Keratosis pilaris is a fancy name for an un-fancy condition. Keratosis pilaris is commonly called “chicken skin” – because that’s exactly what it looks like. It presents as small, hard bumps, which are often inflamed or red and dry, on the upper arms. Other common locations are the back, thighs, buttocks, and face. Most websites recommend topical cures for keratosis pilaris treatment. They recommend exfoliating and moisturizing (which can help).
The absolute most important thing to know about keratosis pilaris treatment is that it absolutely must start from the inside.
You may be able to make small changes to the quality of your skin with external factors, but you will never experience long-term freedom from keratosis pilaris without address the underlying conditions in your body that cause it to make the keratosis pilaris in the first place.
The secret to keratosis pilaris treatment:
The secret truth to keratosis pilaris, which regrettably almost no one knows, is that it is primarily a result of nutrient deficiencies.
Many nutrients play a role in skin health. Yet there are three nutrients that are critically important for the quality of your skin:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K
You need vitamins A, D, and K (the “fat soluble” vitamins) for so many body functions it’s impossible to count. One of the primary functions is membrane maintenance. The skin needs these fat soluble nutrients in order to have healthy membranes (which are made out of fat).
All three of these vitamins are vanishingly rare in the modern diet.
This vitamin is rare because even though you think you might be getting it every time you eat a carrot (the packaging always says “good source of vitamin A!”), you are unfortunately being misled. Carrots do not have vitamin A in them. Neither do any other plant foods. What these foods have in them instead is beta carotene.
Beta carotene can be converted into vitamin A in your intestines by gut flora (here’s a great probiotic and great probiotic foods that can help with that). If you do not have the right gut flora it just won’t happen. Unfortunately that’s the case for a lot of people today. Gut flora just aren’t as robust as they could be.
So many people are deficient in vitamin A. The only robust source of true vitamin A in the diet is organ meat, particularly liver. Most people cringe at the idea of eating liver. Yet ancestral human cultures prized the liver above almost all other parts of the animal. Presumably this is because they figured out how important it is for health. If you cannot stomach the idea of eating liver a couple of times a month (but you should because it’s delicious), you can try a desiccated liver supplement like this one, which is my favorite.
You can also obtain vitamin A from cod liver oil, which is actually a better supplement for absorbing vitamin A specifically because oil is the right form for a fat soluble vitamin. (Desiccated liver is the best for a lot of other nutrients, though, including the rare and important choline).
This is the healthiest, most nourishing cod liver oil supplement on the market today.
Vitamin D is so rare today because people don’t get outside enough. The main source of vitamin D for the human body is sun exposure. The body synthesizes vitamin D upon exposure to UV rays (and without SPF).
In human history, people spent nearly all of their time outdoors. Today, people are lucky if they get a few hours outside once or twice a week. This is a huge difference, and it shows.
Vitamin D deficiency is an incredible epidemic, and it doesn’t just affect skin health, but also immune system health, your ability to fight off cancer, your gut health, and your mood. This deficiency is one of the major causes of depression, especially in the winter months.
You can enhance your vitamin D status by making sure to get 20 minutes of noontime sun exposure every day (at minimum), or by taking either a vitamin D supplement like this one, or the cod liver oil supplement I mentioned above. The cod liver oil kills two birds with one stone (and we shall see in a moment, actually three).
Keratosis pilaris is often at its worst in the winter months because there is less sunlight in the winter time, Most people guess that this is because the air is drier in the winter. This is true – it’s important. But it’s not the whole story. What many people, including dermatologists, are not aware of is that keratosis pilaris is highly dependent upon vitamin D production.
Even if you get sunlight in the summertime, it’s important to take care of yourself with the supplements I mentioned above in the wintertime!
Finally, vitamin K is rare in the diet today for a few reasons. One is that people do not eat organ meats anymore, and organ meats are one of the only good sources of vitamin K2.
Another reason is that most animals today are raised on grain products and other random bits of food instead of grass. Yet grass is the natural diet for cows, bison, and other ruminants. The highest quality beef comes from cows that eat grass specifically because it enables them to make the right nutrients that they need.
Vitamin K2 can be found in grass-fed butter, but it cannot be found in grain-fed butter. So you can boost your vitamin K (K2, specifically) intake by getting some grass-fed butter in your diet. If you cannot do that, then you may definitely want to consider that cod liver oil supplement I mentioned earlier. Because not only does it have cod liver oil and vitamins A and D in it, but it also has high quality butter oil added, which is rich in vitamin K.
This is how fermented cod liver oil kills three birds with one stone.
More dietary changes that can help with keratosis pilaris treatment
Vitamins A, D, and K are the most important vitamins for supporting healthy skin and eliminating keratosis pilaris. I cannot tell you the number of people I know who have added fermented cod liver oil to their daily routines and significant improved their keratosis pilaris, if not gotten rid of it completely.
