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Today I wanted to talk about keratosis pilaris (KP) (also known as 'chicken skin' or 'strawberry skin') - a totally harmless skin condition that can still be a bit of a pain! I'll walk you through what it is, what causes it and some products that have helped me minimise mine and soothe flare-ups....
KP is rough, bumpy skin, that kind of makes it look like you have permanent goosebumps. It can be dry and itchy and will present as red bumps on lighter skin tones or as dark on deeper skin tones. It can come and go seasonally or over the years, but I've had mine for a pretty long time! (Though it's definitely more irritated during the winter.) Keratin is the substance found in your hair, skin and nails and KP is caused by it building up in the hair follicles of the skin. Why this happens to some people and not others is still unknown, but it tends to be genetic and it's typically accompanied by very dry skin on the affected areas (for me it's primarily my legs and only a little on my arms).
- HOW CAN YOU REDUCE ITS APPEARANCE? -
It's not really possible to 'cure' KP as such; it's something you have to learn to live with, but you can do things to alleviate the discomfort, dryness, occasional itchiness and overall appearance associated with it. If you don't moisturise your body daily and you have KP: you might want to start! Dryness emphasises how it looks and also exacerbates any discomfort. Likewise, if you find your skin feels dry after showering, you might want to switch to a non-foaming emollient wash or a shower oil and try to decrease the temperature of your showers (as hot water can really strip away hydration). Exfoliation can also help and I personally prefer the chemical route if I'm really looking to treat a skin condition like this.
- PRODUCTS THAT WORKED FOR ME -
First up, I'll talk about the CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser with Salicylic Acid | £12. This is actually made for the face, but I use it as a body wash (though you might want to stick to a moisturising, non-foaming formula if you're really suffering with the dryness and irritation). This is formulated with salicylic acid, which is a chemical exfoliant that's oil-soluble so can penetrate into the pores of the skin and clear out any debris, which makes it perfect for loosening up the excess keratin that causes KP. This is a gentle product that I personally use every other day which really helps smooth things out. It's nice and gentle with ceramides and hyaluronic acid to calm and replenish the skin, and it's formulated for the face (which is more sensitive than body skin).
When my skin is super-dry and just needs all the replenishment it can get, I reach for the Biossance 100% Squalane Oil | £27. This can be used on the face, the body, in the hair and even as a scalp treatment. Squalane is a plant-derived skin-similar oil and Biossance's formula is derived from sugarcane. This isn't too greasy and my dry skin drinks it right up. This is a really replenishing formula that softens my skin and provides lasting moisture. On an everyday basis I like the Eucerin Urea Repair 10% Urea Lotion | £14. This is what I switch to when the dryness is bad and the KP is more noticeable. This has a light texture, if you don't like the feel of an oil on your skin, and melts right in without the need for lots of massaging. This contains urea, ceramides and natural moisturising factors, which all occur in the skin, but if you're feeling dry, itchy and irritated; your skin barrier is probably compromised and needs a bit more of those things. This is so calming and moisturising, offering relief to dry, irritated skin.
On a more treatment side of things: I have a few options. In terms of body lotions, I'd recommend applying one of these before bed in the evening (don't shave beforehand unless you enjoy a burning sensation!) The first is an old favourite in a new scent: the Ameliorate Transforming Body Lotion in Warm Amyris* | £24. If your skin is very sensitive, you might not be ok with fragrance in an exfoliating product; for me, I'm find because the skin on my body is as hardy as a rhino's hide! I personally love this warm, spiced, black vanilla scent. I've used this product for years because it's formulated with moisturising oils, urea and glycerin alongside lactic acid (an AHA) to provide a gentle exfoliation and also some hydrating benefits. This has helped me so much over the years with the appearance of my KP and has really helped smooth the skin on my body in general. I was also really impressed with the Solution Retinol Smoothing Body Lotion* | £9.99. This isn't retinol, it's retinyl palmitate, paired with shea butter and glycerin for moisture and hydration. Retinol is an anti-ageing ingredient but it was originally used to treat acne scarring, so can really help smooth out skin texture. You may get a little bit of initial peeling, as it does contain a retinoid, but over prolonged use it really did help with the smoothness of my skin and reduces the redness associated with KP.
Lastly, I have a really effective occasional treatment: the Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Exfoliating Body Treatment* | £58 (for 8 treatments). Honestly, this is amazing if you're looking to see quick results in terms of the appearance of KP, but it is quite expensive so I'd say it's a once a week treatment for me. I absolutely love the original Alpha Beta peel for the face and this was reformulated for the body with bigger wipes for the larger surface area and more concentrated ingredients to get through the thicker skin on the body. There's glycolic, salicylic and lactic acids in there to chemically exfoliate the skin, bakuchiol which can help with smoothness, alongside squalane and glycerin to moisturise and hydrate (counteracting the potential dryness of an intense exfoliation). This is an amazing product that helped with the texture, the dryness and the redness I get with my KP. The only downside is the price, to be honest! You get get a pack of 2 for £15 and keep them for occasional use and use one of the more affordable options like the Solution body lotion and the CeraVe cleanser on an everyday basis.
I really hope this helped my fellow KP suffers! Whilst it's ultimately harmless and very difficult to get rid of entirely, there's nothing wrong with wanting to improve its appearance and (as I've absolutely experienced this winter) it can get very itchy and irritated and cause a lot of discomfort. I hope this post helped you learn a little more about the condition and the external factors that can make it worse (so you can avoid them) and things that can improve it (so you can try some of these ingredients).
Have you ever had KP? How do you manage it?