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Do you have bumpy skin on your face, back of your arms and legs? You might think it’s acne but it’s not. Many redheads have extremely sensitive skin also known as couperose skin, so it’s no wonder you may experience some irritation. You might think this can only happen after using a product with fragrances, parabens, sulfates, and more. This may be the case with some, but sometimes the bumpy skin never goes away — no matter what high-quality products you use.

This is called keratosis pilaris. Don’t worry, it sounds way worse than it is. While there’s no cure for keratosis pilaris, these products can help treat those pesky red bumps.

We spoke with Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD., a board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills and owner of SkinSafe Dermatology and Skin Care, to get the 101 on what exactly this harmless skin condition is and how to properly treat it.



What is keratosis pilaris? 

“Keratosis pilaris are the rough bumps commonly seen on the back of your arms, but can also present on the face, thighs and buttocks. They are caused by the retention of keratin in the openings of the hair follicles,” Shainhouse shares.

How do you get it? 

“It is inherited; you have about a 50% chance of getting it if one of your parents has it. It can also be exacerbated by dry weather. It has nothing to do with your diet, however, a sometimes similar looking condition can appear with severe vitamin C deficiency (scurvy) or excess vitamin A intake.”

Is there a timeframe you’re likely to experience this? 

“While it does tend to improve with age, being worst in childhood and improving after puberty, anecdotally, many women find that it can recur after pregnancy.”

How do you treat it? 

“It can be managed and smoothed down with moisturizers and topical exfoliants, including alpha and beta hydroxy acids, like salicylic, lactic or glycolic acids.

Some over-the-counter options include: AmLactin, LacHydrin, Gold Bond for Rough and Bumpy Skin.

If these don’t help, ask your dermatologist about trying a prescription topical retinoid.

Monthly glycolic peels can be helpful to smooth out the bumps, especially before events when you want to show bare arms.
If you choose this option, remember to wear daily sunscreen or a long-sleeved shirt to prevent sunburn or secondary post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.”

How to treat keratosis pilaris at home: 

Shainhouse recommends the following:

1. Do NOT attempt to pick these bumps or ‘pull out the core’. These are NOT clogged pores like acne comedones (black and whiteheads)! You are actually picking off attached skin, which is both painful and can cause scarring.

2. Gently exfoliate the skin with a washcloth and use warm water on the skin, rather than hot.

3. Avoid harsh fragrances in your body washes, soaps, and lotions. 

4. Pat your skin after showering and use a thick moisturizer right after showering.

Rock it like a Redhead! 

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