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Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris is such a common problem that it is considered a variant of normal skin. It is usually worse in the winter and in dry weather but is usually present to some extent at all times. It tends to run in families (it’s in your genes, so you’ve inherited it) and is not contagious.

Everyone has little accumulations of skin cells at each of the openings in the skin where hairs grow out. Usually, these little “piles” of cells are so small they cannot be noticed, but in people with keratosis pilaris, they grow larger than normal and can be seen and felt. Keratosis pilaris can occur anywhere, but is usually found over the upper arms, the upper thighs, buttocks, or any combination of these locations. Sometimes it occurs on the face.

Usually the small, coarse bumps do not cause any symptoms, but they may “catch” on clothing or other materials, and they often become red and irritated if they are squeezed or picked. Keratosis pilaris can also become inflamed or itchy due to excessive washing with strong soaps or abrasive “buffing” pads.

Though harmless, keratosis pilaris is persistent, and it cannot be totally cured since it is a variant of normal skin. It is often resistant to treatment, but with a little trial and error we almost always find a combination of lotions which will keep it under control most of the time.

Our top recommendation for treatment of keratosis pilaris is L-Hydra (12% lactic acid) available for purchase at Teton Dermatology. Other treatment options for keratosis pilaris consists of regular use of OTC (over-the-counter) medications that are available at most pharmacies such as Kmart, Sav-on, Smiths, Stone Drug, and other stores. Most people find they are able to control the bumps by using the L-Hydra at night. A thin layer should be applied to the affected area nightly. If the acid creams irritate the skin (which often times happens), 1% hydrocortisone cream can be applied each morning. Usually significant improvement occurs after 4-6 weeks and can be maintained with regular use of the creams. Unfortunately the keratosis pilaris comes back several weeks after stopping treatment.

In addition to the prescribed treatment regimen, use a mild cleanser, such as Vanicream gentle cleanser or Cetaphil. As soon as you emerge from the bath or shower, while you skin is still damp, apply a thin layer of a good non-perfumed moisturizing cream or lotion. Several commercial lotions, such as Vanicream, Cetaphil, or Cerave, will work.

Once your keratosis pilaris is under control, continue the skin cleansing and moisturizing regimen outlined above to keep it that way.

Call Teton Dermatology at 307-734-1800 for an evaluation.

Call Teton Dermatology at 307-734-1800 for an evaluation.

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