Proven remedies for Keratosis pilaris?
February 15, 2022 3:15 PM   Subscribe

I have always had Keratosis pilaris but it seems to have gotten worse recently. Feeling very self-conscious about my upper arms! I have an event to go to in just over a month, please recommend things which are proven to reduce the appearance? (My understanding is that I won't be able to eliminate the issue, but I am hoping to make it slightly less obvious at least). Thank you
posted by kinddieserzeit to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Cerave's SA lotion or cream.
posted by nanook at 3:19 PM on February 15, 2022 [5 favorites]

Yeah, the standard treatment is Salicylic Acid, and you'll now find a number of formulations meant for body (vs face, which is more delicate usually). You can also gently but consistently mechanically exfoliate in the shower with a scrub, loofah, pouf, Beauty Skin Towel etc.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:24 PM on February 15, 2022

Mine completely went away by cutting out carbs and sugar. Pretty amazing really.
posted by sanka at 3:28 PM on February 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

I get it on my feed. It fades a little when I eat organ meats, but that may be due to the absence of carbs and sugar as @sanka notes above.
posted by mecran01 at 3:30 PM on February 15, 2022

Be careful with SA lotions if you are sun-sensitive - I got a terrible sunburn after using SA lotion with minimal sun exposure, and my skin still looks mottled in places.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:30 PM on February 15, 2022

Mine improved during a period of time where I was eating half an avocado every day. Unfortunately I can't do that any more because my intestines hate me and don't want me to have nice things.

Exfoliating in the shower with scrubbing gloves and moisturizing body wash helps a lot. And if I were really committed to making it go away I would use either a salicylic acid lotion as recommended above, or Amlactin lotion which is what my brother's doctor recommended for him years ago.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:32 PM on February 15, 2022

I prefer glycolic acid lotions when they can be had. This was very successful for me; it also has lactic acid, another good medicine for it, as well as salicyclic. I prefer to keep salicyclic on hand as a spot treatment for the parts that get infected. Since that particular lotion is not on store shelves, I can also recommend Gold Bond Rough & Bumpy in the drugstore, although I don't like the smell. Not bad, just kinda elderly. If you are somewhere that you can get sun -- probably not, this time of year -- daily sunlight (within reason of course and under sunscreen) helps keep the skin smooth.

Finally, not that you asked, I have to tell you what I always forget -- it is not nearly as obvious to other people as we feel it is. I spent years in long sleeves that I now regret because I did not know this.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:00 PM on February 15, 2022 [3 favorites]

Amlactin works well for me: the active ingredient is lactic acid. After moisturizing with it for a while and seeing significant improvement, I switched back to my regular (cheaper) lotion and just do a few days with amlactin every so often if I see the KP recurring.

As with salicylic acid (or any acid I think) you’re gently chemically exfoliating the top layer of cells, so the layer underneath is more vulnerable to sunburn until it hardens up. It wasn’t “expecting” the sun yet. Sunscreen fixed that for me, though I don’t know that I’d use a lactic acid cream on my face in summer.

I have very sensitive, dry, damaged skin- I find both salicylic and glycolic acid too strong even in their weakest formulations, but lactic acid has been fine even in high concentration, YMMV.

Regular mechanical exfoliation (I use a Korean spa glove to scrub my shower gel quite aggressively daily) and better circulation from exercise also seem to have decreased the recurring KP.
posted by pickingupsticks at 4:05 PM on February 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

I get very mild bumps but have gotten back and chest breakouts at times. I like this Paula’s Choice body lotion with salicylic. It’s smooth and smells good. Not too drying. Manual exfoliation is also supposed to help. +1 for getting comfy in the skin you have and unlikely anyone else notices.
posted by Crystalinne at 4:05 PM on February 15, 2022

When my upper-arm KP was really bad, I used a mesh scrubby poof in the shower + a glycolic acid toner (Pixi Glow Tonic) + a heavy lotion (Cerave Moisturizing Cream) every day. After I got it under control, I switched to daily use of Cerave SA Lotion and occasional exfoliation with the mesh poof.
posted by neushoorn at 4:08 PM on February 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Are you more bothered by the bumps or by the redness? Because while I've found all the exfoliating methods help smooth out the bumps, the redness largely remains. I'm curious whether that's not been other people's experience.

(Cutting out carbs and sugar did nothing for me, fwiw.)
posted by trig at 4:15 PM on February 15, 2022

Glycolic acid has been most effective for me. I currently use the Pixi Glow Peel Pads just because that’s the strongest formulation I’ve found in a pad and for sensory reasons I tolerate pads better than lotions. But I haven’t found the brand to matter all that much over the years, just the ingredient and strength.
posted by Stacey at 4:23 PM on February 15, 2022

Mine starts to disappear when I tan
posted by gt2 at 5:18 PM on February 15, 2022

I e had KP all my life. I tried many of the solutions offered here - salicylic acid, lactic acid, Amlactin, GB Rough & Bumpy lotion, physical exfoliation, heavy lotions - with little to no success.

However, a 7% glycolic acid solution (from The Ordinary), applied after every shower for two weeks, cleared my KP up completely - both the bumbs & the redness. Now I make sure to use once or twice a week to maintain, and I apply lotion after, and I’m good to go.

