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  5. Keratosis Pilaris: Causes, Symptoms & Best Natural Remedies

Are tiny hard bumps giving your arms a textured feel? You might be facing a case of Keratosis Pilaris.

Often a cause of cosmetic discomfort, keratosis pilaris can be gradually treated with natural remedies that holistically improve your skin condition.

Read on to know the causes, symptoms and best possible treatments of keratosis pilaris according to your skin type.

Our Ayurvedic Doctor Speaks

“Keratosis pilaris is a Vata-Kapha problem. Snehan (Oiling), Sweden (Steam) followed by Udwartana (Ubtan) cures Keratosis pilaris.”

Dr. Zeel Gandhi (Bachelor Of Ayurveda, Medicine & Surgery), Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix

What Is Keratosis Pilaris?

difference between healthy skin, and follicular keratosis

Keratosis pilaris [1] (chicken skin) is a benign skin condition that leads to the occurrence of tiny, raised, skin-coloured or reddish papules in different affected areas of your skin. A few of these bumps may also trap ingrown hair.

Though the condition is harmless, it may be accompanied by mild itching, inflammation and a possibility of scarring. More common in childhood and in the adolescent period, keratosis pilaris usually affects the upper arms, upper thighs, butttocks, face and neck.

According to Ayurveda, keratosis pilaris is caused by a Vata-Kapha aggravation. Excess Vata Dosha in the body leads to hyperkeratinization and follicular occlusion. A Pitta imbalance along with this can trigger inflammation and itchiness around the lesions.

As per Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix, “Keratosis pilaris is a Vata-Kapha problem. The plugging is caused by the excess of Vata, and the secretions that get dried up are Kapha in origin. Snehan (Oiling) Sweden (Steam) followed by Udwartana (Ubtan) cures Keratosis pilaris.”

Keratosis Pilaris Causes

1. Hyperkeratinization

Your skin naturally sheds off dead skin cells as part of its renewal process. However, trouble occurs when there is excess production of dead cells or hyperkeratinization.

These keratin flakes clog the hair follicles on your skin and form little red or white bumps. These lesions may also trap ingrown hair. At times the skin area experiencing keratosis pilaris may be inflamed and itchy.

2. Genetics

The most common cause of the hyperkeratinization that leads to keratosis pilaris is a genetic dysfunction. A study named Mutation and expression of ABCA12 in keratosis pilaris and nevus comedonicus published in 2018, classified keratosis pilaris as a ‘congenital keratinized dermatoses’.

It stated that mutations of the ABCA12 gene can cause the onset of keratosis pilaris through its impact on keratinocyte apoptosis (cell death) and transportation of skin lipids.

3. Pregnancy

Keratosis pilaris is one of the many dermatoses that women experience during pregnancy [2]. Hormonal fluctuations in the body can either cause the onset or trigger a flare-up of this condition.

Other Trigger Factors Of Keratosis Pilaris

1. Hair Removal Methods

Legskin macro

Though not a cause, hair removal methods such as shaving and waxing often act as a trigger factor for keratosis pilaris on the leg and arms.

The mechanical stress suffered by your skin during these procedures can aggravate the condition leading to increased number of lumps on the skin along with redness and irritation.

2. Friction

Along with hair removal methods, friction caused by rough materials and tight clothes can aggravate an existing condition of keratosis pilaris.

3. Dry Weather

Keratosis pilaris is known to worsen in cold, dry weather. With lack of humidity in the air your skin struggles to keep itself moisturized.

This is why you often find your skin cracking, flaking or peeling in the winter. With an excess of dead skin cells there is increased risk of congestion of your hair follicles leading to keratosis pilaris.

4. Dry Skin Conditions

While the true cause behind the trigger of hyperkeratinization in keratosis pilaris remains unknown, those with dry skin are more vulnerable to the condition. Existing conditions of xerosis, eczema or ichthyosis vulgaris can make keratosis pilaris worse.

Many people experience a toning down of keratosis pilaris symptoms during the summer months especially in hot and humid areas.

