I was 12 years old when I first noticed the little red bumps that sprinkled my thighs and crept down my calves. I thought almost nothing of them at the time, writing them off as insignificant. They were annoying, yes, but my mom also had them, so I carried on with my Arthur- and Dunkaroo-filled days instead of worrying. Until, that is, I got to high school. At that point, I grew increasingly aware of and insecure about the rough patches, and immediately turned to a strict wardrobe of band tees (I was a really big MCR fan) and jeans to keep the attention off my lower half, which helps explain the neon-white hue my legs have taken on through the years. There was no way I would be showcasing my stems in flirty dresses or miniskirts sans tights.
Although I had done my fair amount of amateur research in high school and college, it wasn't until recently (read: one month ago) that I officially got the diagnosis: Keratosis pilaris.
So, what is keratosis pilaris (KP) exactly? According to Dr. Jody Levine, N.Y.C.-based dermatologist and national medical director for AOB Med Spa, KP starts to form when there is a build-up of keratin, a protein that protects the skin from harmful stressors.
"When there is too much keratin, a scaly plug is formed that blocks the opening of hair follicles, which can cause patches of rough and bumpy skin," Levine tells InStyle. The skin condition is common among women, tends to run in families, and can show up on the legs, arms, back, and cheeks. Since people with dry, sensitive skin are more prone to KP, Levine advises to keep showers short and lukewarm, and to avoid over exfoliating, which can lead to irritation.
Although there is no cure for KP, there are skin-care products on the market that may help diminish the appearance of those red bumps, thanks to topical treatments that boast lactic acid, alpha-hydroxy acid, salicyclic acid, and urea. With these winning ingredients in mind, I scoured the web to find the most effective products that promote smoother skin, just in time for no-tights season. Thigh-grazing gingham dresses, here I come!
DERMAdoctor KP Duty Body Scrub ($46; sephora.com)
Akerat Smoothing Exfoliating Cream ($31; dermstore.com)
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration ($30; sephora.com)
Riivia Skincare MD Keratosis Pilaris Cream ($39; riivia.com)
Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction Pads ($40; ulta.com)