How I deal with Keratosis Pilaris

Posted on April 07, 2018 under Thoughts

I am twenty-three years into a battle against Keratosis Pilaris. For those who don’t know, KP is a super common skin condition involving little bumps on the skin caused by a buildup of keratin. (This is really gross, but sometimes you can pop KP bumps just like zits – that’s how much keratin we’re talking.) Usually it’s on the arms and legs, but it can appear anywhere except the palms. Some people’s KP appears quite red and inflamed. Some people have it on only some parts of their arms and legs and some people get it only seasonally. I am one of the super lucky people who has it all over my arms and legs all year round. Mine usually isn’t particularly red – the bumps themselves are obviously pink, but the skin around them doesn’t get inflamed. During the winter when my skin is very dry it can be more noticeably red, but the above picture is a good representation of how it normally appears.

KP is not painful (just itchy sometimes, when it’s really dry) and it isn’t indicative of any sort of serious medical condition. It’s literally just my stupid skin producing too much keratin. It’s totally genetic – my mom has had it for her whole life and I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. Apparently it’s common for it to spontaneously improve by about age 30, but I’m not holding out much hope. Mine has pretty much stayed the same throughout my life, and since my mom has had hers forever I assume mine will be much the same. It’s actually kind of nice that I have her to look to, because it means I’m not wasting any time waiting for my KP to clear up in the next few years.

KP used to be something I was pretty self-conscious about – in a world that pushes absolute smoothness as the pinnacle of leg beauty, I will never achieve that. But when I was a teenager I looked into KP and realized how prevalent it is – it’s seen in approximately 30-50% of the adult population. You’d never know that, though, because the arms and legs we see in ads and on TV are always nice and smooth, blurred and Photoshopped to perfection. I’ve talked to so many people who are really self-conscious about their KP. It seems nonsensical to me that so many of us have insecurities about something that is incredibly prevalent. Gradually I began to notice just how many people have it, and I stopped caring as much. (Like, a few weeks ago I was with a group of eight people and I could see that at least three of them had it…) A good amount of people I pass on the street deal with the exact same thing, and those who don’t have definitely seen KP skin before and will not be shocked when confronted with my arms. I don’t really care about it from an aesthetic standpoint anymore; I wear shorts in the summer with absolutely zero thought about my KP. I mean, if I woke up with nice smooth legs I wouldn’t be mad, but I’ve long since accepted that I have visible bumps all over my arms and legs.

I could shave my legs ten times a day and they will still never look like this. Although she is most definitely receiving help from Sally Hansen and good old Photoshop…

Really the concern for me is managing how dry and itchy my KP can make my skin. I don’t think that having super dry skin is necessarily an inborn feature of KP – I’m just lucky enough to have year-round KP all over my arms and legs and the driest skin in the world. Like I cannot overstate how dry my arms and legs are at all times. The dryness totally exacerbates the KP and makes it uncomfortable instead of just a bit ugly.

Now, if you have KP you have no doubt furiously Googled cures for it. You have probably read many stories about people curing theirs. I don’t doubt that that’s possible – but I really think that some of us just have lifelong cases that can never be fully cured. However, it can be managed and mitigated. The frustrating thing is that not everything works for everybody. Care of KP-ravaged skin seems to be very much in the “your mileage may vary” category – so what works for me may not work for you. Regardless, here’s what helps keep mine at bay.

Moisture

No surprise – moisture is the most important factor for me. This is primarily about feeling (since dry skin is way more likely to feel itchy and scaly), but I do think it makes a visible difference as well. The added shine of body cream makes the skin look smoother and more uniform than it actually is.

I only used body cream on the right leg – you can see what a difference it makes!

So, I basically take moisture wherever I can get it. Thick body creams are obviously the primary moisture vehicle, but I’m also a big fan of using shower oils instead of shaving cream in order to really maintain the moisture of my skin. There are a lot of shaving creams on the market that claim to be moisturizing, but I’ve never found them to do anything for me. Oils are where it’s at! I really like the L’Occitane Almond Shower Oil, but La Roche-Posay and Bioderma both make more budget-friendly versions.

I absolutely love The Body Shop’s Coconut Body Butter – because of the coconut oil it has a semi-solid consistency that my skin responds to well. I’ve heard of a lot of people who found that coconut oil actually completely cleared up their KP. I can confidently say that is not true for me (and yes, I have tried pure coconut oil as well), but I do think it helps. Otherwise, I absolutely love the A-Derma Exomega Emollient Balm. It’s not a very thick cream at all, but it delivers so much rich hydration and I’m always amazed at how (relatively) smooth my skin feels after I use it. La Roche-Posay Lipikar Baume AP+ has a similar effect, but A-Derma edges it out just slightly for me.

