Bumps on your Arms?
A couple of people recently have asked me about small bumps on the backs of their arms – what they are, what causes this condition and what can they do about it. The official name for this common skin condition is Keratosis pilaris and it appears as rough, bumpy, sometimes red skin most often found on upper arms, thighs and sometimes even on the cheeks.
It occurs due to a hard protective protein found in skin, hair, and nails called keratin, which builds up, forms a plug blocking the opening of hair follicles. When these plugs, or bumps, become irritated it causes redness.
Keratosis pilaris is a hereditary condition that usually presents in childhood, often worsening during puberty and occasionally continuing into adulthood. Warm weather can cause improvement but the drier weather in winter will commonly exacerbate the condition by drying out skin and further blocking hair follicles. At this stage there is no completely effective treatment however there are a number of things you can do that will improve the overall look and feel of the skin:
- Dry skin exacerbates this condition so removing any surface dead skin cells will help to keep follicles clear and minimise roughness and bumps. Exfoliate or dry body brush 2-3 times a week. Be gentle as skin irritation can make it look worse. Avoid exfoliating already irritated or broken skin.
- Apply a daily moisturiser to minimise moisture loss from the skin. Use a lotion or cream rather than an oil. Oils will provide nourishment but they don’t tend to stop water evaporating from the skin surface. A lotion or cream with Shea or cocoa butter or jojoba oil (actually a liquid wax) will provide rich hydration.
- Avoid harsh body cleansers (no SLS). Use a gentle natural body wash to avoid stripping the natural oils from the skin and in fact, water will generally wash the area clean without the use of a cleanser. Only use cleanser on the affected area when necessary.
- Safe sun exposure can greatly reduce the appearance of bumps. Be sun safe and go out in the early morning or late afternoon. Limit yourself to 10-15 minutes.
- Nutritional status may play a role in the severity of the condition:
- Essential Fatty Acids will help to keep the skin hydrated and reduce inflammation – the Lemon Flax Drink is an ideal way to quickly increase your skin’s EFA content. Otherwise regular consumption of deep sea fish, nuts and seeds and green leafy vegetables will also improve EFA levels. A fish oils supplement is another alternative.
- The bumps have been linked to low levels of vitamin A and B12. Vitamin A comes from consuming Betacarotene-rich foods including any vegetable that contains yellow, orange or yellow pigment (pumpkin, sweet potato, capsicum etc). Vitamin B12 is found in red meat which eaten in moderation can help increase levels.
- Low grade dairy intolerance may also be related to the severity of redness and bumps. If you have other symptoms that may be related to dairy consumption it may be worthwhile avoiding it completely for at least 6 weeks to assess the impact on your skin.
If you experience Keratosis and have had good results with a particular treatment please comment so other readers can benefit from your experience.