This disease gets its name from the term "keratin", which is the natural protein present in the skin. The condition is caused when the excess keratin, which is cream coloured, traps the hair in the follicles. As a result, the keratin forms small but hard plugs in the pore, a phenomenon called hyperkeratinization.
Just like acne, keratosis pilaris targets mainly adolescents but it can persist into adulthood. In fact, about 50 to 80 per cent of adolescents are afflicted by it, whereas only 40 per cent of adults manifest some degree of the disease. This is one disease with a strong hereditary connection and is often seen in twins.
Rough But No Itch
Unlike acne, keratosis pilaris is not itchy. The bumps are very small and they give the skin a rough, sandpaper-like feel. The areas affected look red and patchy as there can be as many as 100 bumps concentrated in a very small area of the skin.
There is no known cure for keratosis pilaris. It is chronic, non-contagious but in some cases, does decrease in severity with age. The lucky few may see the typical sandpaper rash on the backs of their arms clear up after puberty but they are in a minority.
Climate Affects Flare-ups
Fortunately, it is a mild disease and does not produce an itch. Seasonal variations have also been observed, with flare-ups common in the winter months when the skin tends to dry.
There is no known cure for keratosis pilaris but there are topical treatments and oral medications that can ease the rash. Creams containing tretonin seem to help. Also used in the treatment of acne, this active ingredient, which is an acid form of Vitamin A, makes the outer layer of the skin grow more rapidly and decreases the amount of keratin in the skin.
Thinning the Skin
The outer layer of the skin is thinner than usual and this reduces the chances of the pores getting blocked.
Another option is to use cream that contains triamcinolone. This is a synthetic cortico-steroid used in the treatment of eczema. It reduces the amount of keratin in the pores and with that, the typical keratosis pilaris rash.