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Skin, Hair & Nails Guide

Rosa Cabrera RN

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Keratosis Pilaris (Chicken Skin) Advocacy Sheet

By EmpowHER

Did you know, those red or skin-colored, sandpaper-like bumps on the back of your arms and thighs have a name? Keratosis pilaris (KP), sometimes called chicken skin, is very common among, not just women and children, but all people. You may know about it from personal experience and wonder what it is--it is a real skin condition. It can be tough to treat, and may be embarrassing, but it is not harmful.

A hard protein, keratin, that protects your skin from harmful substances and infection can build up and clog hair follicles. The clogs can cause otherwise healthy people to have patches of rough, bumpy skin similar to acne.

KP is different for everyone, and if you suspect you have it, or was recently diagnosed, here are some questions to ask your doctor:

  • What is KP? A skin condition that may be genetic (thanks, Mom and Dad!) characterized by flesh or red-colored bumps (may look like chicken skin) appearing on backs of arms, legs, buttocks and sometimes the face.
  • How is KP diagnosed? There is no test to diagnose KP. A dermatologist can look at the affected skin and determine if it is KP.
  • How is KP treated? There is no cure, however, many patients experience improved skin by using topical treatments and modifying their skin care routine.
  • What is the long term risk? KP does not have long term health implications, and is benign (harmless). While the condition may start in children and persist, it may disappear. KP can also be more bothersome in winter months, when skin typically has less moisture. KP can occur in connection with pregnancy or other skin conditions like atopic dermatitis or ichthyosis vulgaris.
  • Is all KP the same? Some cases of KP are relatively mild and can be managed with using non-irritating soaps and moisturizers. If frustrated, it can be treated with a prescription lotion or other topical agent to help clear up the skin. Prescriptions could contain alpha-hydroxy, salicylic acid, urea, lactic acid, corticosteroid, or a form of retinol. The objective in treating is softening the keratin deposits in the skin, and moisturizing the skin.
  • Will I always have KP? You may experience periods where you seem completely non-symptomatic, however, your symptoms could return at any time. So it is important to continue with a skin routine that works for you to manage KP.
  • Are there alternative or home therapy ways to treat KP? Some alternative therapies may help decrease irritation. Being in an air conditioned environment all the time can cause skin to be more irritated, so it’s important to use non-irritating, fragrance-free moisturizers and cleansers daily (CeraVe, Cetaphil, Neutrogena, Basis, etc.). Bath time should be limited to 15 minutes or less and use warm water rather than hot water that can remove oils from the skin. A mild exfoliant or medicated lotion may help. It may take some time trying different things to find what works best for your particular skin.

Call your doctor and seek additional treatment, particularly if your condition worsens or is particularly bothersome.

Do you have a question about a skin rash? Check out EmpowHER’s pages. Sign-up, post a question, share your story, connect with other women in our community and feel EmpowHERed!

Resources:
www.mayoclinic.com Keratosis pilaris
http://www.nlm.nih.gov Keratosis pilaris

Christine Jeffries is a writer/editor for work and at heart, and lives in a home of testosterone with her husband and two sons. Christine is interested in women’s health and promoting strong women.

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