It’s shorts and sleeveless season – and that means about 40% of us will notice hard little (occasionally itchy) bumps scattered on our arms, shoulders, backs, butts or thighs.
The annoying yet harmless condition is known as keratosis pilaris. A variant of eczema, the bumps tend to plague people who have a family history of atopic dermatitis – or dry skin marked by scaly patches. If you’ve tried to treat this stubborn condition before, you know that regular cleansers have no clearing effect.
The problem starts when extra skin cells cluster around hair follicles, causing a knob to form and elevate. The hair can then get trapped underneath the cells, sometimes turning into a brown or red dot that you can see in the center of the bump. Unfortunately, there’s no cure or way to entirely stop the process yet, and the summer heat and humidity can trigger the condition.
Occasionally, keratosis pilaris can get better as you get older. But if you don’t outgrow it, certain strategies can help you keep things under control.
What Doesn’t Work: Some people think that picking non-acne bumps is harmless. Not so! Picking can lead to unsightly scarring that’s far worse than the bump you started out with, so resist the urge. Scrubbing is also counterproductive – you’ll only end up with bumps that are now irritated and red. The problem is not the top surface of skin, but the building up of cells underneath the surface, so no amount of superficial exfoliation will clear it.
1. Chemical exfoliators. Both glycolic acid and lactic acid can help a little bit, especially in the form of a wash.
2. Retinoids. Retinoids can help improve the condition by going deep below the surface of skin to exfoliate cells. You can tolerate a higher percentage ingredient on your body than on your face.
3. Moisturization. To instantly make bumps look and feel better, use a deeply hydrating moisturizer. This will help soften the feel and look of bumps, though keep in mind that it won’t help prevent the condition from forming if you’re genetically prone.
4. Gentle cleansing. Harsh soaps can dry out skin and exacerbate the rough texture. Use a hydrating soap free of detergent, and be sure to moisturize bump-prone areas immediately after stepping out of the shower.
5. Sunscreen. Again, while sunscreen won’t prevent the condition completely, it can make a significant difference in preventing bumps from worsening. The sun’s damaging rays are known to aggravate keratosis pilaris. Wear sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every day to encourage smoother skin.
Remember, these bumps are extremely common, so don’t feel so self-conscious about them. By adopting these simple habits, you can feel more confident putting on that tank top or sundress this summer with healthy, glowing skin.
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