If you don't know what keratosis pilaris is (often referred to as KP), you probably don't have it. But, if you're one of the millions who struggle with the annoying skin condition sometimes called chicken skin, then you undoubtedly know exactly what I'm talking about.
KP is a harmless, though incurable, condition caused by a buildup of keratin in the hair follicle. This build up causes small, usually skin-colored bumps mostly on the arms and legs, though the bumps can appear elsewhere on the body such as the cheeks. "Keratosis pilaris (KP) is characterized by flesh-colored or reddish bumps that typically appear on the arms or legs," says New York City-based dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD. The condition often worsens in the winter and is most common during childhood, though many people struggle with it into adulthood. Its not known exactly why some people experience keratin buildup in hair follicles while others don't, but it is most certainly a genetic condition, so chances are you have mom or dad to thank for your sandpaper arms or legs.
There are two keys to combatting KP: exfoliation and moisture. Dry skin is much more susceptible to the condition, so its very important to keep KP-affected skin as moisturized as possible. Its also important to unplug blocked follicles via exfoliation that encourages cell turnover. Chemical exfoliants are usually your best best, such as glycolic acid and lactic acid, but occasional, light physical exfoliation is also recommended.
Here are our 7 favorite products for combatting KP.
AmLactin Moisturizing Body Lotion
AmLactin lotion contains a good dose of lactic acid, which helps to break down excess keratin buildup. If you primarily struggle with KP on your arms or legs, this is probably one of your best bets, though it may be irritating to more sensitive face skin.
Pixi Glow Tonic
KP on your face can be particularly annoying, especially because its very easy to overtreat it and end up irritating the skin more. That's why we recommend chemical exfoliants that also have moisturizing components, like this tonic from Pixi that contains glycolic acid, but also features ginseng and aloe to soothe and moisturize sensitive face skin.
This exfoliating brush opens follicles more effectively than a wash cloth, but is gentle enough to use on your body or face. We recommend using this in combination with a gentle, moisturizing cleanser, and then following up by applying coconut oil to the exfoliated area.
Nip + Fab Exfoliate Glycolic Fix Night Pads Extreme
Many people swear by these cleansing pads for the treatment of KP, though they warn not to use them too frequently if you have sensitive skin. These miracle workers contain 5% glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and hyaluronic acid, making them one of the most heavy duty treatments on this list.
Dermadoctor KP Duty Body Scrub
This scrub is designed specifically for people with KP, and does wonders to open up clogged follicles. It contains glycolic acid, lactic acid, azelaic acid, and willow bark, meaning it can be irritating, so we don't recommend using it on your face. This scrub is particularly good if you struggle with stubborn KP on your butt and legs. Follow the scrub up with a rich moisturizer for best results.
Touch Keratosis Pilaris & Acne Exfoliating Body Wash
This body wash contains a whopping 15% glycolic acid along with 2% salicylic acid, so it's definitely not for sensitive skin. But if you have stubborn KP on your body that isn't responding to other chemical exfoliants, this will likely do the job. As always, follow it up by applying coconut oil or AmLaction body lotion.
You're probably tired of hearing people sing the praises of coconut oil, but the truth is, there really is no better way to treat KP than with exfoliation and coconut oil. Bring your tub of coconut oil into the shower with you as well as your exfoliation tool of choice (a washcloth will work in a pinch) after you've stood in the hot water a little while to allow your pores to open, gently but firmly exfoliate your KP. Next, apply a generous amount of coconut oil to the skin, then exfoliate again. Rub any excess oil into your skin before exiting the shower. Coconut oil is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, not to mention very moisturizing, making it one of your best tools in the fight against KP.