Have you been noticing a lot of little red or white bumps on the back of your arms and legs or even your derrière lately? Chances are you’re suffering from a skin condition called keratosis pilaris, or “chicken skin”. But you’re not alone – almost half of all adults face the same problem. Although keratosis pilaris is neither harmful nor painful, it’s annoying and can blight your outfit choices, especially during the summer. But don’t worry, because Savoir Flair has the solution if smooth, ready-to-bare limbs are what you’re seeking.
We spoke to US-based skincare expert Paula Begoun, founder of Paula’s Choice, who gave us the lowdown on what causes those little bumps and the products that will help you beat them for good.
What Is Keratosis Pilaris?
Those hard red or white bumps, mainly found on the back of your arms and legs, may look like acne but actually represent a very different condition. Why some people get keratosis pilaris, while others don’t, is not yet known. The symptoms, however, are due to a build-up of keratin, a hard protein that protects skin from infection and harmful external substances. The keratin forms a plug that blocks the opening of a hair follicle, causing inflammation and a hard, tiny bump under the skin that can feel itchy and distinctly rough.
What Causes It?
Keratosis pilaris isn’t caused by sun damage, but some research suggests it might have something to do with inadequate levels of vitamin D. This research isn’t conclusive and the exact causes of the condition – and what contributes to it – remain somewhat of a mystery.
How Do I Get Rid of It?
First things first; keep in mind that you cannot scrub keratosis pilaris away with grainy exfoliators as this will only worsen the condition by inflaming the skin. There are, however, two things you can do. Firstly, use a gentle, non-soap cleanser instead of bar soaps, which can leave a residue on the skin’s surface that prevents dead cells from shedding properly. Secondly, exfoliate with a completely non-abrasive, leave-on product that contains either alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic or lactic acid, or beta hydroxy acids, such as salicylic acid. Beta hydroxy acids are best because they can penetrate into the pore lining and cut through the oil that mixes with dead skin cells. They also reduce inflammation. Most people will find that a once- or twice-daily application of a leave-on exfoliating treatment is needed for the first month.
How Long Will It Take to See Results?
If you are diligent about gentle cleansing and about applying the treatment product, you should see a remarkable difference after one month, give or take. Depending on the product you use, how often you apply it, and how your skin responds, you may see results much sooner – perhaps in less than a week! You need to keep going with the treatment, even if the keratosis pilaris clears up, in order to prevent the bumps from returning. Once they disappear, regularly use a leave-on exfoliant (one specifically formulated for this condition) to maintain results. Some people find that applying this type of product two or three times per week, after showering, is enough to keep their bumps away.