As a bonus, it also completely eliminated shaving irritation, ingrown hairs & ‘strawberry legs,’ all of which I’d struggled with for years.
posted by wind_up_horse at 5:28 PM on February 15, 2022 [4 favorites]

My advice is to moisturize & exfoliate: In the shower I use exfoliating gloves. I apply jojoba oil right after the shower before toweling off. Then I use either vegetable glycerin diluted with water or Amlactin. The Amlactin acts as both a moisturizer and chemical exfoliant.
posted by Lil' Blue Goat at 6:07 PM on February 15, 2022

I also found that my lifelong KP went away when I eliminated carbs from my diet.
posted by Sublimity at 6:12 PM on February 15, 2022

External: one of these Korean scrub mitts. It has to be this specific type, the others don't exfoliate nearly as well. Take a shower or bath, and use it after about 10 to 15 minutes in the water. Rub hard, and rinse the mitt and your skin frequently. Follow with TendSkin salicylic acid. I put mine in a spray bottle to make it easier. Once that dries, put on lotion.

Internal: start taking vitamin E supplements and fish oil.

Cleared mine up after a few weeks, and mine was awful.
posted by ananci at 6:51 PM on February 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone.

I have bought the Cerave lotion recommended above, since it is most accessible to me.

I'm confused about physical exfoliation because the internet told to avoid that. But I trust the advice of the hive mind, so I am going to try physical exfoliation + the lotion.

I'm making some gradual and sustainable changes in regards to diet and exercise, so hopefully those end up helping too.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 7:00 PM on February 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

I think it's helpful to take a long bath before exfoliating, so it's easy to rub off the dead skin (even just by rubbing with your fingers; I find that actually works better for me than a mitt or scrub, etc, but YMMV). If I haven't done this for a while the bumps come back on my arms, but they go away easily after a few days of exfoliation. If you ever have the chance, a Korean spa is also an amazing place to get exfoliated.
posted by pinochiette at 8:25 PM on February 15, 2022

Regarding physical exfoliation, I use a sugar scrub which is effective but not as abrasive as some of the other options discussed.
posted by Toddles at 8:26 PM on February 15, 2022

I tried everything from SA lotion to Amlactin cream to physical exfoliation to (very mild) full-body acid peels and not a single thing helped other than giving up carbs and sugar, as another user mentioned upthread. I went strictly keto for about 9 months and have lost 50 lbs (spurred on by a prediabetes diagnosis thanks to lockdown weight gain), and that was the only time in my life I've had entirely smooth upper arms without the red bumps.

I'm more like low-carb than keto now that I'm maintaining, but I still don't eat things like sugar-sweetened desserts, fruit juice or sodas containing sugar, etc. and while I have noticed a tiny resurgence in a few bumps here and there since I started reintegrating certain higher-carb foods into my diet, overall the weight loss/regaining some of my blood sugar control clearly has helped a ton.

The medical establishment (and this is not a dig on modern medicine per se, I just think this is an underresearched area) has generally downplayed the possibility that the condition could be influenced by diet, but anecdotally myself and many others have found blood sugar levels to be a significant contributor to inflammatory skin conditions like KP. If it doesn't sound like a possible contributor for you then feel free to ignore, but I wanted to add my voice to the crowd of "maybe consider the role of sugar and starch in diet for KP"!
posted by second banana at 8:34 PM on February 15, 2022

Yes and to agree with others, I reduced carbs as part of a diet I was on and noticed that the KP went away/went down as well.
posted by Toddles at 9:21 PM on February 15, 2022

Nthing glycolic acid (I use a toner because that's what I already had around the house), and I've also had decent results with urea cream, the kind for putting on rough cracked feet.
posted by Glier's Goetta at 1:11 AM on February 16, 2022

Since no one has mentioned it yet, I've had good luck using Cortizone-10. I just use a little bit rubbed strongly into the rough patch of skin twice a day, and it will usually disappear completely in just a few days tops. I've actually managed to completely get rid of most of the condition this way, although one patch does resurface occasionally. Cheap and easy!
posted by Don_K at 6:59 AM on February 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

Also since I haven't seen it mentioned, but I know someone with KP who had success using First Aid Beauty's KP Bump Eraser on their arms leading up to their wedding. It looks like the company has three KP products.
posted by verity kindle at 7:55 AM on February 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

You'll want something exfoliant, what works for each person is different as you can see from the recommendations, so you may need to experiment, it will also take a little time and need to be maintained to stop it coming back. A toner or a cream containing the ingredient. I have had good luck with creams with urea in combined with stridex wipes.
posted by wwax at 7:58 AM on February 16, 2022

STRONGLY second the rec for First Aid Beauty's KP Bump Eraser.

I had remarkably bad KP on my legs for decades. Tried glycolic acid, tried SA, neither did a damn thing for me. First Aid Beauty cleared it up by about 80% after a month. I wait until the end of my shower so my skin is nice and softened. 2x/week, I apply First Aid Beauty KP eraser. On the days I don't use it, I gently exfoliate with a salux cloth.
Moisturize with Cerave (daily moisturizer, NOT the SA one) after I've toweled off. My legs have never looked so good.
posted by darkchocolatepyramid at 9:00 AM on February 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

I got the KP on my legs to go away (redness, texture, and follicles clogged with keratin are all gone) with physical exfoliation using the Baiden Mitten. It’s quite expensive but lasts for years and exfoliates off ribbons of dead skin. It’s more effective than any other scrubbing cloth/glove/poof I’ve used, both natural and synthetic. I follow up with Gold Bond’s cream for rough and bumpy skin, which is a combination of many of the ingredients in the products mentioned above. Now that the KP is gone, occasional use of the mitten or cream keeps it away.
posted by quince at 9:39 AM on February 16, 2022

Response by poster: Just wanting to report back that the Cerave SA smoothing cream is working amazingly well. My arms are much less bumpy and redness may also be slightly better.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 9:33 PM on February 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

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