Keratosis pilaris is a skin condition which is found to be very common among men, women and children. The condition is characterized by the presence of small bumps on the skin, which are mostly found on the upper arms, back, cheeks, thighs, and buttocks.
These bumps are not so painful and, in many cases,, they go away by themselves. People with existing skin conditions like eczema, atopic dermatitis, ichthyosis, and melanoma have higher chances of developing keratosis pilaris. Moreover, people who are obese or those who are having dry skin can develop ‘chicken skin’ rather easily.
Causes of Keratosis Pilaris
Hyperkeratinization involves an increased production of keratin (a type of protein) that gets deposited on the superficial layers of the skin. This waste keratin tends to plug the hair follicles which are present in the skin causing the formation of small bumps.
The causal factor behind this keratin overproduction is still not clear. Scientists associate it with a genetic tendency and with topical skin conditions like eczema.
Hormonal imbalance seen in the body during the puberty years and in women on a monthly basis (menstruation cycle) or during pregnancy may also play a role as a keratosis pilaris cause.
Signs and Symptoms of Keratosis Pilaris
When affected with keratosis pilaris, a person may experience a combination of these symptoms –
- Small bumps on the skin that are the size of a grain of sand
- Rough appearance like that of sandpaper
- The color of the bumps differentiates depending on the skin color – can be the same as the skin tone or be white, pink, red, brown or even black
- Redness may be present around the bumps
- Irritation and itchiness may be present
- A small, coiled hair may be trapped in the bump
- Dry skin (also called xerosis, is skin that lacks moisture in its outer layer)
- Bumps are more pronounced in the dry, winter months
Keratosis Pilaris Treatment
Many times, people do not even realize that they have this skin condition. The unpleasantness of the bumps is what makes them approach a dermatologist to diagnose and treat the concern. The following are the recommended keratosis pilaris treatments –
Laser Treatment for Keratosis Pilaris
By depending on the type of keratosis pilaris and its associated symptoms, an apt cosmetic dermatology solution would be to opt for laser treatment.
Various lasers, namely potassium titanyl phosphate laser, 595 nm pulsed dye laser, 1064 nm Q switched Nd: YAG laser, long-pulsed Alexandrite laser, and fractional CO2 laser, have been tested on patients over the last decade or so by different groups of scientists around the world.
These types of lasers have shown a great improvement in the appearance of keratosis pilaris bumps and the redness and hyperpigmentation seen with it. Usually, a combination of lasers will work more efficiently. Treatment of keratosis pilaris on legs and arms can be done using this method.
Microdermabrasion for Keratosis Pilaris
Microdermabrasion is an intense exfoliating treatment which is used to remove the bumps, the dry and pigmented skin present in the affected area.
Microdermabrasion for keratosis pilaris connects the usage of special crystal to remove the top layers of the skin, while a suction pump absorbs the debris simultaneously.
As the superficial layers are removed, the hair follicles get unplugged leaving the skin smoother than before.
Usually, microdermabrasion sessions are placed at 15 days gap. Swelling and slight bruising may occur with this treatment.
Topical Retinoids for Keratosis Pilaris
These are retinol based creams, which is a chemical derived from Vitamin A. A skin doctor would generally prescribe such a cream to be applied on the skin so that the clogging of pores by keratin can be reduced.
Topical retinoids should only be used under a doctor’s supervision as they can easily cause side effects like skin peeling and redness. Also, such creams do not suit everybody and should be avoided by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Common versions of retinoids found in these creams are tretinoin and tazarotene.
Topical Corticosteroids for Keratosis Pilaris
Generally used in conjunction with topical exfoliants (chemical peels), topical corticosteroids are prescribed by skin specialists to reduce the redness and rashes. They also act as emollients.
A 7 to 10 day course is most commonly recommended and this is followed up with an exfoliating treatment to smoothen out the bumps.