since teens and young adults are still grappling with many self-image issues. If it is approached as a hygiene issue and seen as a natural part of a daily routine, though, the time will fly by and the condition will fade away on its own.