Do you have tiny, red, rough bumps on your skin? You're not alone: The condition, known as keratosis pilaris, affects 80 percent of adolescents and 40 percent of adults. "It's one of the most common requests I get from people on social media and my YouTube channel," Dr. Sandra Lee, a.k.a. Dr. Pimple Popper, tells Mental Floss via email.
Lee created her new Body Smoothing System—which includes a body scrub and a lotion—in response to that feedback. "KP is such a common condition but there are not many products available over-the-counter that treat it specifically. Many people may not even know that they have keratosis pilaris and think that the bumps are acne or something else—so I really want to spread the word and educate on what this condition is as well as provide products that will help to control it." Here's what you need to know about KP from Dr. Pimple Popper herself.
1. THE CONDITION HAS A NICKNAME THAT'S FOR THE BIRDS.
The hallmark of KP is patches of small, rough, pimple-like bumps on the skin, according to Lee. It's caused by excessive production of a protein called keratin, which builds up until it plugs hair follicles (a.k.a. the pores) and causes those bumps to form. It's often called chicken skin because the condition resembles the skin of a plucked chicken.
2. IT RUNS IN FAMILIES.
What causes KP is unknown, but some reports suggest it's an autosomal dominant disorder, which means you only need to inherit one copy of the gene to get it. According to Lee, KP starts early—sometimes before a child is even 2—and flares up during adolescence. Thankfully, most KP fades by adulthood.
3. KP IS COMMONLY FOUND ON THE UPPER ARMS.
But that's not the only place it appears: KP can also be found on the front of the thighs, back, butt, or face. It can range in severity from just a few bumps to the majority of a particular area of the body.
4. THE BUMPS AREN'T ALWAYS RED.
KP bumps tend to be lighter and redder on fair skin, according to Lee. But they can also be white, pink, light purple, brown, or black—it all depends on the person's skin tone.
5. THERE ARE A FEW TYPES.
The type of KP varies depending on where on the body it's found. Beyond regular KP—which can either be rough, flesh-colored bumps or red, itchy bumps—according to Lee, there's one other variant to be aware of: keratosis pilaris rubra. It mostly affects teenage boys. The bumps are the same, but the skin is a bright, bright red.
6. IT'S WORSE IN THE WINTER.
Things like low humidity and cooler temperatures mean the skin is drier, which irritates KP. But it's not just winter weather that can cause KP to flare up. "Many people with KP will notice their condition worsen after they’ve spent time in the sun," Lee says. "This can be due to dryness that can worsen the bumps. In addition, unprotected sun exposure can also darken pigmentation and make KP more apparent on the skin."
7. THOSE WITH KP MIGHT WANT TO AVOID SELF TANNING.
It's not because self tanner is dangerous, Lee says, but "because KP lesions are hyperkeratotic," meaning the skin sticks up and is dry. "Self tanner will probably get stuck and collect in these areas, causing those areas to darken/stain more and then the KP would look more noticeable," she says. "Also, self tanner tends to dry the skin up more in general, so would probably aggravate your KP more, since KP has a lot to do with dry skin already."
If you really need to get that just-off-the-beach glow, Lee advises dabbing your KP with moisturizer or lotion "so that self tanner doesn't get caught in it, stain the area more, and make it more obvious."
8. IF YOU HAVE ASTHMA, YOU'RE LIKELY TO HAVE KP.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, people with dry skin, eczema, hay fever, ichthyosis vulgaris (which causes dry skin), and asthma are more likely to develop KP. "I don't believe there is a direct correlation between asthma and KP," Lee says. "However, people who are atopic—[they] have dry skin and tendency for allergies and asthma—have a higher chance of having KP. People shouldn't worry that if they have KP that this means they will develop asthma."
9. IF YOU HAVE KP, YOU SHOULDN'T BE CONCERNED.
"It's a common and harmless skin condition," Lee says. "However, I know that these bumps can be uncomfortable and if they are more severe, [they'll] keep people from wanting to show their arms or wear short sleeves."
10. IT'S NOT CURABLE, BUT IT IS TREATABLE.
"If you have KP, you probably want to treat both the bumps and the dryness on your skin," Lee says. "You can treat the bumps by exfoliation—chemical and physical exfoliants/scrubs can help—and also [by] keeping skin hydrated! I would suggest finding products that contain an exfoliating ingredient such as glycolic acid and hydrating ingredients such as shea butter." The products in Lee's Body Smoothing System both contain 10 percent glycolic acid, making it good for treating KP (as well as skin that is generally dry or bumpy).
And, last but not least, Lee says you shouldn't forget your sunscreen: "It's important to remember to always use broad-spectrum sun protection, but especially on those areas you have KP."