Body oils work really well for me, too, and sometimes I’ll layer them. I’ve used argan and rosehip as well as squalane and they’ve all worked really nicely. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive: $6 bottles from The Ordinary work well, so do off-brand oils from Winners. I just recommend applying body oils in the bathroom and waiting a few minutes for them to sink in, because they can get a bit messy.

I will note for posterity that the best body cream I ever found for KP was by long-dead Canadian brand Dermaglow. Me and my mom were both obsessed with it because it actually seemed to make a huge difference in clearing up our skin. But the brand went under years ago and we just haven’t found anything as good. Part of me is still hoping for a resurrection even though it’s been the better part of a decade.

Exfoliation

Exfoliation is my second weapon against KP. This is another pretty obvious one – when you’ve got bumpy, textured skin, exfoliation is a good way to smooth things out. It helps to unclog the keratin-filled hair follicles and can slough off any flaky, dry patches. I use a body scrub every time I shower. Currently I’m using one from The Body Shop (obviously purchased during a promotion…), but usually I use whatever is cheap and cheerful from the drugstore since at the end of the day they’re all just sugar scrubs.

I also use chemical exfoliants about once a week. I’ve found that glycolic acid works best for me. There are a lot of body creams with 5% or 8% glycolic (and, indeed, the Dermaglow cream I mourn had 8%), but sometimes they don’t quite pack in the amount of moisture I want. I prefer to separate out those functions so I can get exactly what I want. I use glycolic acid on my face every day, so I just use whatever I have open at the time. Currently it’s by Vichy, but I’ve also used NeoStrata and The Ordinary with the same results.

I don’t overdo the chemical exfoliation because I really don’t want to dry out my arms and legs. It’s just a nice weekly treatment to help speed things along.

Sunlight

This is a bit of a controversial one, since some sources say that exposure to sunlight actually worsens KP. In general I would agree that sun exposure worsens most skin conditions, and it seems logical that sunlight would darken KP bumps. But my actual life experience begs to differ! I am all for sun protection and I don’t think anybody should be roasting out in the sun for hours a day to improve their KP. But my skin is never better than immediately after a cottage vacation where I’m outside all day. Look, I’m not the only one! This obviously isn’t a long-term fix or anything… but I had to mention it since it’s 100% the thing that makes the most difference. (My mom has had this experience too, so there are at least three of us!)

Things I haven’t tried

I’ve never used a steroid cream on my KP (though I’d be open to trying it). I’ve also never had laser treatment – that was something I used to long for, but the expense just doesn’t seem worth it to me anymore. If I’m going to get something lasered it’s going to be my eyeballs because I am too vain for glasses and too lazy for contacts (except for special occasions). And I haven’t tried making any dietary changes. It’s not that I don’t believe that might make a difference, it’s just that making noticeable lifestyle changes for the sake of something that I’m not even that insecure about anymore seems like an unbalanced tradeoff. Like, I can commit to three minutes a day putting on body lotion. Cutting out food I like eating long-term? Nah. It’s just not that important to me!

The unfortunate thing about all of these solutions is that progress is dependent on absolute rigid consistency. I can improve the look and feel of my KP as long as I’m vigilant about treating it. If I stop, I go right back to square one. I think that’s true for those who “cure” theirs, too – stop with the coconut oil or start eating dairy again and your perfectly smooth legs vanish. (Wait… you still have legs. They’re just not smooth.) I try to build these things into my regular routines, but sometimes it’s just not going to happen. When I’m travelling, stressed, or busy, these things fall by the wayside – it’s never a linear path. KP is never going to be my top priority, and that’s not only okay, it’s healthy. Some bumps on my skin should not be taking up that much mental energy when I can be focusing on school, my relationships with my friends and family, my hobbies, my health, learning new things, travelling… Obviously, when it comes to things we’re insecure about, that’s easier said than done. But it’s all about perspective, and some less-than-beautiful bumps on my arms and legs are so much less important than basically everything else going on in my life.

Body care for winter: Avène Akérat vs. La Roche-Posay Lipikar Baume AP+

Posted on October 26, 2015 under Reviews

This post features press samples. I was not compensated for writing this post and all thoughts and opinions remain my own.

I have keratosis pilaris on my arms and legs, and it’s a fairly bad case. Unlike some people, mine doesn’t clear up in warm weather or even respond terribly well to most treatments. Since Canadian company Dermaglow went under, taking my beloved 8% glycolic acid body lotion with it, I’ve mainly been making do with physical exfoliation and thick body creams. This doesn’t get rid of the KP, but it helps keep my skin as smooth and soft as is possible with this condition.

Obviously, this gets a lot worse in the winter. I have been genetically cursed not only with KP but with the driest skin in the entire freakin’ universe. If I’m not very vigilant with my body lotions when it gets cold out, my arms and legs are pretty much unfit to be seen, touched, or generally existent.

