Though I don't talk about it often, I've been living with Keratosis pilaris for the entirety of my life, and every year I've had it has been another year I've hated it. And now that I'm a mom, I hate my little "sidekick" Keratosis pilaris (KP) even more because unfortunately, I've passed it on to my kids. According to the Mayo Clinic, Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition that causes dry, rough patches and tiny bumps on your upper arms, cheeks, butt, and thighs. It's harmless, and the bumps typically don't hurt or itch. Growing up, I honestly thought that everyone had little red dots on the back of their arms that looked like gross pimples. KP has a genetic component to it, and my entire family's skin is littered with the condition dubbed "chicken skin" for its goosebump-esque appearance, except in my case, chicken skin would be a nice feature. My KP is pretty severe and looks nothing like chicken skin. It looks more like a disgusting rash that covers the entire length of my arm, along with some on the top of legs. It's gross, and has made me incredibly self-conscious.
My KP is made even worse, however, because I pick at it. To be honest, my skin-picking is another whole problem in itself (and another story for another day). In short, my KP is bad and affects my entire life. I never wear short-sleeved shirts and I shop specifically for what I consider my "signature style" shirt — 3/4-length sleeves that will effectively cover the majority of the damage. I've always longed to wear sleeveless dresses and have always thought that women who can bare their arms and shoulders without a second thought are the most beautiful, elegant creatures alive simply because I could never dare.
My embarrassment about my arms has always been one of my biggest struggles. Not only do I view my arms as one of my "trouble spots," but then to have them riddled with disgusting red pimples all the time? Because of my condition, I not-so-secretly dread summer and am grateful to live in a state where it's freezing most of the year because I have the excuse to hide my arms away.
My Keratosis pilaris hurts the most in the small moments, like last week, when my husband and I took our kids to a waterpark. As my daughter and I reached the top of the slide, which was encased in a huge glass dome building with the sun filtering in brightly, I caught sight of my arms in my bathing suit and I was horrified by their appearance: red, oozing bumps littered with white scars from years and years of my abuse to my skin.
I try hard not to let my KP affect me to the point where I hide away from my life, but the truth is, I do. And even more than the physical embarrassment is the amount of self-loathing it invokes. Hating a part of your body so much messes with your mind a lot, and I know it's caused my struggle with skin-picking and overall acceptance with my body.
My Keratosis pilaris hurts the most in the small moments, like last week, when my husband and I took our kids to a waterpark. As my daughter and I reached the top of the slide, which was encased in a huge glass dome building with the sun filtering in brightly, I caught sight of my arms in my bathing suit and I was horrified by their appearance: red, oozing bumps littered with white scars from years and years of my abuse to my skin. Or like this morning, when my husband went to kiss my shoulder when my bathrobe slipped down at breakfast and paused when he saw the tell-tale bumps on my arm, littered with fresh scars. Though he likely meant nothing by it, I wanted to melt away in embarrassment.
Even though my children are little, at least two of them are already displaying signs of KP and it breaks my heart that they will ever feel embarrassed by their own skin condition. I worry that their embarrassment may even trigger skin-picking like it's done to me. I hate the thought that I've passed on such a worthless and harmful gene to my kids. And even though I recognize that KP isn't inherently harmful, it still absolutely sucks.
These days, I am trying hard to manage my condition. I actually started taking fish oil supplements daily after reading that sometimes, the Omega-3 in fish oil can help treat Keratosis pilaris. Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but I feel like I've already noticed an improvement after a month of using the oil. Even though it's still there, the bumps are much less visible, and with less bumps, I feel less likely to pick at them, which helps reduce the damage as well. When I briefly stopped routinely taking the fish oil, I felt like my KP immediately flared up again. So even though you can't exactly cure Keratosis pilaris, I'm absolutely an oil convert.
I'm trying hard to manage my KP now before my daughters get to the ages where they become self-conscious about their own skin. I hope to have a few tools in my back pocket to show them that it's not a big deal, that can be managed, and that having Keratosis pilaris doesn't have to affect your entire life. The only problem is that I have to first learn those lessons for myself.