Those little red bumps on the backs of the arms, cheeks and legs. Keratosis pilaris.
Who named this disease anyway?? 🙂 Most derms just call it KP – short for keratosis pilaris.
And what causes it? Your dermatologist is right. It’s genetic and about 10-20% have a form of it at some point in their lives. The lining of the hair follicles in those locations makes hard keratin instead of softer keratin. Then the “plug” that forms irritates the follicle and makes it red.
Here’s the good news! It almost always gets better with age. But that’s not very comforting to a young adult like your daughter. I had this too when I was her age and grew out of it by my late 20s.
In the meantime, some ideas that may help:
- Try the OTC (no prescription needed) Differin on her cheeks and arms. Start every three days, and if not irritated by it, increase the frequency. Retinoids (vitamin A cousins) like Differin help keep the plugs from forming. You need to use it for at least a month to see if it’s helping.
- Did you try the Amlactin for at least a month? But don’t use the Differin and Amlactin together. Generally try ONE intervention, and then, if doing well with that, try adding a second.
- Some patients like the also OTC glycolics or sal acid compounds for this. Start with 10%. Consistency and trying one thing at a time are key.
- Exfoliation with KP is tricky. Some patients just get irritated and some it improves a little. Again, try a gentle washcloth 2-3 times a week first. Gradual is good.
- A self tanner or a nice foundation may help to cover the red around the follicles.
- There is no science on this but some of our patients swear by an anti-inflammatory diet which you can find on the web. Mostly low glycemic index, low carb, gluten and dairy.
- Again no science, but try adding wild Alaska salmon oil or flax seed oil to her diet. And probiotics never hurt. There’s a connection between the gut and skin that we don’t understand very well yet.