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flat-lay photo of multiple loofahs and exfoliating gloves

Can you get rid of keratosis pilaris (dry, bumpy skin)?

If you have dry, rough, bumpy skin on your arms, legs or cheeks, you could have a common skin condition called keratosis pilaris (KP). While KP isn’t harmful, it can affect the look and feel of the skin. David Harvey, M.D., a Piedmont dermatologist, shares what causes KP and how to improve the appearance of your skin.

What is keratosis pilaris?

“Keratosis pilaris, or KP, is often asymptomatic and is caused by dry skin accumulation in the hair follicles,” says Dr. Harvey. “The cause of keratosis pilaris is not fully understood. There appears to be some kind of a genetic anomaly in which the skin protein filaggrin is mutated. This mutation prevents or limits the natural exfoliation process.”

KP often manifests on the skin as brown, reddish or skin-colored bumps. Sometimes KP looks like goosebumps or small pimples. It’s most often found on the arms, cheeks and legs.

“It feels rough and dry in these areas and some people experience itching,” he says. “Young people are usually more affected than older patients. It has also been associated with atopic dermatitis and ichthyosis.”

Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is a skin condition that causes itching and redness. Ichthyosis is a condition that causes dry, thick, scaly skin.

Keratosis pilaris treatment options

Dry skin tends to make KP bumps more noticeable. If you have a mild case of keratosis pilaris and would like to improve the appearance of your skin, Dr. Harvey recommends exfoliating regularly. He suggests using a loofah on the affected areas after a warm bath or shower. You can also apply moisturizing creams that contain salicylic acid or urea to improve the skin’s texture and appearance. Some skincare products are formulated especially for KP.

More advanced treatments include prescription corticosteroid creams to help with itching and lasers to help with skin redness and hair retention.

Dr. Harvey says there currently isn’t a cure for keratosis pilaris.

“Patients often outgrow the condition,” he says. “Rarely, scarring or hair loss can occur. For this reason, early diagnosis and treatment by a physician is important for severe cases.”

If you have questions about your skin, talk to your health care provider to get an accurate diagnosis. Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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