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Notes on Keratosis Pillaris

An incredibly common skin condition that’s often referred to as strawberry legs or, the less endearing, chicken skin. Characterised by small pimple-like bumps which feel rough to the touch, Keratosis Pilaris usually occurs on the back of the upper backs of our arms and sometimes on the legs (particularly, the thighs).

Keratosis pilaris is genetic and while more often than not incredibly harmless in nature they can sometimes cause discomfort by being itchy or dry. It occurs when keratin (a protein that’s naturally found on the skin’s outermost layer) becomes trapped in the hair follicle. This blockage prevents the hair from growing outwards, resulting in a tiny bump over the follicle. The main reason people look to treat this condition is to reduce its appearance. 

Most common in those with fair skin, keratosis pilaris can be exacerbated in winter when the atmosphere is dry and can also worsen during pregnancy (due to hormonal changes). It usually clears up on its own by the time you reach your early 30s and although it’s difficult to eradicate completely, there are a number of things you can do to manage keratosis pilaris – the key being is regular exfoliation.

Exfoliate regularly
I recommend using a chemical exfoliator up to three times a week (over-exfoliating can actually make keratosis pilaris worse). These are generally more gentle than physical exfoliators, which rely on particles and a ‘rubbing and scrubbing’ motion. Chemical exfoliators contain acids and enzymes which dissolve dead skin cells minus any manual action. Look for ingredients such as salicylic, glycolic acid and lactic acid in the form of cleansers, serums or toners to help to remove keratin blockages from the follicle while alleviating inflammation. Apply directly on the affected areas of skin two to three times a week to reduce, smooth and soften the skin.

Use a shaving cream
It almost goes without saying, but avoid using shampoo or body wash in place of a shaving cream. Shaving can heighten keratosis pilaris as it can irritate the skin, so opt for a product created specifically for the purpose. Non-foaming and unscented shave creams or oils are less likely to cause aggravation.