How to Get Rid of Keratosis Pilaris (KP)

Getting rid of keratosis pilaris (KP for short), starts with daily use of a leave-on chemical exfoliant. These small, red, hard bumps covering your arms and legs aren’t harmful, but they’re certainly not comfortable. It’s important you know what to do, and also what you should avoid to prevent them from coming back.

What is keratosis pilaris (KP)?

The best way to get to the root of the KP problem is to use an extremely gentle, leave-on exfoliant that contains the ingredient salicylic acid (beta hydroxy acid, or BHA). BHA is an amazing multi-tasking ingredient because it gets beyond skin’s surface to exfoliate inside the pore, removing the hard clog that causes the problem. Clog gone- problem solved.

BHA can also diminish the appearance of redness and soften skin, making your arms more comfortable at the same time. (Hello, sleeveless tops!)

What about alpha hydroxy acids (AHA)? AHAs also exfoliate skin, but primarily on the surface, not in the pore. However, for some people, AHAs work great for KP. Think of AHAs as an option if the red, hard, bumps on your arms and legs do not respond to BHA.

Many people tell us that they get the best results for KP using both AHA and BHA exfoliants, alternating them; for example, using an AHA product during the day and a BHA product at night. If KP has become a stubborn problem for you, try it: you might finally get you the results you’re aiming for.

Tips for preventing KP

Because these hard bumps look red, anything you can do to diminish the redness can make an amazing difference. That means not doing anything that irritates your skin. Here are some essential tips for keeping these bumps from coming back:

  • Understand that you cannot scrub KP away; scrubbing will just make matters worse and make the bumps look angrier than they already do.
  • Make sure everything you do to take care of your skin is gentle.
  • Avoid abrasive scrubs, loofahs, and cleansing brushes with stiff bristles. They damage skin and will make skin redder, not better. KP is not the result of dirty skin, so you cannot scrub it away.
  • Avoid bar cleansers and soaps because the ingredients that keep them in bar form can clog pores, leading to more bumps. Plus, the soap buildup may lead to dull-looking skin.
  • Use a gentle water-soluble body wash with a soft washcloth, followed by a leave-on exfoliant to create smoother, softer skin.
  • Last, but not least, it’s extremely important to keep skin hydrated, but don’t use heavy, thick emollient products because they can clog pores. Rather, use lightweight skin-nourishing lotions, especially those that contain skin-restoring and skin-rejuvenating ingredients such as retinol. Retinol is well known for delivering amazing results by helping to normalize the pore.

If in doubt about whether or not what you’re experiencing on your arms and legs is KP, consult your dermatologist for advice and for other treatment options. Your dermatologist can also discuss various in-office treatments for very stubborn cases of KP.

References for this information:
Pediatric Dermatology, July 2016, pages 443446
Dermatology Research and Practice, ePublication, February 2015, pages 15
JAMA Dermatology, February 2015, pages 187191
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, May 2015, pages 890900
American Journal of Pathology, April 2015, pages 10121021