Everything you need to know about keratosis pilaris

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Everything you need to know about keratosis pilaris

We spend so long antagonising over every bump, blemish and pore on our faces that we often overlook congestion in other areas of the body.

RELATED: How to cure Keratosis Pilaris

RELATED: 10 of the best body scrubs

And while the skin on the back of our arms doesn’t seem nearly as delicate or special enough to be worthy of its own expensive skin care regimen, “arm acne” for many, is a monumental daily struggle.

Lucky for us, the reason for congestion on our arms is a little more than the result of witchcraft, and there are some simple, quick-fix solutions to getting it under control. And also, how to keep it that way.

We spoke to Paula’s Choice expert Desiree Stordahl for everything you need to know when it comes to the dreaded arm acne.

What are the actual conditions that result in bumps and pimples specifically on our arms?

Although we so often refer to these red, pimple-esque bumps as “arm acne”, according to Desiree these aren’t acne at all. They come in the form of two other conditions which are easier to treat, and harder to pronounce.

“This condition is most commonly classified as keratosis pilaris” she reveals“If the bumps look more inflamed and resemble pimples, it could be folliculitis”

And the major difference between the two?

Keratosis pilaris does not occur due to bacteria, while folliculitis does.

What are the most common causes?

Frequently described as “chicken skin”, the condition can be the result of a buildup of keratin (a naturally occurring protein) in the pore, which is “essentially forming a clogged plug”.

Along with ingrown hairs and coiled hair shafts, another frequent contributor to these types of bumps is when the “skin isn’t shedding properly on its own, resulting in the accumulation of dead skin cells and substances that become congested within the pore, resulting in a raised bump”.

So how do we treat persisting arm congestion?

Two words: Salicylic acid.

And while Desiree does say a facial salicylic acid will do the job if you “spot apply it to bumpy areas”, she does specifically recommend a salicylic acid body lotion as the most convenient and hydrating method of all. “My personal favourite: Paula’s Choice Weightless Body Treatment with 2% BHA. It’s easy to apply right after you get out of the shower and have towel-dried”.

Another hot tip:  Don’t scrub them away. “The problem begins deeper within the pore. Scrubbing will make skin more irritated, bumpy and red by triggering inflammation”.

How can we avoid future arm breakouts?

“It’s not a one and done type of situation” stresses Desiree, “you need to regularly apply the salicylic acid formula to keep the clogs and bumps at bay.”

“For some that means applying it 1-2 times a day at first, and then once the bumps are under control, maintaining the results with application just a couple times per week.

One of our very own beautyheaven writers shared her highly recommended tried-and-tested keratosis pilaris.

Here are the top three products that actually worked: 

Alpha-H Liquid Gold Luxe Resurfacing Body Cloths 

My original intention when trying out the Alpha-H Liquid Gold Luxe Resurfacing Body Cloths was to get rid of the remnants of my fake tan, so the effect it’s had on my chicken skin was an unexpected (but very welcome) surprise. The cloths have two sides: One with a rougher texture that buffs away dead skin cells, the other which is smooth and hydrates the skin to give it some luminosity. The double sides are handy, because one of the side-effects of exfoliation can be dry skin, so the hydrating side safeguards against that straight away. Don’t just stop at your arms though, I use these all over my body a couple of times a week to keep my skin baby soft. 

Skinstitut Glycolic Scrub 14% 

After a friend recommended the Skinstitut Glycolic Scrub 14% (adorebeauty.com.au, $49) to me, I picked it up thinking it would be great for my face. Unfortunately, after feeling the grainy texture I knew it would be too rough on my semi-sensitive skin. I kept it in my shower to use on my body to stop it going to waste, and boy am I glad I did. As soon as I started using it on my arms I knew I’d found a winner – it felt like I could feel my chicken skin gently buffing away. With biodegradable jojoba beads and 14 per cent glycolic acid, this scrub delivers a one-two punch of exfoliants that’s unlike anything else I’ve ever tried. 

Paula’s Choice Resist Skin Revealing Body Lotion with 10% AHA

With 5 stars from the beautyheaven members, you don’t just have to take my word for it – Paula’s Choice Resist Skin Revealing Body Lotion with 10% AHA works a treat. With an antioxidant-rich formula and 10 per cent glycolic acid, this body lotion isn’t just exfoliating, it’s also deeply hydrating and restorative. In my search for chicken skin cures, I’ve been guilty of over-exfoliating and making the problem worse, but this fragrance-free, non-irritating lotion mitigates the risk of overdoing it with the chemical exfoliants.

Do you suffer from keratosis pilaris? What treatments have you tried?

Main image credit: @emilydidonato

Share your thoughts

Comments 40

  1. I read that Desiree Stordahl says not to scrub the skin. I use an exfoliant and then use Cetaphil Body Lotion twice a day (well sometimes once when I’m heading to bed). This has always worked for me.

  2. The link for Alpha-H Liquid Gold Luxe Resurfacing Body Cloths is broken. Has Alpha left BH? anyway looked it up and the title is misleading (for me anyway) they are disposable wipes.

  3. I think I’ve seen this on my daughters arms. I’ll have another look when she gets home but its just another thing I’ll tell her to do that she’ll ignore just like the moisturiser for her face, the shaver for her pits.

  4. Not sure if it is on my legs or what it is (there’s a lot of little red dots). Going to see my derm at the end of this month, and won’t try any treatments until I know what I’m dealing with

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