Keratosis Pilaris Treatments to Smooth Out Your Bumpy, Irritated Skin

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

The quest for clear skin doesn't stop at the neck. With breakouts possible virtually anywhere you have hair follicles, we're always on the lookout for the best treatments to banish bumps anywhere on the body. But what if the bumps aren't your typical acne comedones? If you're experiencing areas of little, rough bumps that look more like red goosebumps than zits, you may be dealing with keratosis pilaris, or KP.

'Keratosis pilaris is a buildup of keratin a hair protein in the pores that clogs up and blocks the opening of growing hair follicles', New York City board- certified dermatologist Doris Day previously told ishonest. 'As a result, small bumps form over where the hair should be.' Birmingham-based board-certified dermatologist Corey L. Hartman notes that 'KP differs from dark pores (or 'strawberry legs'), which represent shaved dark hairs and keratin that turns dark when exposed to oxygen.' So, if you run your hands over your skin and don't feel physical bumps, it's most likely not KP.

To add on, Texas-based board-certified dermatologist Heidi Prather says KP happens because of a dysfunction in the hair follicle. '[It results] in small bumps resembling 'chicken skin' that can occur on arms, legs, or even your face.' And just as KP can look similar to acne, the approach to reducing it is similar to that of acne. 'Treatment of KP responds best to a combination of exfoliation and hydration', Prather explains.

Specifically, New Jersey-based board-certified dermatologist Shari Sperling says alpha and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs) are the way to go. 'When treating keratosis pilaris, it is important to look for products with lactic, salicylic, or glycolic acid to help smooth skin', she says. New York City-based board- certified dermatologist David Kim adds that KP tends to flare up during colder months, so having a potent moisturizer on hand is extra key.

However, Kim warns that 'KP is very difficult to treat and persists throughout adulthood.' While he does say the aforementioned acids in addition to ammonium lactate, urea, and vitamin A derivatives can in fact help reduce bumpiness, they will not cure KP.

Symptoms, treatment options, and personal experiences for various physical, mental, and health conditions and concerns.

Keep in mind that products and treatments may work to varying degrees of success for different people. 'There are many types of KP that may require a customized approach based on your presentation and symptoms', Prather says. 'See your board-certified dermatologist for evaluation, diagnosis, and a customized treatment plan, including topical therapies and possible in-office laser treatments that can help improve the discoloration and rough texture from KP.'

But if you'd like to give some at-home options a try, these are 15 products dermatologists recommend picking up to help relieve the rough, red bumpiness known as keratosis pilaris.

CeraVe SA Lotion for Rough & Bumpy Skin

CeraVe SA Lotion for Rough & Bumpy Skin is a favorite of Sperling, who says the formula's salicylic acid that's what the SA in the name stands for is an effective way to smooth skin. Despite also gaining exfoliating benefits from lactic acid, New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Marina Peredo says this body moisturizer is incredibly gentle and locks in hydration with hyaluronic acid, while also maintaining your skin's barrier with critical ceramides.

Glytone KP Kit

It's not just exfoliating lotions and scrubs that help smooth the look and feel of keratosis pilaris body wash can make a difference, too. 'I really like the two-step approach in the KP Kit by Glytone that pairs a glycolic acid-based body cleanser and body lotion with vitamin E for extra hydration', Prather says.

Chicago-based board-certified dermatologist Caroline Robinson is also a fan of the Exfoliating Body Wash, in particular. Its '8.8 free acid value of glycolic acid is mild enough for sensitive skin but effective enough for dry, rough, bumpy, or flaky skin on the body', she says of the body polish, which can be used to treat dry/scaly feet and legs as well as the rest of the body. In addition to recommending this wash for KP, Robinson says the brightening formula also helps reduce hyperpigmentation.

Soft Services Carea Cream Daily Toning Lotion

Soft Services is a body-care brand focused on smoothing rough, textured skin whether that's related to body acne or KP. 'Typically, for KP, we recommend a higher concentration of urea (approximately 30 to 40 percent) but for patients with very mild KP, [Carea Cream Daily Toning Lotion] could be helpful', Kim notes. This particular formula is also loaded up with moisture-retaining squalane and soothing colloidal oatmeal to keep skin happy and soft.

EltaMD Intense Face and Body Moisturizer

Another recommendation of Peredo's is EltaMD Intense Face and Body Moisturizer, which she says effectively 'soothes inflamed and irritated skin whileretaining moisture for at least 12 hours.' She also notes that the lightweight formula is fragrance-free, which means people with sensitive skin have nothing to worry about. There are also only three ingredients total, one of which is petrolatum, a thick emollient that helps prevent 99 percent of water loss from your skin.

