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Keratosis Pilaris 101

What is keratosis pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris (KP) is the medical term for those tiny, rough bumps typically found on the upper arms. (You know, the ones that never seem to go away no matter what you do?) KP makes the skin feel like sandpaper and look like it has permanent goose bumps (which is why it’s often charmingly referred to as ‘chicken skin’). Each triangular, spiky bump is a buildup of keratin that’s clogging the pores. While it’s very common and completely harmless, the condition can be chronic, not to mention annoying, for many people. “These rough patches are usually found on the outer upper arms and thighs, and—especially on children—on the cheeks,” says dermatologist Ellen Marmur M.D., founder of Marmur Medical in New York City, and Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center.


Why does KP happen?

“Keratosis pilaris is a form of eczema,” says Marmur, “and like most eczema, the genetic condition stems from dry, sensitive skin, so it tends to get worse in the winter, when it’s cold and dry.” Contrary to what you may intuitively think, this bumpy skin is not acne. It’s actually a dry skin problem. “The reason that kids often get KP on their cheeks is due to the lack of oil glands there during childhood, but they typically outgrow it once they hit puberty and those oil glands kick into gear.”


How to treat and prevent KP

Exfoliate gently

To smooth this rough skin, you need to gently remove the pile-up of dead cells on the surface—but be careful not to over-scrub, which will only inflame the area. Chemical exfoliators like natural fruit enzymes and alpha hydroxy acids (lactic, glycolic, and citric) will slough off those pointy keratin bumps and clear the pores without irritating the skin.

Moisturize like crazy

“Ironically, most people with KP tend to avoid moisturizing, thinking that they have a form of acne,” says Marmur. “What’s really needed is the thickest cream or balm possible—one that contains occlusive emollients like shea butter or petrolatum to moisturize and protect the skin. You can’t apply too much!”


Skinfix Solutions

Resurface+ AHA Renewing Cream

One and done. A rich body cream that’s also clinically proven to reduce the appearance of KP bumps. The luxurious formula is infused with 5% natural AHA acids, and it’s packed with emollient shea butter, jojoba and coconut oils, so you can safely slather it on daily. Marmur recommends applying it twice a day, morning and night.

Resurface+ Glycolic Renewing Scrub

A gentle body scrub with 6% lactic and 7% glycolic acids and natural, biodegradable bamboo polishers that smooths roughness without scraping your skin. It also contains the natural anti-inflammatory bisabolol, a chamomile extract derived from the Brazilian candela tree, to soothe skin and calm redness. Skinfix Tip: Massage this onto dry skin before hopping in the shower to boost circulation and avoid diluting the active AHAs. Marmur’s advice: Use a scrub once or twice a week in addition to moisturizing daily.

Eczema+ Targeted Body Balm

Clinically proven to be as effective as 1% hydrocortisone to treat eczema and irritated skin, this concentrated healing balm is supercharged with 3 natural actives that calm inflammation and protect the skin barrier. There’s 2% colloidal oatmeal (a natural anti-inflammatory), 7% sweet almond oil (to relieve redness and itching), and 15% zinc oxide (a mineral that acts as an occlusive emollient and skin protectant). It’s also enriched with soothing aloe, moisturizing allantoin, lipid-replenishing jojoba and sunflower oils, and barrier-shielding natural beeswax. Marmur’s tip: “When KP is really bad and you want to look better overnight, apply this balm, put plastic wrap over the area before bed. It works!"