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Beauty Round Up

Beauty Round-Up

By Amalah

Dear darling ever-so-helpful Amy,

I’ve had red, bumpy skin on upper arms my whole life and, thus, have always avoided things like tank tops and strapless dresses. But recently, I lost a lot of weight and started trying to figure out if anything could be *done* about the red bumpiness so I could revel in cute, cute strappy dresses. However, all my research has turned up is that the condition is common, is called Keratosis, and there are whole lists of things that *could* be effective, but I have no idea which ones might be worth trying first.

And going to a dermatologist isn’t really financially do-able for me at the moment, so I’m *really* hoping one of the over the counter things will work wonders.

Any advice?

Advice Smackdown ArchivesOh goodness, I do not know. Googling only reveals how completely out of my depth I am with this one, because there are multiple kinds of keratosis and multiple things that *might* help, but might not, and if a trip to the dermatologist is out of the question because of finances, the LAST thing that would be helpful would be me rattling off a bunch of pricey gunk in tubes that might be completely useless. From what I can tell, if you DO want to go the OTC route, the key ingredients to look for would be 1) glycolic acid (found in a lot of peels and facial masks), 2) lactic acid (another alpha-hydroxy acid) and 3) vitamin A. You could certainly try random peels and masks on your arms, in the highest percentage of the active ingredient you think your skin can stand and see what happens. They are available in every price range and in this case, there’s no need to pay for fancy packaging or essential oils since we’re talking ARMS, not FACE, and really, all you’re after is the acid bit, and I can promise that 10.8% glycolic acid is the same in the drugstore brand as it is at the department store.

I came across this list of specific recommendations (and I’m guessing you’ve seen it as well in your own online research), and while I have used some of these products for different reasons (Eucerin, Dr. Brandt Pore Effect) and just plain like some of the other brands (LUSH, Philosophy), I have NO IDEA if any of them would actually help you get rid of your bumps. Readers? Anyone with experience? Recommendations? Let’s get our girl here into a sexy sundress already!

Hi Amy!

Love your column(who doesn’t ? )….. Which I religiously open up daily in office(and too ). Have finally decided to take the plunge and buy the philosophy ‘Hope in a Jar’ moisturizer. The problem was that I live in Kuwait currently and you don’t get that product here unfortunately. SO I got it shipped all the way from Amazon,US to Kuwait. I was so excited when it reached finally!. Now the thing is, when it arrived home the package was pretty hottish warm(by the way it’s 45 Celsius hot here in Kuwait!). And both the ‘Hope in a Jar’ and ‘Purity made simple’ were pretty warm. When i opened the ‘Hope in a Jar’, the moisturizer was very thin (it’s the same even after being in my room for two days,where it’s AC cold). Almost like a little thicker than milk maybe. I remember reading that it should be the consistency of mayonnaise. I went on to Youtube and some videos, showed the jar being held upside down and the cream looked stuck inside. If I did that, all my moisturizer would have fallen down. I just wanted to know, if my moisturizer has maybe gone bad, or is it how it is supposed to be. I have used it for two days. and haven’t had any reactions on my skin. It doesn’t look separated and the color isn’t yellowish. It’s white.

mm…. That’s all……..Sorry it’s so long, and u can edit it to the two lines that it’s probably worth……. But I do hope you can answer. Love reading about Noah and Ezra …….

Helpless in Kuwait.

Yep, it definitely sounds like SOMETHING happened to your moisturizer along the way — most likely the heat, as you’ve already suspected. If it is the original Hope in a Jar formula (NOT the one with SPF?), you should be looking at a very thick whipped-cream-like consistency.

What I don’t know, unfortunately, is whether the consistency change could indicate that the moisturizer is really “bad” or “damaged.” Or simply rendered useless — a watery tub of runny cream doesn’t sound particularly penetrating, I admit. My advice, even though you bought it from Amazon, is to contact Philosophy directly, either by phone or email. Explain your geographical problem, describe what happened to your product and see what they have to say about whether you should keep using it, or if there’s maybe some whacky recommendation, like putting the jar in the freezer or adding beeswax or rosin (these are popular thickening agents used in homemade moisturizers and lotions, if you think you can get your hands on some).

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Amy

    August 13, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    My daughter has the red bumps on her arms too…we took her to the dermatologist and she said the only sure cure is moving to Hawaii…we live in Denver.

    The key is to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. The best stuff is lotions with urea in it. Eucerin has one called Intensive Therapy Plus or something like that.

