How To Get Rid Of This Embarrassing Skin Issue

Photographed by Maria del Rio.
Keratosis Pilaris [ker-uh-tow-sis pih-lair-is], or KP [noun]. Those tiny little red bumps — sometimes (albeit ineloquently) known as "chicken skin" — that you’ve had since pre-pubescence on the back of your arms, upper thighs, and, dare we say it, your buttocks. Seen on 50% of the population, it is the cause of many awkward, casual arm grazes (spooning is out of the question, people), taints the look of that perfectly boho, sleeveless Etro maxi you’ve been dreaming of wearing since the snow thawed, and diverts your Net-a-Porter fund towards a summer’s supply of M.A.C.’s Studio Body foundation instead.

It goes without saying that, when it comes to skin care, we’ve put ourselves through pretty much everything (remember this and this?) to reduce our pores to the point of invisibility and even out our tone. But KP is one of those skin anomalies that’s the result of our unintentional neglect — likely due to the fact that it isn’t painful (in the slightest) and only seems to worsen in the winter months, when we’re buried under layers of wool and down fill. We’re ritualistic about skin-care methods from the décolletage up, but when it comes to the shoulders down, well, let’s just say there’s been a slight oversight.

Related: How To Get Summer Skin From Head To Toe

But we're vowing to change all that. As our weather app reads temps well above 70, we enlisted the help of Dr. Audrey Kunin, the derm behind the niche keratosis pilaris skin-care line DERMADoctor KP Duty, who lays out the groundwork for how to finally smooth, even, and prevent rough and spotted skin. Yup, we'll keep the polka-dotted look strictly for the SS15 Dolce & Gabbana ruffled dress in our virtual shopping bag.

What Is KP?
Don't confuse these welts with sebum-clogged acne. Keratosis pilaris is actually a hard buildup of keratin (seen in all those hair oils you've been hoarding) in the hair follicle. But wait, we're not saying you should abandon your elixirs! Keratin is actually naturally produced by your body, so there's no way around it. In fact, it's completely genetic. "KP is a normal variance of how your skin is produced," says Dr. Kunin. "In fact, half of the entire world population has it. It’s essentially an issue where the skin cells are made too fast and too numerous around individual hair follicles, specifically around the upper arms and the thighs."

Related: The Perfect Wedding Beauty Look

The result? A bumpy and sometimes crusty (oh, how we hate that word) texture to the skin. And that dotted appearance? All because of some inflammation at the base of your hair follicle. "In fair-complexioned people, it can look pinkish or purplish; if your skin tone is darker, it can have brown or black polka-dotting."

Hate to break it to you, but unfortunately, there's no way to completely prevent KP from happening in the first place. “You'd have to turn the gene off," explains Dr. Kunin. And since we're not Leeloo in The Fifth Element, that's not an option. "It’s more about what you can do topically to improve the appearance of the condition.”

Related: How To Cover Up A Sunburn

Okay, so here's the good news: There's a few things you can do to make your KP look a whole lot better.

1. Moisturize: “Ideally, use moisturizers that have AHA alpha-hydroxy acid, a glycolic or lactic acid, to help smooth the skin," says Dr. Kunin. We love Peter Thomas Roth's Glycolic Acid 10% Moisturizer for our just-coming-out-of-winter's-doldrums ultra-dry skin.

2. Exfoliate: "There are a lot of great scrubs out there that can smooth away the bumps. While exfoliators can be helpful, they don’t address the inflammation at the base of the hair follicle, which gives it that discolored appearance. You can have the smoothest skin from exfoliating, but that alone won’t get rid of that polka-dotting," she explains.

3. Even out skin tone: Dr. Kunin continues, "As far as the redness itself, you can use a variety of different skin-soothing or calming ingredients. But using brighteners may cause blotching and unevenness." Instead, try KP Duty's lotion, which is loaded with antioxidant green tea and AHAs to buff and even out your skin.

Next: Why You Need A Gel Moisturizer

More from Skin Care


R29 Original Series