No one really knows why these rough patches or bumps occur, although genetics are a major factor. Unfortunately, that means if your parents have keratosis pilaris—or had it in the past—you have a greater likelihood of developing it yourself. Some health conditions also increase your chances of having KP; eczema, asthma, dry skin, hay fever, and excess body weight are all linked with keratosis pilaris, although the reasons for the connection are unclear.
Related: 7 Types Of Bumps And Blemishes You Should Never Try To Pop
How To Treat It
Keratosis pilaris is highly individualized—what triggers it or alleviates it can vary greatly. “In my experience few medical conditions illustrate our individual variability more than keratosis pilaris,” said integrative dermatologist Valori Treloar. “I have found no universal trigger or treatment that works for everyone or even for a significant number of folks.” While harsh chemical exfoliants are often prescribed, they tend to irritate the skin without creating lasting change. The following tips are a good place to start when treating your KP.
Keep your skin well moisturized to stop dry skin and calm itchiness.
Use creams or oils with anti-inflammatory and soothing properties that are highly moisturizing like coconut oil, shea butter, evening primrose oil, and borage oil. You may need to apply light layers of oil throughout the day to keep your skin hydrated.
Related: 10 Coconut Oil Beauty Treatments
Try a gentle exfoliating treatment to help remove the buildup of dead skin.
Do this before you moisturize your skin—just be careful not to over-scrub or you will make the irritation worse. (This scrub made from coffee grounds and olive oil may be just the thing.)
Don't just put oil on your skin—moisturize from the inside out.
Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids through common natural sources. These oils help reduce inflammation throughout the body and support health and well-moisturized skin. Opt for fatty fish instead of a supplement to get the most benefits.
The redness and raised skin that keratosis pilaris is notorious for is not acne, it is inflammation caused by the blocked pores. The more you can decrease the inflammation of your skin condition, the less noticeable the keratosis pilaris will be. Scratching and the rubbing of tight clothing can make this inflammation worse and cause an infection. Getting enough sleep, reducing stress, and eating an anti-inflammatory diet may also help reduce symptoms.
Related: 10 Foods That Make Inflammation Worse
What To Avoid
While it seems counter-intuitive, showering less may help decrease your symptoms. Between the heat of the water and the astringent soap, showering can remove the natural oils from your skin and aggravate skin dryness. Try showering every other day, using warm instead of hot water, and even washing the affected areas with just water and no soap to protect body’s natural oils and the good bacteria that live on the skin. When you do shower, limit the amount of time you spend in the water and be careful to pat your skin dry instead of rubbing with the towel when you are done, which will worsen your condition.
If you choose to use soap, make sure it is sodium lauryl sulfate- and sodium laureth sulfate-free. These ingredients are added to help soaps foam, but The Environmental Working Group has found that they can irritate and dry out the skin. Check all of your cleansers, shampoos, and hair products, too, since they can run down your skin as you shower. Shaving, waxing, and self tanner can make KP worse and also make the bumps more obvious.
Clearing keratosis pilaris takes time—according to the American Academy of Dermatology, you should expect treatment regimens to take 4 to 6 weeks to really make a difference in appearance. However, an integrative dermatologist can help you speed up the process and determine the best natural or medical treatment for you. Keeping a journal may also help you identify triggers and figure out what treatments work best for you.