  • Hannah

    August 13, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Re: the first question on the bumps

    I, too, have them, and found Paula Begoun’s website, information, and 2% BHA lotion very effective. The problem is that these are like little tiny arm pimples, and the AHA lotions (what Amalah, who is awesome, so sorry for the disagreement, recommended) are only effective to exfoliate the surface of the skin. So they’ll help, insofar as your skin will be less rough, but they won’t get out the pimple-y part. For that, you need a BHA product (salicylic acid) to get into the pore and bust up the oil and gunk clogging it. There are a couple lotions that you can buy, but I just buy hers, because it’s not too expensive and it works.

    Of course, don’t then get pregnant (like I did) and have your hormones go all wack-a-doo (like I did) and then end up having the little bumps All Over, Yes, Even On My Butt. Ugh. Because then, although the BHA works, you’re just so disgusted in general that you don’t care.

  • Amy in StL

    August 13, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Okay, this probably isn’t that helpful on the bumps; but it’s maybe hopeful…. I used to have those; and they went away.

    I didn’t use anything special on them; I actually started a routine where I don’t wash parts of my body that aren’t dirty. I wash my bum, my girl bits and my pits. I use Purity on my face and shampoo my hair. If I’ve been somewhere and gotten dirty, (I have a job where I’m sometimes digging in soil for a couple hours) I use Ivory soap on those parts too.
    I noticed one summer day that my arms had cleared up, I also notice in the winter I don’t really get dry skin like I used to so I don’t have to moisturize all over so often either.
    I’m not some kind of earthy hippy, I have an office job most days; I just thought i should share what worked for me. Even though it’s kinda wacky.

  • tasterspoon

    August 13, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Hannah’s probably right about the BHA vs AHA, but if you’re looking for AHAs on the cheap, you can slather yourself in (fresh) papaya or pineapple trimmings.

  • Holly

    August 13, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    I have those red bumps too. Have tried various lactic acid creams, Rx from the derm, etc. What helped the most is kind of along the lines of Amy in StL – I used to use a loofah with body wash EVERYDAY. I stopped doing that – I just lather up with Dove bar soap in my hands, and wash that way. I use Eucerin SPF 15 daily lotion after showering since I live in So Cal, and need some sort of daily SPF even though I’m only outside for a handful of minutes most days. I think the loofah was too aggravating on those bumps. There is still a hint of them – but my arms feel smooth at least.

  • stephanie

    August 13, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    I also get the little red bumps and use KP Duty by Dermadoctor. it is not cheap, but a little goes a long way and it works for me. I put it on my arms before I jump in the shower every couple of days or so. Sephora carries it, so if you can afford it you may want to buy it to try it and can always return it if it doesn’t show any signs of improvement after a few weeks. There may be less expensive versions of the same thing out there, but I haven’t done any searching.

    After I shower, I use AmLactin on areas that are prone to body acne, and found out coincidentally that it also helps with the little red bumps. (In fact, I learned about AmLactin from a comment on Advice Smackdown!) I found mine in my local drugstore.

  • Val

    August 13, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    That sounds like Keratosis Pilaris. I’ve had this pretty bad all my life. Depending on how bad it is, you need a lotion that breaks down keratin. Sunlight does this also, even if you have sunscreen on, so that’s not a terrible option. If you go to the doc, they’ll likely give you a chalky lotion with uric acid, which I hated and refused to use. However, I’ve had a lot of success with the shea butter scrub from Body Shop. Follow up with your regular cheapy Vaseline lotion, like aloe or shea butter (if you like to match). KP Duty is also nice but more expensive. Sloughs it off and gives a nice moist feeling.

    And KP goes away as you age. Another reason to like 30 🙂

  • Amy

    August 13, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    My daughter has Keratosis Pilaris, and we saw a dermatologist for it. She prescribed Ammonium Lactate (12%) lotion, which is a prescription. It sounds like there’s also a non-prescription strength out there, from reading the other comments.

    We used it exactly once (which sucks because it was $50 AFTER insurance!!) because it burned my daughter’s skin. What kind of sick witch prescribes a lotion that’s going to burn to a 4 year old!?!

    But if you want to try it, you might be able to get your regular physician to prescribe it for you. No need to see a specialist. I’d send you mine, if it weren’t highly illegal. 😉

    In lieu of the burning lotion, our regular doc said to try Eucerin on it after every bath. I haven’t noticed any improvement, but then again, we’re pretty bad about remembering to use it.

