Keratosis pilaris (KP) is a very common genetic follicular condition that is manifested by the appearance of rough bumps on the skin and hence colloquially referred to as “chicken skin”. It most often appears on the back and outer sides of the upper arms (though the lower arms can also be affected), The disease is characterized by grouped, horny, keratotic follicular papules located predominantly on the extensor surfaces of the proximal limbs, most commonly of the posterolateral upper arms and anterior thighs. It is usually asymptomatic except for its cosmetic appearance. It most often appears on the back and outer sides of the upper arms (though the lower arms can also be affected), and can also occur on the thighs and tops of legs, flanks, buttocks or any body part except glabrous skin (like the palms or soles of feet). It can become more severe when conditions are dry such as during the winter months or in dry climates. Less commonly, lesions appear on the face and may be mistaken for acne. Keratosis pilaris tends to be more severe during the winter months or other times of low humidity when skin dries out. Although unsightly at times, it is completely harmless.
Causes of Keratosis pilaris
Keratosis pilaris is genetic in origin but the precise cause has not yet been determined.
It is thought to be a disorder of keratinisation in which the sticky cells that line the hair follicle form a horny plug instead of exfoliating. This widens the pores making them appear more obvious than elsewhere. Often a curled hair can be identified under the skin.
Symptoms of Keratosis pilaris
Keratosis pilaris causes small, acne-like bumps, which usually appear on the upper arms, legs or buttocks; they usually don’t hurt or itch. The bumps create rough patches and give skin a goose flesh or sandpaper appearance. Typically, patches are skin colored, but they can, at times, be red and inflamed.
Keratosis pilaris can also appear on the face, where it closely resembles acne. The small size of the bumps and its association with dry, chapped skin distinguish keratosis pilaris from pustular acne. Unlike elsewhere on the body, keratosis pilaris on the face may leave small scars.
Treatment of Keratosis pilaris
Treatment of keratosis pilaris is not necessary, and unfortunately often has disappointing results. With persistence, most people can get very satisfactory improvement. Initial treatment should be intensive moisturizing. Try a cream such as Acid mantle, Vaseline or Complex 15 after bathing, and re-apply the cream again several times daily.
While there is no known way to prevent keratosis pilaris, you can control symptoms by keeping your skin well moisturized. Avoid scratching the bumps because they can become open and infected. Also avoid wearing tight clothing and using abrasive body or facial scrubs, which can make the condition worse.
Since keratosis pilaris is thought to be a genetic disorder and is observed in several members of the same family, there is nothing that can be done to prevent this disorder.