Keratosis Pilaris Symptoms

keratosis pilaris rubra faciei

1. Asymptomatic skin-toned or red bumps giving your skin a rough, pocky feel.

2. Perifollicular erythema or swelling around the hair follicles on your skin.

3. Pruritus or itchiness in the affected areas.

4. Changes in skin-barrier function.

5. Atrophy or absence of sebaceous glands [3] in the keratosis pilaris lesions.

6. Reduced skin hydration and increase in transepidermal water loss.

How To Get Rid Of Keratosis Pilaris?

before after treatment small acnes spots

A. Keratosis Pilaris Home And Herbal Remedies

1. Shodhana And Shamana

The ‘shodhana’ therapy of Ayurveda is a detoxifying procedure conducted in 5 steps also known as ‘Panchakarma’. After detoxification the body is healed through the ‘shamana’ therapy.

A publication in 2020 - Ayurveda management of keratosis pilaris- a case report elaborated the treatment plan adopted to treat the condition of keratosis pilaris in a 26 year old male patient who had lesions in his shoulder, chest and back.

After diagnosis, the ‘vata-kapha-pitta hara’ treatment plan was advised and was carried out in two phases of shodhana and shamana chikitsa. This along with a dosha-balancing diet effectively ensured speedy recovery of the patient.

2. Herbal And Homemade Exfoliants

Ayurveda encourages the procedure of ‘Udvartana’ (herbal exfoliation) for the treatment of various skin diseases including keratosis pilaris. It helps balance your doshas, cleanses and detoxifies your skin and improves blood circulation and nutrition absorption.

Exfoliating with herbs such as triphala, yashtimadhu, turmeric, sandalwood along with coconut or sesame oil can reduce inflammation and redness and help unclog your hair follicles.

A few other homemade exfoliation remedies for keratosis pilaris are listed below:

Yogurt And Oatmeal

Mix 1 ½ tablespoon of yogurt with 2 tablespoons of colloidal oatmeal and gently exfoliate the areas affected by keratosis pilaris.

Lactic acid in yogurt along with oatmeal’s anti-inflammatory and exfoliating properties can help remove dead cells and have a calming effect on your skin.

Lemon Oil And Green Tea

Add a few drops of lemon peel oil to 2 tablespoons of coarsely powdered green tea. Add a small amount of a carrier oil of your choice to make a paste and use it to gently scrub the affected areas.

Citroflavonoids in lemon oil [4] improve subcutaneous blood circulation and its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties prevent epidermal degeneration and swelling associated with keratosis pilaris. Green tea’s immense antioxidant potential prevents collagen depletion, inflammation and cell death.

Rosehip Seed Powder

Massaging a tablespoon of rosehip seed powder can gently exfoliate the dead cells clogging your skin. You can add a few drops of a nourishing carrier oil or ½ to 1 tablespoon of yogurt for an added hydrating effect.

Pineapple, Papaya And Apricot

Blend ripened pineapple (including stem) and papaya together. Take 2-3 tablespoons of this paste and add 2 tablespoons of finely ground apricot to it. Mix well and use this to exfoliate the keratosis pilaris lesions on your face, arms and legs.

Both pineapple and papaya make for a fine keratosis pilaris treatment as they gently remove dead cells and enhance skin hydration. Further, bromelain in pineapple helps reduce keratosis pilaris related inflammation.

3. Bakuchi

Mix a few drops of bakuchi extract or 1-2 tablespoons of bakuchi in powdered form with your choice of carrier oil or honey and apply on the affected areas. Leave it on for 40 minutes to an hour and wash off.

Retinoids [5] is the most commonly prescribed treatment for keratosis pilaris. However, there are various side effects of long-term retinol use such as flaking, peeling, irritation, inflammation and dry skin.

According to a research in 2019 named Prospective, randomized, double-blind assessment of topical bakuchiol and retinol for facial photoageing, bakuchiol extracted from the Ayurvedic herb bakuchi, demonstrated similar skin improvement capacities as retinol without any harmful effects. It promotes cell renewal and collagen synthesis and can thus be effectively used to treat Keratosis pilaris symptoms.

