Easy treat­ments for bumpy skin

The Saline Courier - - OPINION - ••• Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an in­ternist and as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor of medicine at UCLA Health. El­iz­a­beth Ko, M.D., is an in­ternist and as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of medicine at UCLA Health.

“Congress shall make no law ... abridg­ing the free­dom of speech, or of the press ... . ” — From the First Amend­ment to Con­sti­tu­tion

Dear Doc­tor: Ev­ery win­ter I get these weird bumps on my skin, kind of like goose­bumps, ex­cept that they won’t go away. What are they? Is there any­thing that can help?

Dear Reader: It sounds as though you’re de­scrib­ing a com­mon and harm­less skin con­di­tion known as ker­ato­sis pi­laris. Symp­toms typ­i­cally in­clude patches of small, hard bumps that are about the size of a grain of sand. They may match your skin tone, or can ap­pear pink, red­dish, white or brown. In some cases, the tops of the bumps are cov­ered in dry skin scales.

The con­di­tion oc­curs when oil pores in the skin, which also con­tain tiny hairs, be­come clogged with dead skin cells. (The word “ker­ato­sis” refers to ker­atin, the main build­ing block of the epi­der­mis, or outer layer of the skin. The word “pi­laris” per­tains to hair.) The af­fected area be­comes rough and in some cases may itch. How­ever, ker­ato­sis pi­laris doesn’t cause pain.

This is a con­di­tion that may be sea­sonal, as you have ex­pe­ri­enced, or can last for months or even years. It usu­ally ap­pears on the skin of the up­per arm, up­per thigh or but­tocks, but can also de­velop on other ar­eas of the body. It some­times oc­curs on the face, most of­ten on cheeks, where it re­sem­bles acne. It’s more com­mon in young peo­ple, and of­ten goes away as they get older. The cause of ker­ato­sis pi­laris isn’t yet known, but since it’s more com­mon in in­di­vid­u­als with cer­tain skin con­di­tions, such as eczema, genes may play a role. It’s dis­tinc­tive enough that it can usu­ally be di­ag­nosed with a vis­ual and phys­i­cal exam.

Ker­ato­sis pi­laris is nei­ther harm­ful nor dan­ger­ous, and it isn’t in­fec­tious. It can safely be left alone. But if you’re both­ered by the ap­pear­ance, or if you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing itch­i­ness, you have sev­eral treat­ment op­tions. Since damp skin ab­sorbs mois­tur­izer more eas­ily than dry skin, and since the prod­ucts form a bar­rier that pro­tects the skin, make it a prac­tice to ap­ply mois­tur­izer af­ter bathing or show­er­ing. Creams that con­tain chem­i­cal ex­fo­lia­tors -- such as urea, sal­i­cylic and gly­colic acid, and al­pha hy­droxy acids -- can help to break down ex­cess ker­atin. Over-the-counter lo­tions such as Eucerin, Am­lactin and Cer­ave, which are gen­tle and fra­grance-free, can be help­ful in di­min­ish­ing the size of the bumps and boost­ing mois­ture.

When show­er­ing and bathing, keep wa­ter on the cooler side, as hot wa­ter can con­trib­ute to dry skin and ir­ri­ta­tion. Us­ing a loofah, wash­cloth or ex­fo­li­at­ing mitt can also help min­i­mize bumps, but don’t try to scrub them away. This can eas­ily lead to ir­ri­tated or even in­flamed skin and make symp­toms worse. In­stead, treat your skin gen­tly.

When tow­el­ing off af­ter a shower or bath, dab your skin dry rather than rub­bing. If you’re not get­ting re­sults with this reg­i­men of self-care, your health care provider can rec­om­mend pre­scrip­tion creams with vi­ta­min A or Retin-a, which may help im­prove your skin’s ap­pear­ance.

DR. GLAZIER

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