Saturday, January 7, 2012

Battling Keratosis Pilaris

Today, I thought I'd talk about something a little bit different.  It's still beauty-related, of course, but this is more about skin and less about makeup and hair.

I've had little chicken-skin bumps with redness on my upper arms for as long as I can remember.  I asked my pediatrician about it when I was 10 or 11, and he diagnosed me with Keratosis Pilaris and prescribed an expensive skin cream to be applied with an exfoliator (Buff Puff, it was called) every day.  Up until a couple of years ago, those bumps were only on my arms and although I couldn't really seem to get rid of them, it wasn't a huge deal.  That was then.  Now they've spread... to my wrist area, thighs, and chest.  They only appear wherever there are hair follicles, so you'll never see someone with KP on the palms of their hands or on the bottoms of their feet.

I've been researching ways to diminish the redness and bumps, as well as stop them from spreading, for a while now, and I thought I'd share with you all what I've learned so far.

What is Keratosis Pilaris (KP)?
KP is a common condition where the skin does not exfoliate properly.  Basically, your hair follicles get clogged with a protein called keratin, forming a little "plug".  Usually, if you squeeze or apply pressure to one of these bumps, a white plug comes out, oftentimes accompanied by a tiny coiled up hair.  The most common location is the backs of the upper arms, but KP can appear anywhere where there are hair follicles.  The Mayo Clinic claims that KP usually disappears by the age of 30, but if you're anything like me, you're finding that it's only gotten worse.

How did I get KP?
Doctors aren't really sure how people get it.  It's not life-threatening, and usually isn't even uncomfortable... it's mostly just annoying and unattractive to look at.  Some think that it accompanies some genetic condition(s), but there isn't a lot of consensus.  Because it's not a serious condition, there doesn't seem to be a lot of emphasis on researching the cause or finding a cure, despite the fact that it's an incredibly common condition.  I know, personally, that my dad has this condition on his arms as well, so I may have gotten it from him.

What can I do to get rid of it?
There doesn't appear to be one clear cut method to battle KP.  I've read a lot of theories - everything from fish oil supplements (omega 3 fatty acids) to expensive lotions to gluten-free diets.  Here are three ways I'm fighting it:

1. Exfoliating and moisturizing
KP is thought to be a disorder where your skin does not exfoliate properly.  A few months ago, I tried out Lush's Buffy Bar (an exfoliating bar with ground rice and moisturizing shea butter) and found it to work very well at stopping the spread of bumps.  It virtually removed all bumps from my chest, and greatly reduced the bumps around my wrists.  My skin feels soft and smooth using this product twice a week.  Lush advises that you not use the Buffy Bar every day, as it is a bit harsh of an exfoliant, and I'm inclined to agree.  On non-buffy days, I use Philosophy's Raspberry Sorbet shower gel with a standard loofah.

2. Hydrating
Health officials can't say enough about the importance of keeping hydrated.  Moisturizing on the outside can help battle dry skin, but moisturizing from the inside (i.e., drinking water) can help immensely.  It clears skin, helps your organs function properly, and can even help boost metabolism in some cases!  Because my arms are typically somewhat dry (as well as all of my skin, in general), I am making a conscientious effort to stay hydrated!  Because I'm working with a trainer, this has been a great boost not only for my skin but for my energy levels and general sense of well-being as well.  I know the recommended amount is over 64 ounces, so I use an app on my iPhone called "Waterlogged" to track my water intake as well as remind myself to keep hydrated.  I have to admit I'm still working on this goal, and usually only make it into the 40s, rather than 60s.  That's something to keep working on!

3. Perfume and dye-free detergent
This change was the one I was least excited to make, but it's already showed effectiveness.  I love the smell of fresh laundry, so I was disappointed to have to try switching from my usual Gain Apple Mango Tango to something completely free of perfumes.  However, my fiance has acne-prone, sensitive skin, and I noticed he was scratching his head and skin a lot.  I have heard from multiple sources that Gain has a reputation for causing rashes and skin irritations because of the perfumes in it, so I began to look into switching to dye- and perfume-free detergent and fabric softener.  We've been perfume-free for about a month now and it's going very well!

So, those are my three major approaches.  I'm also actively attempting to eat healthier and live a healthier lifestyle, so these changes are likely to also play a role in any improvements in my skin.  I hope that some of you find this post helpful.

Do you have KP?  How do you battle the bumps?