Keratosis pilaris (KP) is an genetic follicular condition characterized by keratinous plugs in the hair follicles. The human body produces excess keratin and forms hard plugs that could often times trap the hair shaft. Coiled hair is observed and often causes in-grown hair and inflammation of the hair follicle. Red and raised bumps are observed on the arms & legs; . It is estimated that 40% of the population is affected by KP. It does not cause any long-term complications, however it does affect individual’s cosmetic appearance which affects their emotional and mental health. There is no cure for KP as there are only topical creams to ease the red appearance. Treatment does not prevent keratinous plug formations.
My story with KP: Background
I have been struggling and living with KP for over 10 years now. The first signs of the development of KP happened during puberty (before this stage in my life – my skin was baby smooth); as I struggled with acne – I also found that small red bumps were developing at the back of my arms and on my thighs. After a few years, it manifested to bumpy skin all over my arm and legs. It was so red and bumpy that even in the hottest days of summer, I would still be wearing clothing that covered my arms and legs. Of course, I refrained from any swim wear required activities.
What made things worse in appearance, was that I tend to ‘scratch’ or ‘pop’ the keratin plugs because my forearms and legs had embedded plugs, and the back of my arm had protruding ones.
How has KP affected my life?
Insecurities and self esteem are the main struggles I have with this disease. Majority of people are still unaware of this skin condition, and I always get asked questions in a disgusted way, ‘what is that on your skin?’ Or ‘I have a really good remedy to help you with that’. During that time as a young teenager, it has brought a lot of negative thinking in regards to my own body image and self confidence.
What are the limitations living with KP?
There is actually no limitations unless you are the person that limits yourself. I can honestly say it has been a long road for me with KP as I had limit myself from not wearing clothes that I want, from being judged and also questioning if I will find someone that will be ok with KP.
Here is my story in regards to relationships and KP:
Yes, as majority of people with KP will think, ‘how will someone like me when I have this disgusting skin all around me’. During my struggle, I had a relationship which has helped myself build my confidence and be more comfortable in my own skin (well kind of).
The relationship did not last unfortunately due to many external factors but reflecting back I believe that KP had an indirect strain on the relationship. This is because during that early period of the relationship, I did become more confident and comfortable , however after a while I think that my insecurities got the best of me. I felt ashamed to be with him because of my KP. Therefore, people with KP have no limitations only if you have the ‘mind over matter’ thinking about the judgement of KP. Also, if you are comfortable with KP to others, then other people will not make a big deal of it either.
Treatment for KP:
This disease comes with various scopes of causes: genetics, dietary, environment, mental state and the list goes on. Therefore, there is no one technique or solution to treat this disease. The pictures on the left has shown the end result thus far from my methods. Since it has gotten a lot better. I would love to share my ‘treatments’ thus far.
Through various beauty blogs, they always state to exfoliate once a week to relieve the dead skin cells and over exfoliating can cause dry skin. Yes, it does but for KP I have found that exfoliate everyday in the shower, helps prevent in-grown hair and the bumps have flatten dramatically. I always thought of it as sandpaper. A study was conducted by Conair on exfoilate and KP – click here.
Harsh body washes or Fragrance body washes tends to irritate the skin and causes KP growth. I have not found studies on this, but from testing multiple body washes throughout the years – not all body washes will fit for KP people. Note: most natural sensitive cleansers will not work either – TRIAL AND ERROR! The only brand so far that have helped my KP tremendously is the Dr. Brunner’s Magic Soap. I do not think it helps with the bumps but it does help with the prevention of growth.
I did my own little experiment in alternating my diet to see it it affects my KP. Yes, it did! I read that other people with KP prevented themselves from eating gluten because often time KP is linked to celiac disease.
I cut out carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, bread) and any juices or soda – and my skin dramatically improved. And once, I started to eat those food again – KP started to become more red.
At this point, I refrain myself from drinking juice and sodas but I still eat carbohydrates.
Even if you do not feel that skin is dry – often times KP people have extremely dry skin. Moisturizing after the shower and before going to sleep – is key to keep the skin looking fresh and prevents redness. Again, not all lotions will work as the skin is very sensitive – Aveeno or Lubriderm are great sensitive lotions!
My dermatologist recommended me to try: Avène: Akérat Smoothing Exfoliating Cream . It has greatly improved my skin to prevent redness – but I do not think it helped with the bumps
5. Mind over Matter
The last treatment is the most important and effective one: Your own mental thinking and confidence. Without establishing a strong mentality and positive thinking on your KP – none of your quality of life or skin will improve.
Thanks for reading.