Yet there are other ways to help with keratosis pilaris with your diet:
- Focus on nutrient density
- Eliminate inflammatory foods
- Consume an appropriate amount of fat and carbs for your body
The most nutrient dense foods are:
- organ meats
- grass-fed butter (or ghee, like this jar)
- cold water fish like salmon
- vegetables and fruits
Greens in particular pack a great punch, though really a robust variety of vegetables can really do you wonders.
So it is important to include these foods in your diet on a regular basis. I recommend eating at least one or two eggs every day, at least two servings of green vegetables a day, at least one serving of fermented foods like these amazingly tasty snacks every day, organ meat at least twice a month, and fish at least 2-4 times a month.
Beyond simply adding nutrient-dense foods to your diet, it is also incredibly important to eliminate foods that block nutrient absorption.
The most nutrient-blocking food out there, by far, is grain.
Grain products – breads, pasta, cereal, etc. – contain a high amount of a group of molecules called phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are insidious. They bind with nutrients your body needs, like calcium, in your gut, and flush it out with your feces.
If you eat a bowl of kale, but then have a piece of bread, you will absorb significantly less kale nutrients than if you ate the kale alone. This is a very real thing, and it has tragic effects on everybody’s health on a regular basis.
Other foods that have relatively high amounts of phytonutrients in them are legumes and nuts. Fortunately, if you soak and sprout your legumes, nuts, and grains (here’s a guide on how to do it), you reduce the phytonutrient content and can eat them relatively safely.
Yet that is a time consuming process and most people do not do it. If you don’t take the time to do it, you may wish to avoid grains most of the time. This will significantly help your body absorb the nutrients it needs.
One major way your skin can get bumpy, be too dry or too oily, and become red or discolored is from inflammation caused by food.
The most inflammatory foods are trans fats, omega 6 vegetable oils (vegetable oil, canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, wheat germ oil, and the like), added sugars, and grains. These are all common in processed foods.
Do your best to avoid processed foods, fried foods, desserts, and grains. This could go a long way toward healing your skin… and not just your keratosis pilaris the rest of your body, too!
And one final dieting tip: protein sparing
Sometimes people eat perfectly healthy diets and still struggle with keratosis pilaris. What gives?
One of the most important things I did for my own keratosis pilaris treatment (in addition to getting adequate vitamins A, D, and K by taking this supplement), was reduce the amount of protein that I eat.
I don’t recommend that everybody reduce their protein intake. Protein intake, for women at least, should be around 50-100 grams of protein every day. That’s the equivalent of about 2-4 cans of tuna, for a size reference. If your diet contains that range, you are probably all set.
I personally used to eat at the high end of that range, sometimes higher. I cut my protein intake down to about 50 grams a day and the bumps on my skin reduced dramatically. Protein is involved in a lot of “building up” type of processes in the body, and plays an important role in keratin production.
So this is probably not the solution for most people. For people who eat high protein diets, which is common on paleo, it is definitely something worth considering.
Topical treatments for keratosis pilaris are not the most important thing, but they can certainly help.
There are two helpful things to do: exfoliate well, and moisturize.
You can use a loofa or clean, organic sponge to exfoliate in the shower. (This kind is my favorite).
Yet it might be best if you do dry exfoliating. Dry brushing not only helps remove old, dry skin, which is what you do in the shower, but it also helps activate the lymphatic system. This s great for stimulating the immune system and boosting your body’s healing capacities.
If on your arms, brush in an upward moisture, to get lymph moving in the best direction for immune health.
Use a great, organic, feels-so-good-omg brush like this one.
Moisturizing well can help with keratosis pilaris treatment, though it is last on the list after adjusting your diet, supplementing well, and exfoliating.
There are many different moisturizers you could try, yet the best moisturizers for keratosis pilaris are ones that contain vitamins in them.
My favorite moisturizer on the whole planet, and believe me when I say I’ve tried most of them, is this Green Pasture’s Beauty Balm. It contains vitamins A, D, and K in it, as well as the anti-microbial coconut oil.
I apply the balm only to my face and to the back of my arms (where the shadows of my keratosis pilaris were/are) in order to save it for those areas where I need it most. You can get it on Amazon here. It’s the most nourishing moisturizer around, relatively inexpensive, and so, so, so great for skin.
Many people offer different tricks to help cure keratosis pilaris. Yet the one most important thing about keratosis pilaris is the one that they are missing out on:
It’s that you need nutrients – and specifically vitamins A, D, and K – in order to truly overcome it for good, which you can get from the foods I mentioned above. You can also get all three of them from this one supplement, Fermented Cod Liver Oil (in capsules).
You can also get all the missing nutrients you really need from liver from a desiccated liver supplement.
What about you? What did you do for your keratosis pilaris treatment? Do you have any thoughts, tips, or tricks that I missed? I’d love to learn from your experiences!