    Lactic acid is in milk, so maybe frequent milk baths are in order? You definitely want to keep it moisturized.

    As for the not-using-soap advice, I have DEFINITELY noticed that my daughter’s skin gets worse when we bathe her more often. It’s been awful all summer with being in pools and whatnot. Wash as little as possible, use as little soap as possible, and let what you use be gentle and mild.

    Personally, I don’t use soap unless I’m dirty, either, and I don’t have any weird skin problems. My husband is a religious lots-of-hot-water-and-soap showerer, and his skin is dry dry dry. I buy the most moisturizing body wash I can find for him, but it doesn’t help if you’re stripping the natural oils off of your skin every day. French women don’t use soap, and they don’t wrinkle. 🙂

  • Julie

    August 13, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    OK..on the bumps, I’ve got em. Always have – the back of my arms, the back of my upper legs, and yes, my rear, some, too. Ugh. I HATE it. Sometimes it is referred to as “Chicken Skin”, which…ew. I read up on it and forked over the money for the KP Duty lotion, and it seemed to work pretty well at reducing the bumps – it is a very thick, very creamy lotion. But it is expensive! After I ran out of it, and didn’t use anything for a while, the bumps because just as bad as they used to be. So I decided to just try using, everyday after my morning shower, a ‘non-specialized’, very thick body cream. Not runny lotion, but something more intense. And I have found that doing that works just about the same as the KP lotion did. For me, it really seems to come down to super- moisturization. (Currently I am using Sephora’s whipped body butter that comes in a tub.) I put it all over my arms and legs and derriere, and it does seem to help, but I have to use it consistently or the bumps just come back (and they don’t ever seem to really go away totally for me, unfortunately, the moiusturization just helps lessen them.) Hope this helps!

  • Suzy Q

    August 13, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    L’Oreal used to make a great product for the arm bumps. Of course, it’s been discontinued. You could try using some facial exfoliator with teeny particles a few times a week followed up with Curel Intensive. Curel seems to cure (ha! see what I did there?) just about anything skin-related. This is what I do and it works pretty well. I started using Curel all over for my dry skin after Amalah recommended it, so you just know it’ll be good!

  • Christine

    August 13, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Ah…darn Keratosis Pilaris. I’m 26 and have pretty much had it my whole life. Back as a teen, my dr. prescribed some Lac lotion, probably like the one already mentioned in an above comment. I think it helped smooth, but didn’t solve the problem. I tried the Eucerin with AHA and urea (forget the exact formulation) and it made the problem WORSE. Still mad that I spent $10 on that and can’t get it back. I went back to what I had been using — Curel Ultra Healing. I don’t think it has AHA or urea in it, but it’s been my best bet so far. You can still see a lot of spots, but at least they’re not the big raised ones that really do look like whiteheads. And as long as I use it daily, 98% smooth arms.

  • CoCo

    August 13, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    I also suffer from the unsightly red bumps on my arms. I agree that they are slightly embarrassing but I’ve never known what to do about them so I’ve always let them be and avoided wearing sleeveless attire in day light.

    Recently, my work sent me to a tropical island for 6 months (I know, woe is me) and I began using Avon’s Skin So Soft to prevent noseeum bites. The red bumps disappeared and I assumed that maybe I grew out of them?

    When I returned back to the States, I ran out of Skin So Soft and the red bumps re-appeared. I once again began avoiding sleeveless attire in daylight. Last month, I went to the local Avon store to purchase more SSS since I really did like how soft it made my skin and like magic the red-bumps disappeared again. I don’t know if there is something special in the SSS or if it’s the level of moisturizing that the SSS provides that keeps the red bumps away. All I know is that it works and it keeps my skin soft so I need not question.

    PS – I apply the SSS directly to my skin once a day after I shower and right before bed. It does leave me slightly oily but I put on my comfy pajamas that cover my legs and have never had a problem with getting the oily residue on my very expensive sheets.

  • Christine

    August 13, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Dang, I had this nice comment typed out, and apparently it never took. In short — had KP on my upper arms as long as I can remember. The Rx Lac lotion was meh, the Eucerin with AHA and urea made it much worse, and Curel Ultra Healing, while not helping so much with the appearance, has greatly reduced the actual bumps. No more nasty whitehead-looking things on my arms. 98% smooth.

