Keratosis Pilaris & PCOS
by Amy Medling, founder of PCOS Diva
Do some parts of your skin feel like sandpaper? Do they have small, hard bumps? If yes, chances are you have something called Keratosis Pilaris. For most people, Keratosis Pilaris is a condition that comes naturally and goes away on its own. However, women with PCOS are more prone to this condition.
While Keratosis Pilaris is more or less harmless by itself, it could be a sign of an underlying issue, especially if you have PCOS.
What is Keratosis Pilaris?
Keratosis Pilaris is a harmless skin condition characterized by the appearance of tiny bumps on the skin which many say are similar to goosebumps.
The bumps appearing on the skin are light in color and are more prominent on the upper arms, thighs, and butt areas. On rare occasions, these bumps are accompanied by redness or even swelling. The only real effects of this condition are itchiness and perhaps self-consciousness about their appearance.
Keratosis Pilaris is caused by a buildup of keratin. Keratin is a type of protein utilized by the body to protect our skin from infections and other harmful conditions. When keratin builds up, it clogs the opening of a hair follicle which then causes the said bumps.  That said, one study suggests keratosis pilaris isn’t simply a problem in keratin per se, but is sometimes caused by a hair shaft defect. 
PCOS and Keratosis Pilaris
While Keratosis Pilaris is no more harmful than a small rash, some say it could be a sign that something is wrong with your body. Coincidentally, there could be a connection between getting Keratosis Pilaris and with PCOS, with many PCOS patients saying they’ve had the skin condition for a long time before being diagnosed with PCOS.
PCOS patients, especially those with insulin resistance, are more prone to acne . When you are insulin resistant, your body has a tendency to increase sebaceous glands which then leads to increased sebum production. Bigger sebaceous glands also lead to what causes keratosis pilaris: abnormal follicular keratinization.
Leaky gut and Vitamin A deficiency
Lesser known causes of Keratosis Pilaris are leaky gut and vitamin A deficiency.
- Leaky gut syndrome, or simply leaky gut, is a condition where undigested food particles slip through the walls of your intestines into the bloodstream. Our immune system detects these particles as invaders, tries to fight them off, and causes inflammation.
In the case of leaky gut, keratosis pilaris might just be a physical manifestation of your body’s reaction to the food you ate.
- Vitamin A deficiency is linked to keratosis pilaris in people who are obese, insulin resistant, pregnant, in menopause, or malnourished. [3, 4] You may be surprised at the number of people deficient in Vitamin A because, other than liver, there are no good dietary sources of vitamin A. Carrots provide beta-carotene which is converted into vitamin A by the gut bacteria.
If your gut microbiome is poor or not efficient, as in the case of most people, you are at risk of being deficient in Vitamin A which also makes you more prone to keratosis pilaris.
What you can do about Keratosis Pilaris
If you have Keratosis Pilaris, here are some of the things to remember:
- Don’t scratch the bumps or rub your skin roughly. Studies confirm scratching repeatedly only worsens Keratosis Pilaris. 
- Use soaps with more oil or fat for moisture retention.
- Bathe in warm water, not hot.
- Apply thick moisturizers on your skin.
- Consider adding probiotics to your supplement routine to help combat leaky gut and aid in vitamin A conversion.
You may also try to use keratolytic agents that soften or thin the affected follicles as well as peelings, topical retinoids, or even the use of topical steroids. 
Amy Medling, best-selling author of Healing PCOS and certified health coach, specializes in working with women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), who are frustrated and have lost all hope when the only solution their doctors offer is to lose weight, take a pill, and live with their symptoms. In response, Amy founded PCOS Diva and developed a proven protocol of supplements, diet, and lifestyle programs that offer women tools to help gain control of their PCOS and regain their fertility, femininity, health, and happiness.
- Thomas M, Khopkar US. Keratosis pilaris revisited: is it more than just a follicular keratosis?. Int J Trichology. 2012;4(4):255-8.
- González-Saldivar G, Rodríguez-Gutiérrez R, Ocampo-Candiani J, González-González JG, Gómez-Flores M. Skin Manifestations of Insulin Resistance: From a Biochemical Stance to a Clinical Diagnosis and Management. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2016;7(1):37-51.
- Barth JH, Wojnarowska F, Dawber RP. Is keratosis pilaris another androgen-dependent dermatosis?. Clin Exp Dermatol. 1988;13(4):240-1.
- Yosipovitch G, Hodak E, Vardi P, et al. The prevalence of cutaneous manifestations in IDDM patients and their association with diabetes risk factors and microvascular complications. Diabetes Care. 1998;21(4):506-9.
- Lee DY, Yamasaki K, Rudsil J, et al. Sebocytes express functional cathelicidin antimicrobial peptides and can act to kill propionibacterium acnes. J Invest Dermatol. 2008;128(7):1863-6.
- Kaune KM, Haas E, Emmert S, Schön MP, Zutt M. Successful treatment of severe keratosis pilaris rubra with a 595-nm pulsed dye laser. Dermatol Surg. 2009;35(10):1592-5.