Keratosis Pilaris

When Ryan was about four months old, we noticed his skin started having what I referred to as the dreaded “goose bump skin.” I was mortified.  I had these bumps, which were very noticeable on my arms and legs while growing up.  I still have them somewhat on my legs.  I remember my mom taking me to several doctors in my teens, because I was so self-conscious about them.  No doctor ever gave us a diagnosis on what the condition was.  I resigned myself to live with these bumps on my skin. 

I was very happy in my early twenties, when they started to disappear on my arms. They also started to fade on my legs.  

Fast forward ten plus years, gazing at my firstborn’s sweet, perfect, smooth skin, only to realize he is developing the same condition I had.  What are these bumps, and would my son have to go through his life with them too?

I immediately took Ryan to a dermatologist, who told me right off it is a “harmless” skin condition called, Keratosis Pilaris, or KP. Harmless in it often looks worse than it is, but I knew first hand, how self conscious it can make you about parts of the body that KP appears on.  She told me there isn’t anything you can do, but a person usually will outgrow KP as they get older.  She also said it is genetic (my dad and sister had KP too), and about 50% of the population has some form of KP, somewhere on their body.

She gave me a prescription cream for a steroid and told me I could use it in case of flare-ups, or if the KP got really bad.  What really was troubling to me was unlike myself, Ryan had KP on his face, especially on his cheeks.  His cheeks were rough, and people were starting to comment on it. 

I used the steroid cream a few times, when Ryan’s face had really bad flare-ups. Dry weather can aggravate KP.  We live in a very dry climate, and interestingly I remembered as a child, when we visited more humid places, my KP went away entirely.  At 7 and 18 months, we visited my sister who lives in a very humid area, and within 2 days of us being there, Ryan’s KP disappeared.  It reappeared however, after we returned home.

I didn’t like using a steroid cream on my baby, so off to the Internet I went, in hopes of discovering something, anything, that would at least reduce the KP on Ryan’s face.  There is no “miracle” cure- at least not one that I have found.

What I have discovered is there are several things that will help reduce the chances of flare-ups, resulting in less noticeable bumps.  I did learn that KP can be so different for everyone- what works with one person, will only aggravate the flare-ups in others.  Our pediatrician gave us some good tips as well, and here is what I have discovered helps Ryan:

  • Keeping our environment as humid as possible. 

Our pediatrician actually wrote us a prescription for a whole house humidifier.  Since we are planning on moving soon, we opted not to buy one yet.  However, we keep a humidifier in Ryan’s room at night.  This helps a lot, especially in the winter.  We have an evaporator cooler in the summer, which is almost like a humidifier.  Ryan’s skin is almost KP free in the summer. 

  • Adding pure, organic, flax seed oil to his milk every day. 

I add less than a teaspoon, but I have noticed it helps a great deal.  Flax seed oil is rich in the essential fatty acids, especially Omega-6, which is the Gamma Linoleic Acid.   Our doctor told us flax seed oil has the highest concentration of Omega-6’s, more than what you would find in a capsule. 

Some research suggests that a lack GLA contributes to eczema, and when eczema patients increased their GLA intake, their eczema went away.   However, eczema, and KP are not related, but I liked the theory, since GLA is very soothing to the skin, and can promote healing.  Since most people can’t utilize GLA properly (due to environmental factors), adding GLA’s into Ryan’s diet, seemed like a natural thing to do. 

I never told Ryan I was adding flax seed oil to his milk.  I would stir it in, and he would drink it.  As he got older, he started to ask me what “that yellow stuff” was.  I told him it was flax seed oil, and it helps keep us healthy.  Ryan reminds me and asks for his flax seed oil now, and once I asked him why he likes it so much.  He said, “It keeps my skin smooth.”  I was amazed.  I have never told him that, but I think he started to notice a difference in his KP when he takes his flax seed oil.  About a year ago, I saw him running his hands down his arms, and talking to himself.  He was saying that his skin was bumpy and he didn’t like it. That about broke my heart, so I am thrilled that he seems to have noticed a difference in his skin.

  • Keeping his skin moisturized

This has been such a journey for me.  I have tried probably every cream, lotion, and balm on the market in hopes of one of them reducing Ryan’s KP.  I have tried everything from the lotions promising to cure KP, to basic Vaseline, to herbs.  I have tried everything from the steroid cream to the purest and most organic moisturizers I could find.  Nothing has been that miracle, but I have noticed that the more natural lotions, seem to lock in the moisture after Ryan’s bath better.  Right now,  Shikai Borage Dry Skin Therapy Lotion is doing a very nice job. It keeps Ryan’s skin moisturized for a full 24 hours, and I haven’t found anything that has worked as well up to this point.

  • Using Natural Skin Products

This has been a real change for me, which I will write more about in the next post.  So many ingredients in products that I had previously been using are so drying to the skin, and weren’t helping Ryan at all.

With these changes we have made, I am very hopeful that Ryan’s KP will continue to lessen as he gets older.  It has gotten better even from when he was two years old. 

I think education is so important on KP as well.  So many people don’t really know what it is, and out of concern they ask you what those bumps are on your child, or if he has a rash.  I have even had people tell me after I have explained what it is, say that they used to have bumps on their skin when they were young, and they are happy to have finally found out what those bumps were too. 

Maybe one day science will finally have a cure for all the sufferers of KP.  Until then, I plan to keep trying to eliminate the flare-ups, and at least “cure” it the best I can for Ryan.