Smooth, Sexy Arms
Don't let keratosis pilaris (KP) keep you from feeling confident in your own skin. While this condition, marked by tiny bumps on the backs of your upper arms, can be tough to wipe out, there are several easy ways to reduce the appearance of flareups. For advice, we turned to Ranella Hirsch, M.D., a dermatologist in Boston.
The Basic Facts
KP is caused by a buildup of keratin (a protein that's also found in hair and nails) on the skin. Instead of sloughing off, the keratin collects in the openings of hair follicles. This creates patches of red or fleshcolored bumps that give your arms a sandpapery texture.
What to Look For
*A family history
This condition is genetic, so if one of your parents has it, chances are, you'll get it too.
*High stress levels
If you're genetically predisposed to the condition, severe bouts of anxiety can trigger it.
KP often occurs or worsens when you're expecting. (Doctors aren't 100 percent sure why, but it's likely related to fluctuating hormone levels.)
*Vitamin D deficiency
Have your level tested; some experts believe you'll get bumpy if it's low. Supplements can help.
*Treat your body with TLC
Since keeping skin well-hydrated reduces the appearance of bumps, avoid dryness by taking short, lukewarm showers (hot water saps moisture). Suds up with a mild, unscented soap, such as Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Body Wash with NutriumMoisture ($9; at drugstores).
*Exfoliate the right way
Scrubbing rarely smooths bumps and often exacerbates redness. Instead, apply a cream with a chemical exfoliant, such as an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), at least once a day. Hirsch likes NeoStrata Ultra Daytime Smoothing Cream SPF 15 ($34; neostrata.com) and Dermadoctor KP Duty Dermatologist Moisturizing Therapy for Dry Skin ($36; dermadoctor.com); both have glycolic acid, an AHA.
*Try multiple treatments
"The same acids aren't effective for everyone," says Hirsch. If you don't see improvement after a few weeks, try switching to a product with a different skinsloughing agent. AmLactin Moisturizing Lotion ($16; drugstore .com), for example, breaks down keratin with lactic acid.
EXPERT STRATEGY "Keratosis pilaris affects about half of women, and while there is no cure, moisturizing frequently and choosing the right chemical exfoliant for your skin are key to managing the condition," says Ranella Hirsch, M.D.
The Bottom Line "If over-the-counter products aren't doing enough to get rid of the bumps, make an appointment with your dermatologist. She can prescribe a topical antibiotic that can soften skin and reduce redness."