Do you have bumpy skin, for example on your arms? Keratosis Pilaris (“KP”), or chicken skin arms as it is commonly known, is a troublesome condition of all ethnicities, occurring in one in three adults, and over half of all adolescents. Affected skin is rough and has the appearance of permanent goose bumps. In more than half of the cases it is genetic (inherited)but otherwise the causes are not fully understood.

KP occurs when small plugs of dead skin cells (keratin) block the hair follicles, causing an unsightly, rough, spotty appearance. In-growing hairs may occur in the plugs.

KP diagram

KP is common on the upper outer arms and thighs but can also affect the face, buttocks, hands or, in fact, any part of the body where there are hair follicles. Occasionally the skin can be itchy, but the condition itself is quite harmless. It tends to be worse in the winter months.

There are several types of KP including KP rubra (red bumps), KP alba (bumps which are not inflamed), hyperpigmented KP (brown spots), KP rubra faceii (reddish rash on the cheeks, like rosacea) and eyebrow KP (Ulerythema Ophryogenes).

Treatment is not absolutely necessary but is often sought for cosmetic reasons. To begin with I advise avoiding using solid soap (which may irritate the skin and exacerbate dryness) and also avoid heavy moisturising creams (which can reduce the skin’s natural exfoliating cycle). Encouraging exfoliation (for example with plastic exfoliating gloves on the body, or a granular exfoliator) will improve KP on the body. In the specific case of the eyebrows being affected, loss of hair can occur and sun protection is particularly important.

ZO body emulsion

If symptoms persist a topical cream containing chemical exfoliators (which help to slough off the skin) and/or retinoids (which stimulate new, healthy skin) can be very effective. At BrightNewMe I prescribe Oraser Body Emulsion Plus by Dr Zein Obagi, which specifically treats KP. Constituents include retinol, urea, exfoliating plant enzymes, the anti-oxidants Vitamins A, C and E, and DNA repair agents. It also treats the pigmentation, inflammation and dryness which often accompanies Keratosis Pilaris. Many of my patients have found it to be extremely effective in relieving this troublesome condition.

After first preparing this blog it was picked up by ‘Aesthetic Medicine’, a journal for fellow medical professionals in the aesthetic industry. If you would like to read more information on KP please click here to read the article I had published in Aesthetic Medicine.

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