Keratosis Pilaris (KP) is an extremely common and benign skin condition characterized by thousands of hard keratin plugs that cover the hair follicles, making the skin dry, rough and bumpy. KP skin looks like chicken skin or gooseflesh, the result of abnormal keratinisation of the epidermis (formation of the outermost layer of skin). There is an abnormal build-up of skin cells around hair follicles because the skin is unable to shed properly. The good thing is that the bumps are not itchy or painful.
Skin on the back of the arms, shoulders, thighs and buttocks are commonly affected but it may appear anywhere including the face. The condition worsens when picked or scratched. Picking may complicate the condition and lead to secondary infection. Picking may also lead to discoloration and an increase in the size of the bumps.
It is mainly a cosmetic concern as the appearance is quite disturbing but most sufferers do not have symptoms. KP is controllable but not curable. Many patients with KP also have eczema, dry scaly skin, hay fever or asthma. It is more common in children and adolescents, is aggravated in puberty and usually improves in adult life often clearing by age 30. The bumps may appear red or dark brown due to associated inflammation giving the skin a polka dot like appearance.
KP is genetically predetermined so is not curable. However, there are a lot of treatments available to control the condition. Treatment is aimed at smoothing out the bumps with the use of products containing Glycolic acid, Lactic acid, Salicylic acid, Vitamin A, and Urea which all exfoliate the skin. Microdermabrasion is an alternative means of exfoliation. If there is associated eczema, Protopic and Elidel may be added to the treatment.
Treatment must be continuous as bumps return once it is stopped. Mild cases usually respond to emollient creams. More extensive cases require keratolytic (dead skin dissolving) agents such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid (2-3%) and urea (20%).
Popular Products for the treatment of KP:
- ViDerm Exfoliating Body Lotion and Body Wash which contain Glycolic Acid
- Emmaus Softness Bliss Body Lotion and Smiling Beads Body Wash
- Lac Hydrin which contains Lactic Acid
- Keralyt gel which contains Salicylic Acid
- Carmol contains Urea which is an emollient
- Retin-A (Tretinoin) is a Vitamin A derivative
- Protopic or Elidel are used to treat accompanying eczema
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