Causes of Keratosis Pilaris and Treatments

Causes of keratosis pilaris include genes, hormonal imbalances, vitamin A deficiency, gluten allergy, etc. Treatments are available for the condition.

Keratosis pilaris is a harmless skin condition that is characterized by ‘goose bumps’ that appear on the thighs, cheeks and upper parts of the hands. Most people have described the appearance of these bumps as rough and resembling chicken skin. When one is afflicted by KP, the skin is usually dry and scaly. One of the leading causes is the buildup of keratin (keratin is the protein that protects the skin from infections.) The buildup blocks the hair follicles and causes red, hard bumps that make the skin feel like sandpaper. Most patients experience KP in the early years and disappear once they reach adulthood.

Keratosis Pilaris Causes

As earlier discussed, KP is caused by the buildup of the hard protein called keratin which scientists are yet to establish why it happens in the first place. However, research has shown that genetic traits may have a hand in its development. Research indicates that developing KP may be a genetically dominant trait: meaning that if one parent has KP, the child is most likely to develop it too.

There are other factors that can trigger the appearance of KP other than genetic traits which include the following:

Skin Allergies and Skin Disorders

Other similar skin conditions such as ichthyosis vulgaris, eczema, and atopic dermatitis have been closely linked to keratosis pilaris.

People with skin allergies have been known to have aggravated form of KP. Patients with asthma and allergic rhinitis have been found to suffer from exacerbated form of KP in genetically predisposed patients. In these cases, treating the underlying condition can cause a regression in the symptoms of keratosis pilaris.

Weather patterns have also been shown to play a role in aggravating the skin condition. Dry and winter weather causes the skin to lack moisture and be dry, itchy and rough.

Hormonal Imbalances

Hormonal imbalances are also known to play a role in keratosis pilaris causes. Women suffer the most because of hormonal imbalances or estrogen dominance. These women are more likely to suffer from keratosis pilaris. It is therefore not new to find that most pregnant women report having KP because of the hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy.

Vitamin A Deficiency

Although it is not a direct cause of keratosis pilaris, vitamin A deficiency can aggravate the condition of keratosis pilaris. Vitamin A plays a pertinent role in keeping the skin healthy and beautiful. Vitamin A is involved in regulating the proliferation of skin cells. It limits the proliferation of skin cell, a process called hyper keratinization. A deficiency of this vitamin can cause the skin to be dry and scaly.

Gluten Allergy

Research indicates that people who are intolerant to gluten have a higher risk of contracting KP. Since gluten is a wheat protein, people with celiac disease suffer from gluten intolerance and whenever they eat gluten they suffer from an allergic reaction, as the body becomes hypersensitive to the gluten component. These reactions are manifested in the skin.

Yeast Infection

People with yeast infection have a higher risk of having aggravated keratosis pilaris. Yeast infection has been known to play a significant role in keratosis pilaris causes by catalyzing keratinization of the skin cells by increasing the skin cell turnover rate.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies for Keratosis Pilaris

Although lifestyle changes and self-help measures will neither prevent nor remove KP, they can come in handy in improving the condition and making the skin look much healthier. There are simple steps that one can undertake to make this happen.

  • When taking a bath, only use warm water and do not over stay (more than 10 minutes) in the bathroom. Taking too much time and using hot water robs your skin of moisture and essential oils and thus contributes to making your skin dry, itchy and scaly.
  • Stick to creamy soaps and avoid harsh drying soaps which can help keratosis pilaris. Be gentle with your skin. Apply plenty of moisturizer especially products that contain lanolin. Petroleum jelly and glycerin help to trap moisture within the skin when applied immediately after showering. Do not use abrasive materials on your skin when showering or drying yourself. Instead, use soft clothing to gently dab your skin after drying and avoid rubbing it vigorously.
  • If your skin feels extra dry, use a humidifier to add moisture to your house or room.
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes as they cause friction and rob the skin of moisture, thus aggravating the situation.
  • Make sure you eat a healthy diet. Fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables are a must because they will provide you with essential vitamins that are good for your skin. Vitamins such as A B, E, and C are all necessary for your skin and can be derived from green vegetables and fruits. Avoid milk and gluten if you are allergic or intolerant to them. Also consume plenty of omega-3 fatty acids that can be found in salmon, flax seeds and walnuts. Also, drink plenty of water up to 10 glasses in a day to keep your skin hydrated.
  • Do yoga to relieve stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that stress and anxiety aggravate skin conditions such as eczema and keratosispilaris.
  • Yogurt is your friend. Yogurt has been found to be one of the best antidotes to keratosis pilaris because it contains lactic acid which is a natural exfoliator. Lactic acid helps the skin by dissolving excess keratin buildup, thus leaving your skin soft and supple. Apply yogurt to the affected parts of your skin and leave for 15-20 minutes before wiping with a clean wet cloth.

Medical Treatment for KeratosisPilaris

In case the situation gets out of hand, and your skin looks unsightly, you can consult your dermatologist for medical treatments.

Topical Exfoliators

Topical exfoliators act by removing dead skin cells and keratin. Exfoliators such as salicylic acid, lactic acid or alpha hydroxyl acid help a great deal in removing the unwanted dead skin from the skin which can be keratosis pilaris causes.

Topical Retinoid Creams

Creams containing retinoids such astretinoin, tazarotene or adapalene also help in reducing KP significantly. These retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A. They control skin proliferation and dissolve dead skin cells.


This is a procedure that is cosmetic in nature. The treatment involves peeling away dead skin cells using a machine or abrasion tool that is lined with crystals of diamond or aluminum oxide. The crystals take away the dead skin cells and keratin while the skin is massaged by a Microdermabrasion machine.

Laser Therapy

Laser treatment is costly but very effective in reducing the appearance of the unsightly bumps on your skin. Intense light beams are targeted on the affected parts; they resurface the skin by removing the dead cells on the top layer of the skin, thus making the bumps less visible. Ingrown hair in the skin can also cause the red bumps and laser treatment also takes care of that.

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