Dove Exfoliating Body Polish

Robinson advocates for Dove's Exfoliating Body Polish because 'it blends exfoliation with nourishing ingredients in one step', she says. 'The formula itself is creamy, rich, and the consistency of whipped butter intermixed with exfoliating grains.' Robinson also points out that the polish also deeply hydrates, thanks to its composition of 25 percent moisturizing cream. Our readers appear to agree with Robinson on this pick, seeing as how the Crushed Macadamia & Rick Milk version won a 2021 ishonest Readers' Choice Award. (There are four other varieties/scents to choose from, like Brown Sugar & Coconut Butter.)

Peach & Lily KP Bump Boss Microderm Body Scrub

'Peach & Lily KP Bump Boss Microderm Body Scrub has 10 percent AHA, PHAs, as well as hyaluronic acid to help loosen dead skin while hydrating the skin', Robinson says. No wonder this Korean bath scrub-inspired treatment keeps selling out. (If you happen to catch it in stock well, stock up.) There's a long list of soothing, redness-reducing ingredients your skin will love taking in, including mugwort, barley, and cica, to boot.

Neutrogena Body Clear Pink Grapefruit Body Wash

Another body-wash option that works well for KP is one that's already well- known for its acne-fighting power. Day is a fan of the five-time Best of Beauty- winning Neutrogena Body Clear Pink Grapefruit Body Wash because its 2 percent salicylic acid helps penetrate hair follicles.

Skinfix Resurface+ AHA Renewing Cream

Skinfix's Resurface+ AHA Renewing Cream snagged an ishonest Best of Beauty Award for best exfoliating body moisturizer because its blend of naturally derived alpha hydroxy acids (via fruit acids and lime pearl extract) helps soften rough skin. You might want to wait a few minutes before hopping into bed so this dreamy, rich cream packed with hydrating emollients, like shea butter, coconut, and jojoba oils can properly absorb and soothe your just-exfoliated skin.

SLMD Glycolic Acid Body Scrub

With exfoliation being such a key factor in treating KP, you may want to try chemical and physical exfoliation and SLMD's Glycolic Acid Body Scrub offers both. Board-certified New York City-based dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali says his patients have been very happy with this recommendation. Additionally, SLMD founder Sandra Lee previously told us that 'glycolic acid can help fade hyperpigmentation that often accompanies KP.'

Amlactin Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion

When three dermatologists recommend a lotion, you know it has to be a gem better yet, when said gem costs less than $20. Kim, Sperling, and Bhanusali all recommend Amlactin Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion because of its potent, 12- percent lactic-acid formula. 'It is important to have lactic acid in a regimen to help break down keratin in the hair follicles', Sperling says.

First Aid Beauty KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub

'Because people with KP have a genetic tendency toward allergies and skin sensitivity, it is important to be mindful of products with fragrances, which can be irritating', Prather says. First Aid Beauty's KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub offers both chemical (lactic and glycolic acid) exfoliation and physical exfoliation in a fragrance-free formula that promises to go easy on sensitive skin.

Lancer The Method: Body Nourish

Even if you've avoided glycolic acid for your face-care regimen, you may not want to rule out a 10 percent glycolic-acid formula like Lancer's The Method: Body Nourish cream for KP on your arms or legs. 'Glycolic is a great AHA that can be sometimes strong for the face but does well for the body', says Bhanusali.

Eucerin Intensive Repair Lotion

A more affordable combination of lactic acid and urea is available at the drugstore. 'Eucerin Intensive Repair Lotion is an effective over-the-counter option that combines urea and lactic acid, both powerful exfoliators, while protecting the skin barrier with shea butter and ceramides', says Prather.

Dermadoctor KP Duty Dermatologist Formulated Body Scrub

Dermadoctor's KP Duty line was one of the first skin-care collections to specifically call out keratosis pilaris as its target. Years later, products like KP Duty Dermatologist Formulated Body Scrub are still gaining fans, thanks to its combination of microdermabrasion and exfoliating acids.

SkinCeuticals Body Retexturing Treatment

Although lactic acid is one of the go-to exfoliators in most KP treatments, SkinCeuticals Body Retexturing Treatment takes it to another level with two other ingredients that build upon its efficacy. 'It combines urea and sulfonic acid to enhance exfoliation and improve the skin barrier', says Prather, who also appreciates the hydration supplied by the lotion's hyaluronic acid.

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