How to handle a keratosis pilaris flare-up

When the dreaded keratosis pilaris hits, it always seems to do so at the most inopportune times. Beat it quickly by avoiding your natural inclination to scrub it away…

As someone who’s struggled with keratosis pilaris for most of my life, I know how upsetting it can be when you get a bad bout. It’s a very Irish affliction, by all accounts, and mostly reveals itself as bumpy and unevenly textured skin on the backs of arms, backs of thighs, sides of the face and sometimes on the bum cheeks.

Reader, I have all of that and more. I’ve even recently started to feel it creep onto my forearms.

Flare-up factors


While keratosis pilaris is generally a genetic thing, a flare-up can be caused by anything. A change in weather, a change in hydration levels, an increased amount of stress. Whatever the reason for the flare-up, counteracting it quickly is key.

For a long while, I kept a keratosis pilaris diary and would just note down on my phone what seemed to be happening around the time I flared up. For me, stress is a big trigger, as are overly hot showers. Your triggers might other things, but it’s worth noting them so you can avoid them (where possible) around times where you might want your skin to be playing ball - hello, summer holiday and wedding season.

Dos and Don’ts

Here are some things to keep in mind if your KP is getting out of hand.

Lower the temperature of your shower water. Overly hot showers might feel great but they tend to dehydrate your skin and can strip natural oils.

Be tempted to scrub your KP patches. The gentler you are with the area, the better for your skin. Avoid body brushing and scrubbing with a loofah.

Use a glycolic acid wash, if you have one. I really like this one from Neostrata.


NeoStrata Foaming Glycolic Wash – NeoStrata®

Neostrata Resurface Foaming Glycolic Wash, €32

Moisturise. KP isn’t blocked pores, so moisturising isn’t going to do any harm. What it will do, however, is soften the keratin plugs so they don’t feel as bumpy.

Panic. If stress is one of your triggers, adding to it by worrying is unlikely to help the situation.

Photography by Jason Lloyd Evans.

Read more: How I sorted my KP so I could bare my arms on my wedding day


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