I have been dealing with a skin condition called Keratosis Pilaris for the past 14 years. When my symptoms first appeared, it was particularly frustrating for me to deal with, as I had always been able to troubleshoot my own skincare woes based on professional experience. My tried and true products and remedies didn’t address this condition, which affects an estimated forty percent of Americans.


Having Keratosis Pilaris can have a negative impact on self esteem. In the summer, I like to wear sundresses and sleeveless tops. When the condition was at its worst, I found myself shopping for shirts that would cover my upper arms. I was very self conscious. Well meaning friends and family would point out that I had a “red rash” on my arms and asked if I was aware of it. Of course I was. It is something I could see in my mirror each day and planned my outfits around.

I went to my dermatologist, who advised me to use a lotion with lactic acid. Unfortunately, this popular lotion also has the strong odor of ammonia and parabens. After a few weeks, I only saw a slight improvement, so I gave up. I spent that entire summer covering my arms because the red bumps were so noticeable.

Let’s take an in-depth look at this condition and see what can be done to treat it.

What is Keratosis Pilaris?

Keratosis Pilaris is a common skin condition that causes very small white or red bumps to form on arms, cheeks, thighs and bottom. They are painless and tend to resemble a rash. People sometimes call it “chicken skin” and the bumps look very much like red goosebumps. The texture in the affected area tends to be quite rough and dry, worsening in the winter.

It is more common in children and those under thirty. My son, age 10, has it on his cheeks. Mine only affects my upper arms. While I am over thirty, this is less common with age.

What causes Keratosis Pilaris?

You have no doubt heard of keratin. Keratin is the protein that protects the skin, hair and nails from infection. It is fibrous. Sometimes too much keratin builds up. It ends up clogging the hair follicles, forming a plug. The result? Rough, scaly bumps. It is that simple. There is nothing that you are doing wrong to create this problem. Even those who are extremely conscientious about their skincare routines can still have Keratosis Pilaris.

Treating Keratosis Pilaris

Where I went wrong is when I assumed I would care for this skin condition the same way I would any other dry or rough spots — through applying a scrub. It was a logical choice. When you apply a manual exfoliant like a scrub, you are sloughing off dry skin. You cannot slough off Keratosis Pilaris, though. When you use a scrub, it may end up making the condition worse. I found my own skin to become more irritated, which made the red bumps more noticeable.

Exfoliation is key, but using the right type for this condition is a must.  The best skincare treatment for Keratosis Pilaris is a topical exfoliant that you do not rinse off. Products containing lactic acid, alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid are your best treatment. Even better, use a product with both AHA and BHA.

Combining AHA and BHA is the single most effective way to treat Keratosis Pilaris

Both AHA and BHA have the power to help this common skin condition. However, when they are formulated together, they make for a highly effective Keratosis Pilaris treatment. The AHA helps shed dead skin cells, softening rough skin, while the BHA has the ability to get into the pores and help release the congestion. Applying an AHA/BHA treatment daily will help clear most cases of Keratosis Pilaris gradually over several weeks. Patience is key. If you do not see results after only a couple of days of use, please do not give up. It takes time to clear the blockage.

Do you have a skin condition that is impacting your self esteem? Let us know and we will cover the topic at length in a future blog post.