keratosis pilaris treatment

Keratosis Pilaris Treatment

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition where small rough bumps appear on your skin.

Keratosis pilaris treatment options are available to improve the condition.

keratosis pilaris treatment singapore
Keratosis pilaris on upper arm

What is Keratosis Pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris (KP) is a very common condition that affects most adolescent at some point. They appear as rough bumps on the skin which can be skin coloured, red or pigmented. The bumps appear as the hair follicles are blocked by keratin. Although KP is medically harmless, many individuals find it unsightly and will try all ways and means to treat it.

  • Genetic disorder affecting the hair follicles
  • Up to 30-50% of KP runs in families
  • There are 6 variants of KP
  • KP improves during summer but worsens in winter months
keratosis pilaris causes
The onset of KP is usually from the adolescent period.
Hyperpigmented Keratosis Pilaris

What Does Keratosis Pilaris Look Like?

Keratosis pilaris (KP) commonly appears as rough bumps found on the upper outer arms and thighs. Often described as chicken skin or goose-bumps, it is mostly asymptomatic but can occasional get inflammed and itchy. Extensive cases can involve the back and buttocks. 

KP is associated with the following conditions:

  • Xerosis (Dry skin)
  • Ichthyosis vulgaris
  • Atopic eczema
  • Obesity

Can Keratosis Pilaris Be Cured?

Although keratosis pilaris in Singapore is a common condition, it can persists into adulthood. It often reduces in its appearance from your 30s. Most cases of KP improve over time. Despite no current cure is known for this condition, treatments are available to improve the appearance of the condition.

KP improves over time

Overall the outcome of KP is good, although in some cases it can persists into late adulthood.

keratosis pilaris home remedy

What Can I Do To Improve KP?

As a general rule, the treatment is KP is continuous as it can last for years. Your skin should be kept moisturised regularly. Many patients report a good improvement following a regular skin care program.

Gentle exfoliation can further improve KP by removing the plug of dry skin trapped in your hair follicles. You may consider the following physical and chemical exfoliation products found off the shelves:

  • Loofah, Scrub, Sponge
  • 2% Salicylic acid wash
  • Lactic acid lotions
  • Glycolic acid body lotions

What Must I Avoid?

  • Do not use soaps with perfumes or products that dehydrate the skin
  • Avoid over-exfoliating with harsh scrubs
  • Do not take very hot baths and showers
  • Avoid picking at your skin

A balanced skin care routine

Regular moisturizers with gentle exfoliation while avoiding harsh products helps in most cases.

Topical prescriptive treatments can improve KP that is more resistant.

Keratosis Pilaris Treatment

Consider seeking professional help from a doctor if you are unsure if you have keratosis pilaris in the first place, the skin feels irritated or home based remedies do not seem to be working.

There are various keratosis pilaris treatment options depending on your skin condition.

  • Topical steroids for itchy and inflammed skin
  • Topical retinoids to improve skin turnover and hyperpigmentation
  • Lightening agents such as Hydroquinone, Azeliac acid etc
  • Topical calcineurin inhibitors for resistant cases or inflammed skin.
  • Lasers. Vascular lasers can variably improve the redness of the variant keratosis rubra pilaris.

The most common variant is known as Keratosis pilaris rubra which presents as red bumps and redness on the cheeks. A vascular laser that targets the underlying microvasculature may improve the appearance of the condition.

The variants of keratosis pilaris are less common and often difficult to treat,

  • Ulerythema ophyrogenes: This variant results in the loss of eyebrow hair due to underlying inflammation.
  • Erythromelanosis follicularis faciei et colli: Mixture of redness and brown hyperpigmentation. Treatment is difficult.
  • Atrophoderma vermiculata: Scarring which resemble small scars on the cheeks. Treatment is difficult.

Topical retinoid works by increasing cell turnover and reducing the stickiness of keratin within the hair follicles. To date, we have 4 generations of retinoids. 

  • Trifarotene (4th generation retinoid): Targets the most common retinoic acid receptor in the skin. Excellent tolerability.
  • Adapalene (3rd generation retinoid): Good tolerability in general.
  • Tretinoin (1st generation retinoid): Higher chance of skin irritation.

The best keratosis pilaris treatment approach is usually one of combination therapies.

At APAX Medical & Aesthetics Clinic, you will be guided on how to improve your keratosis pilaris. Generally, we recommend the following:

  • Gentle cleansing and moisturization once to twice daily.
  • Gently physical and chemical exfoliation alternate day.
  • Topical retinoids once to twice a week to increase skin cell turnover.
Dr Moses Ng dermatologist

Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition that although harmless can cause distress in some individuals. A good skin care routine is all that is needed in most individuals. KP tends to improve with age and current treatments can help reduce the appearance of your bumps and pigmentation.

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  1. Hwang S, Schwartz RA. Keratosis pilaris: a common follicular hyperkeratosis. Cutis. 2008 Sep 1;82(3):177-80.
  2. Maghfour J, Ly S, Haidari W, Taylor SL, Feldman SR. Treatment of keratosis pilaris and its variants: a systematic review. Journal of Dermatological Treatment. 2022 Apr 3;33(3):1231-42.
  3. Kodali N, Patel VM, Schwartz RA. Keratosis pilaris: an update and approach to management. Italian Journal of Dermatology and Venereology. 2023 May 11.