Today I’m here with a comparison of two mid-range body lotions: Avène Akérat Smoothing Exfoliating Cream and La Roche-Posay Lipikar Baume AP+*. Both of these are French pharmacie brands formulated specifically for sensitive skin. Americans may have a hard time finding them, but my fellow Canadians will be able to pick them up in any Shoppers Drug Mart or Pharmaprix. (Both brands are also available at Boots in the UK!)

Claims & Ingredients

avene-akerat-smoothing-exfoliating-cream

Akérat: “Ultra-rich targeted body care helps restore skin’s comfort level and balance for smoother, softer skin texture.” Contains urea as well as lactic acid and salicylic acid.

la-roche-posay-lipikar-baume-ap-plus

Lipikar Baume AP+: “Beyond immediate soothing, LIPIKAR Baume AP+ spaces out flare-ups of severe dryness. Supple and soft, skin regains a durable comfort.” and “Anti-Itching, Lipid-Replenishing, Soothing Balm.” Contains shea butter and niacinamide.

Texture

texture-comparison

Lipikar Baume AP+ has a thinner texture than Akérat, which feels thicker and more emollient. Akérat also feels significantly stickier, which is all the more noticeable after applying it to the skin. However, neither one is terribly thick at all; they’re definitely lotions rather than body butters or even creams, though the Akérat is moving into cream territory. Neither one feels slippery or greasy. Personally, I think the Lipikar Baume AP+ has a more pleasant texture due to the fact that it doesn’t feel sticky at all and sinks into the skin almost instantaneously.

Packaging

avene-akerat-packaging

Akérat: Classic squeeze-tube packaging, which I like. It’s hygienic and easy to get all the product out. I will admit I’m a bit spoiled by La Roche Posay’s easy squeeze packaging, which is thinner and makes squeezing product out a lot easier (especially when it’s running low and more elbow grease is required), but that’s just nitpicking.

la-roche-posay-lipikar-baume-pump

Lipikar Baume AP+: The 200mL version is the same squeezy tube packaging as Akérat, but the 400mL one that I have is a bottle with a pump. This is okay, but not ideal. It is hygienic and at first it’s easy to get the product out, but obviously as the product diminishes the effectiveness of the pump does too. Also, because the packaging is both opaque and fairly solid, it’s hard to tell how much product is actually left. Although the Akérat tube is also opaque, because of its flexible material it’s easier to determine how much I’ve used up. I’m nervous to travel with products with unprotected pumps like this, too; I’m much more likely to chuck the Akérat into a travel bag! The pump packaging isn’t enough to dissuade me from repurchasing this product, but it’s also not the most convenient.

Results

For three days, I applied the Akérat to my left arm and leg and the Lipikar Baume AP+ to my right. Overall, I found that the long-term results (and I’m using that term relatively, as this was a three-day experiment) were the same. Short-term, my left side felt slightly more hydrated – but also stickier. The Akérat left the sticky feeling lingering for hours, whereas the Lipikar Baume AP+ sank in right away, leaving my skin feeling hydrated but not laden with product.

Long-term, both sets of arms and legs felt smoother and more hydrated than when I started this little experiment. I will say that in the dead of winter I think either product would be most effective when combined with something very thick, like a body butter, to lock in the moisture – but on their own at this time of year, either one is adequate. Neither performs a miracle in terms of my KP, but they certainly help with my dry skin, which in turn helps to minimize both the appearance and feeling of the KP.

Akérat is billed as an exfoliating cream, while Lipikar Baume AP+ is merely a moisturizing body lotion for very dry skin. I don’t feel that Akérat is a particularly effective exfoliant; if my skin is smoother it’s because it’s more moisturized. Despite this, however, I feel that both products essentially live up to their claims. I’m happy with both, although both do have minor shortcomings.

Price and Conclusion

Akérat: $29.50 CAD for 200mL/6.76 fl oz; $0.15 per mL or $4.36 per fl oz.

Lipikar Baume AP+: $33.00 CAD for 400mL/13.5 fl oz; $0.08 per mL or $2.44 per fl oz.

Clearly, the Lipikar Baume AP+ is better value for the money, at least when it comes to the 400mL size. Both products perform well and I will continue to use them both throughout the (many) cold months to come. Avène and La Roche-Posay are both brands that I enjoy, trust, and will happily and confidently sell to customers with a variety of skin concerns. However, the Lipikar Baume AP+ has two distinct advantages when it comes time to repurchase one or the other: its texture is more pleasing to me, and it is far better value when it comes down to price per unit.

Note: Product marked with an asterisk was sent to me for review purposes, but as always this does not influence my opinion whatsoever. This post is not sponsored.