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What is keratosis pilaris? Dermatologists explain it and recommend how to treat it


If you notice small, red bumps on your body that are definitely not pimples, you may have keratosis pilaris.

Whether you're dealing with flaking or more serious conditions like eczema, dry skin can be a really uncomfortable and even painful problem to deal with.

And with winter in full swing, you may find that your daily skincare routine is no longer working.

If you notice areas of small, rough bumps on your body that are definitely not pimples, you may be dealing with keratosis pilaris.

We asked dermatologists to break down exactly what it is, what causes it, and what you can do to treat it.

What is keratosis pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition "characterized by small, rough bumps on the surface of the skin," explains Dr. Anar Mikailov, a Harvard-trained board-certified dermatologist and founder of KP Away.

Often referred to as "goosebumps" or "strawberry skin," these bumps usually appear on the upper arms, upper thighs, cheeks, and buttocks.

Fortunately, keratosis pilaris is typically harmless, explains Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.

"The bumps don't normally itch or cause any pain," he explains, "the concern is mostly cosmetic."

However, there may be more serious cases, explains Mikailov.

The area may become "irritating, itchy, and nagging" and may feel dry or papery.

Many people will discover the condition when they are unable to remove itchy, occasionally painful bumps.

In this case, Mikailov recommends seeing a dermatologist for a formal diagnosis and sustainable management plan.

What causes keratosis pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris occurs when hair follicles are blocked or clogged, causing bumps on the skin.

However, there are different opinions about what causes the blockage.

Engleman explains that keratosis pilaris is caused by "a buildup of retained keratin, which is a protein found in skin, nails, and hair."

Mikhilov, on the other hand, describes our sebaceous glands and their secretion of sebum, our body's natural oil that ensures healthy skin, hair, and nails, as the key factor.

"When the sebaceous glands are missing or not working, it leads to a lack of naturally produced oil, fats, and acids that normally promote healthy hair follicle growth and skin renewal," she explains.

Ultimately, the follicles become 'plugged' and the keratosis pilaris bumps follow.

No matter how the blockage is caused, it produces "evenly spaced, pink, firm bumps," explains Dr.

Rachel Maiman, a board-certified dermatologist at Marmur Medical.

There is likely a "hereditary component," he adds.

Ellen Marmur, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of MMSkincare, echoes this idea, emphasizing keratosis pilaris as "a genetic skin problem inherited from one parent and a special form of eczema."

For many people, keratosis pilaris gets worse during the winter, when the weather is drier.

It can also occur from different environmental changes, such as dealing with hard water or using products that irritate the skin, particularly those with strong exfoliating acids or fragrances, Mikailov shares.

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Another factor to consider is your age and stage of life, according to Mikailov.

Certain periods of life, such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.

It's also very common to see during adolescence, he says, sharing that it affects at least 50% of all teens.

"For some people, keratosis pilaris diminishes with age, but for most people it persists and requires a smart, gentle and safe skincare routine."

How to treat keratosis pilaris

"While there is no single cure for keratosis pilaris," explains Engelman, "there are products that can help relieve some of the symptoms and prevent them from forming."

She recommends AHA and BHA-based body products, which when combined with hydrating and soothing ingredients "help remove the buildup of dead skin cells without compromising the skin barrier."

Maiman recommends products that include keratolytic agents, which, as she explains, "work to break down clumps of dead skin cells" that block hair follicles.

Some common keratolytic agents include salicylic acid, urea, ammonium lactate, and glycolic acid.

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Still, the key to long-term management of keratosis pilaris is "maintaining a healthy skin care routine that includes cleansing, deep exfoliation, and moisturizing," Engelman explains.

Products recommended by dermatologists

Firs Aid Beauty KP Bump Eraser

 MX$898 and 


Recommended by both Maiman and Engelman, this 10% AHA exfoliant is a gentle physical and chemical exfoliant.

Engelman explains that pumice stone polishing beads serve as a physical exfoliant that "targets the symptoms of keratosis pilaris by gently removing dead skin cells and helping to unclog blocked hair follicles."

At the same time, "the mixture of glycolic and lactic acids chemically exfoliates the skin," while vitamin E conditions and softens it, explains Maiman.

KP Away Keratosis Pilaris Lipid Repair Emollient

 MX$2,054 and 


This daily moisturizer is formulated with plant-derived ingredients, including coconut oil, that "mimic the skin's natural functions of sebum," shares Mikhailov.

It is purposely formulated with minimal chemical ingredients as a way to reduce the potential for skin irritants such as fragrance.

"This gentle approach is a much more sustainable and long-term treatment plan for keratosis pilaris," explains Mikhailov.

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

 MX$315 and 


"This cream is formulated with ceramides to strengthen the skin's barrier functions," explains Mikhailov, who recommends this moisturizer as a great option you can get at the drug store.

Ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid are humectants, which will help your skin retain moisture.

Also, it is fragrance free.

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Isdin body cream

 MX$ 478 and 

USD$ 39

"Isdin body lotion is great," shares Marmur.

The formulation combines urea and other moisturizing ingredients to gently dissolve bumps and hydrate skin or eczema, she explains.

Isdin body cream

 MX$ 267 and 

USD$ 16

Another helpful facial product for fighting keratosis pilaris, this hydrating gel works to "deeply hydrate dry, irritated skin with hyaluronic acid," explains Engelman.

Be sure to apply after exfoliating, he notes.

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CeraVe Salicylic Acid Body Wash

 not available and 


For a salicylic acid product, Maiman recommends this body wash.

She suggests using it on the affected areas during the shower, as it will work to exfoliate and smooth the skin.

Reviewers rave about this product, with some sharing that they saw differences in their skin after just one use.

AmLactin Moisturizing Body Lotion

MX$ 398 and


"AmLactin lotion is a staple in keratosis pilaris treatment for many dermatologists," explains Maiman.

Its main ingredient is ammonium lactate, a form of lactic acid that is an alpha hydroxy acid with keratolytic properties.

In other words?

It has all the ingredients that will target those blocked hair follicles.

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For more recommendations, offers and reviews read CNN Underscored in Spanish.

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2022-01-21

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