  • Beth

    August 13, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    I have Keratosis too. It’s not totally gone, but it’s highly minimized by 1. EXFOLIATION. I use a louffa and a body scrub with crushed pomegranate seeds. 2. Moisture! I find that shea butter is good, really anything like that. I also find that more expensive lotions with more (not all) natural ingredients work better: bath & body works type lotion.

    Most dermatologists will tell you that it’s genetic and nothing will make it go away forever though.

  • Julie

    August 14, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Wow- so many of us with the dreaded Keratosis Pilaris!  In my family, those of us ‘blessed’ with KP call it “arm-ne.”  I’ve had it for most of my life and it hasn’t really improved with age, but I’ve learned to manage it.  Much like Beth, I find that regular exfoliation (I use the CVS version of St. Ives scrub in the shower) and then moisturizing really helps.  And periodic sun exposure seems to minimize it too, but it’s tricky to sun the backs of one’s arms.  The KP Duty lotion has been helpful but not necessary for me and my female cousin tells me good things about AmLactin lotion for her KP symptoms.  Good luck!

  • Kristi

    August 14, 2010 at 5:56 am

    I’ve got the same problem on my upper arms and one thing that worked for me (and which I haven’t seen mentioned yet) was drinking a glass of fresh carrot juice every day. Apparently the vitamin A in carrots should help. They came back when I stopped drinking it religiously but it might be worth a try if you like the taste of carrots.

  • Carole D

    August 14, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Melaleucas Gold bar soap. Worked to end my daughters battle with skin problems. Made with tea tree oil. Doesnt get any easier or more down to earth and natural products then this. I also use Eucerin at night after baths to moisturize. Worked for us, maybe it will work for you and the investment is minimal. Around $5 a bar. I use it in the shower for face and body. Keeps pimples and acne problems at bay too.

  • Laura

    August 14, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    I wash in the shower with Burt’s Bees exfoliating wash that has Royal Jelly, and then follow up with a ammonium lactate cream on my upper arms. this has really helped a lot, even if it hasn’t ELIMINATED the red bumps. Also, I didn’t need to see a dermatologist for the cream. My regular (general practice) doctor prescribed it after showing her my arms- check with your doctor to make sure they won’t do the same.

  • Jenn

    August 15, 2010 at 3:14 am

    Using St. Ives medicated apricot scrub with every showe and generic Amlactin lotion ar night work for me. Once they the bumps are gone, I alternate use of Amlactin with another lotion that has AHAs. There’s a Suave one that’s worked for me, I just can’t remember the name. Cheap solution that has pretty much banished my chicken skin.

  • AmyB

    August 15, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Ahhh, KP…what a beyotch it is. Here’s the combo that has worked for me: 1. I switched from plastic loofahs to washcloths. Loofahs can be bacteria traps, and that doesn’t help anything. 2. I switched from regular sulfate-laden body washes to Dr. Bronner’s castile soap. I know it’s hippy-tastic, but I think in my case, the sulfates were a real problem. 3. 2x per week, I exfoliate all over with Tree Hut Shea Sugar body scrub. You can get this at Target or Ulta. 4. I use Eucerin Plus Smoothing Essentials. And lo! Everything is so much better now! Good luck to you : )

  • Liz

    August 16, 2010 at 10:23 am

    I have KP on my upper arms. The hardest part for me is to not squeeze the bumps, because even though it’s sooo satisfying to see the little plug pop out of my skin, it always always leaves a scab. I use Alpha Hydrox 10% lotion, and it really helps, but I have to be religious about using it every single day.

  • Lisa M

    August 16, 2010 at 10:57 am

    I don’t have KP, but my husband and youngest son do, so I’ve got good cheap suggestions.

    1st, if you use a powder laundry detergent, switch to liquid. If you already use liquid, try something gentler with less harsh chemicals in it (the just irritate the red spots more).
    2nd, as mentioned above, go back to washcloths. You don’t have to give up the body wash, just the loofah.
    3rd, curel. Yep, one of hte cheapest lotions out there, but it does wonders. Go for the unscented if you can find it.
    If it doesn’t improve within 2 weeks, look into the more expensive lotions and suggestions out there.
    Good luck…that stuff can be tough to get rid of, unless you eliminate all irritants.

  • Bonnie

    August 16, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    For the keratosis, to rule out the effectiveness of lactic acid, try plain yogurt! I got a recipe for a face masque once that recommended yogurt because of the lactic acid. It’s probably a heckuva lot cheaper than anything in a tube!