4. Gotu Kola And Aloe Vera

Mix 2 tablespoons each of gotu kola powder and aloe vera gel. Apply on the Keratosis pilaris papules and leave it on for an hour before washing off.

Gotu Kola’s supreme anti-aging properties fight free radical skin damage and help your skin to rapidly repair itself. This aids the natural desquamation process and quickly reveals a healthy layer of skin. Both gotu kola and aloe vera moisturize and keep the keratosis pilaris affected areas such as your face, hands and legs nourished and healthy.

5. Rosehip Oil

A bottle of rose hip seed oil

Rosehip oil is a natural remedy often suggested as an alternative for retinol in the treatment of keratosis pilaris on your face and other skin areas. It is rich in beta-carotene (vitamin A) [6], lycopene, tocopherols (vitamin E), vitamin C, B and powerful polyphenolic compounds that are responsible for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and skin healing properties.

6. Herbal Moisturizers For Keratosis Pilaris

Moisturizing [7] frequently (at least 2 to 3 times a day) with herbal moisturizers can help relieve the symptoms of keratosis pilaris such as dryness, erythema and skin irritation. Here’s a list of natural ingredients that hydrate and heal your skin with regular use.

  • Aloe vera
  • Coconut Oil
  • Cacao or shea butter
  • Sesame oil
  • Witch Hazel
  • Cucumber juice

B. Keratosis Pilaris Diet

According to the ancient Ayurvedic principles, the establishment of ‘svasthya’ or optimal health in a person is greatly dependent on ‘ahara’ [8] or one’s diet. The right diet nourishes your body, improves your immunity and keeps your doshas (life energies) in balance which in turn prevents the onset of diseases.

Since an aggravation of the 3 doshas are responsible for the pathogenesis of keratosis pilaris, it is advisable to consume a diet that nourishes healthy kapha in the body to battle dryness. Also focus on ingredients that are light to digest, reduce body heat and are rich in vitamins, zinc, omega 3 fatty acids and magnesium to aid your body’s natural healing process.

1. Foods To Eat

  • Fruits: cucumber, apples, avocados, mangos, oranges.
  • Sugarcane
  • Spices: Fennel seeds, coriander, turmeric.
  • Neem Leaves
  • Coconut oil
  • Sweet fruits
  • Wheat
  • Egg and fish (in moderation)
  • Triphala Ghrita

2. Foods To Avoid

With a lack of clinical research supporting diet as a cause for keratosis pilaris, some anecdotal evidence claims that avoiding the following foods may improve your condition of Keratosis pilaris.

  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Foods high in gluten
  • Oily or processed foods
  • Spicy or pungent foods and vegetables
  • Sour and salty foods
  • Excess red meat

Vedix Tip:

Avoiding hot showers, moisturizing daily and gently exfoliating can help you manage your keratosis pilaris condition better.

What Are The Complications Of Keratosis Pilaris?

There are not many complications to keratosis pilaris. The few that may occur are listed below:

  • Dry skin due to the absence of sebaceous glands in the lesions
  • Skin atrophy [9]
  • Scarring
  • Loss of hair in the affected areas

Frequently Asked Questions About Keratosis Pilaris

1. Does Keratosis Pilaris Go Away?

Keratosis pilaris can have a sudden onset during your teenage years and gradually go away as you age. The right herbal treatments and avoidance of trigger factors can help keep the condition under control.

2. How Long Does It Take To Get Rid Of Keratosis Pilaris?

Getting rid of keratosis pilaris usually takes time. You can expect it to clear off in about a month and a half. However, with appropriate treatment focused on skin renewal, you may observe improvement in your skin condition a little sooner.

3.Who Gets Keratosis Pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is more frequently observed in children and adolescents but may also occur during your adulthood or at the time of pregnancy. Those with a family history of the condition are more susceptible to it.

The Last Word

Keratosis pilaris is a common condition that can cause little bumps on your face, hands and other areas. While it is really not a cause for worry, it may lead to emotional distress in some people. Since there is no specific cure for the condition, natural treatments, good skin hygiene and regular use of moisturizers can help prevent aggravations and scarring.

Know Your Dosha Now

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