Some at-home treatments for keratosis pilaris include creams and exfoliants. People may wish to seek in-office treatments or prescription creams when at-home methods are ineffective.
Keratosis pilaris (KP) is a common skin condition that presents as small, rough, red, or white bumps on the upper arms, thighs, cheeks, or buttocks.
When the hair follicles become blocked, it can lead to KP. The exact reasons behind this are unclear, but the condition tends to clear up on its own. Still, people may wish to reduce their appearance in the meantime.
This article discusses keratosis pilaris treatment options at home and in a doctor’s office, including how to help maintain clear skin after treatment.
Doctors often suggest starting with milder at-home treatments before trying prescription medications or more expensive medical treatment options.
Gentle exfoliation can involve lightly rubbing the skin with the following:
- a sponge or loofah
- at-home microdermabrasion kits
- exfoliating soap, which contains an added abrasive product
Exfoliating helps remove the top layer of old, dead skin cells and reduce the appearance of KP bumps. However, scrubbing too hard or too often can damage the skin and worsen the condition.
Keratolytics, such as salicylic acid, are part of KP treatment. They work to soften the keratin in the skin, helping break down and shed the outer layer of skin.
It is important to follow the instructions on the bottle and talk with a dermatologist to determine the right frequency or time to apply it, especially if using multiple products.
Moisturizers with a specific formulation for KP help exfoliate and moisturize the skin. They may contain ingredients such as:
A person can try applying the moisturizer after every shower while the skin is still damp. However, keratolytics can dry the skin, so a moisturizer can help counteract those drying effects.
Soaking in warm water with Epsom salt or colloidal oatmeal can help soothe the skin.
However, people still need to be wary about how long they take a soak. Soaking too long or in water that is too hot can strip the skin of natural oils. Therefore, it is vital to moisturize afterward.
Dermatologists can offer various treatments when at-home methods have been ineffective. Some of these options might include:
Prescription or medicated creams
Dermatologists can prescribe medicated creams with some of the same skin-smoothing ingredients but in a stronger concentration.
These ingredients might include the following:
- alpha hydroxy acid
- glycolic acid
- lactic acid
- salicylic acid
- azelaic acid
They can also prescribe retinoids, such as adapalene (Differin) and tretinoin (Retin-A), which help remove dead cells and allow new skin cells to grow.
Lasers can target the color changes in skin and inflammation relating to KP. It can also help smooth skin texture. People can expect mild discomfort during laser therapy. Afterward, they may experience temporary color changes or swelling in the treated areas.
Dermatologists may use the
- pulsed dye laser
- neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet laser, which people refer to as Nd:YAG laser
- fractional CO2 laser
Certain laser treatments can help reduce the appearance of brown spots that might occur after KP treatment.
After effectively treating KP, people may find it beneficial to follow a maintenance routine under the recommendation of a dermatologist. This plan might include using KP treatments such as medicated lotions twice a week instead of twice daily.
Other measures include using over-the-counter moisturizers and avoiding triggers that could worsen KP.
Tips for preventing flare-ups
Once KP treatment reduces the skin’s bumpy appearance, there are several ways to prevent flare-ups. One primary way is avoiding triggers, such as:
- Dry skin: Use a humidifier, especially in winter, to help the skin maintain moisture.
- Tight clothes: Clothes that are too tight can often cause friction on the skin, which can irritate KP.
- Dehydration: Drink plenty of water daily to ensure skin cells are hydrated enough to maintain natural moisture.
- Sunburn: Wear sunscreen while in the sun — even on cloudy days — to avoid sunburn, which can worsen KP.
- Detergents: Some soaps and detergents — especially those containing scents or dyes — can be harsh on KP-affected skin.
- Taking short showers or baths: Warm water is preferable to hot water, as the latter can dry the skin out. Try to limit bathing to once a day.
Below are some answers to common questions about keratosis pilaris treatment:
What is the fastest way to get rid of keratosis pilaris?
Combining skin exfoliation, moisturizers, and laser treatments is the fastest way to get rid of keratosis pilaris. Sometimes, it is not an easy fix, and people may need to consistently use treatments for at least 4–6 weeks before seeing results.
Will there be a cure for keratosis pilaris?
Currently, there is no cure for keratosis pilaris. However, several treatment options can help manage the condition.
What triggers keratosis pilaris?
Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition that often appears as small, rough bumps. While there is no cure, KP treatment often helps and includes moisturizing regularly, gently exfoliating, and using creams with ingredients such as urea or alpha-hydroxy acids.
A person can speak with a dermatologist for prescription or laser treatments for more stubborn cases. For some people, KP often disappears naturally over several years.