  • Jenn

    August 16, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Does anyone know – would a tanning bed have the same effect as the sun? I never realized it until I was reading these comments, but my horrible horrible KP has been almost perfectly tracked to never being able to go out in the sun anymore. I probably could sneak into a tanning salon a couple of times a week, but i don’t want to do it if it won’t help.

  • Katy

    August 16, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    Regarding the arm bumps, I have them, too, and I have found Neutrogena Body Clear Body Scrub to be very helpful.

  • Christine

    August 19, 2010 at 3:56 am

    I had the bumpy upper arms (and never really bothered trying to do anything about them), but I realised that pregnancy/breastfeeding has totally cleared them up. They’ll probably come back once I wean. But this leads me to think it’s sometimes hormonal so there isn’t much you can do about that.

  • Robyn

    August 19, 2010 at 11:27 am

    My husband (and much of his family) has KP on his upper arms, and I whole-heartedly second (third?) the recommendation for exfoliation plus moisture. He started scrubbing his arms in the shower every day, and then applies the AmLactin cream to his arms 1-2 times per day, and it has significantly reduced the appearance of the bumps. Unfortunately, the lotion is expensive and he has found that he has to continue scrubbing and applying the lotion to keep the bumps at bay – ie, it’s not a cure, unfortunately.

  • Lucy

    August 20, 2010 at 8:38 am

    I find that the bumps on your arms need to be treated really gently – it’s dry skin rather than greasy. I used scrubs and more aggressive treatments for years to no avail, but have found the best treatment is Cocoa Butter. This one also contains lactic acid:

  • Lucy

    August 20, 2010 at 9:05 am

    I’ve found that even thought the bumps look spotty, the skin needs to be treated as dry, rather than greasy. Cocoa butter does the trick for me, rather than being too aggressive with scrubs, etc. This one has lactic acid in its ingredients too:

  • Brittany

    August 20, 2010 at 9:12 am

    I have had red bumps my whole life but I was never taken to a dermatologist. I am 25 now and finally took myself. So I just found out I have KP. I found out I am a rareity.I have it all over my whole body including bum and face which is rare. I am covered head to toe. This has been a very detramental thing to me my whole life. I can remember going home from school crying from getting made fun of. I also remember when we got a new kid in school and the first thing he said to me was, “What’s wrong with your face?” So I forked over the money for the KP Duty and I pray it works. As for the person who asked about tanning beds YES it works. tanning is the only thing that helps me but it’s also bad for you so I feel like I am in a loose/loose situation.

  • angie

    August 20, 2010 at 9:54 am

    I have the bumps too. Dermatologist said the red will never go away, but it can be smoother. They suggested Amlactin, a lotion that is available over the counter.

  • Laura

    August 20, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    I have had the same bumps all my life. They have mostly gone away with age but the redness never has. When I wear sleeveless stuff I put this on ( Its for legs and it is a makeup of sorts but its light and natural and you can’t tell if you get a good color for your skin. I’m very pale and it works for me. It won’t stain your clothes and stays on all day.

  • Kate

    August 26, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    I think I might be the first person to address the SECOND question (although my best friends does have KP on her arms, which is irrelevant to this comment, really, but there you go).
    So, I have always ordered my Hope in a Jar from, b/c I would rather be lazy and have it ship rather than truck to town (45 minutes) to buy some at the mall. I’m super.
    ANYWAY, the product was always runny and just seemed a little…off. Too greasy kind of, or watery. I ordered it twice then decided to nix it- too expensive to be that runny and discolored and just generally not-awesome. I was perplexed at Amy’s description of a thick, whipped cream-like substance, because, WTF? Mine never looked like that. So as a result of reading this column, I finally did make the grueling trip to buy some from the Sephora itself, and holy cow, it’s GREAT! It is thick and creamy and lovely and works way better than the stuff I had ordered online. I definitely will not be ordering this specific product online anymore, I’ll just have to get my ass into the car and go git it mahself.

  • Maria

    July 27, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Oh, the red bumps are most probably Kiratosis Pilaris. You can get rid of them with proper exfoliation and follow up with a treatment for sensitive skin. What I know to be highly effective  (and it is a little pricey but no prescription needed and there’s a 60 day money back guarantee) is Rodan and Fields Microdermabrasion Paste followed by Rodan + Fields Soothe #2 Sensitive Skin treatment. The Soothe #2 can also be used to help “soothe” exzema, rashes, and psoriasis, so it’s definitely a worthy buy.

    Hope this helps!