What is keratosis?
Keratosis refers to an overgrowth of keratin on the skin. There are three different types that the term keratosis might be referring to, all slightly different in character.
Keratosis pilaris or KP are tiny bumps of hardened keratin in the skin, which result in rough, bumpy patches on the upper arms, legs or buttocks. They’re totally harmless and normal, but can be uncomfortable or annoying. Management strategies include bathing in warm water and using body oils on the area, avoiding irritant toiletries and making sure your living environment isn’t too dry.
You can’t scrape KP off, but you can try using a gentle natural scrub to smooth the roughness.
Actinic keratosis or AK are small patches of skin damaged by long-term sun exposure or tanning beds. They appear on areas of the body that haven’t been protected from UV light: the forehead, lips, ears, scalp, backs of hands, lower arms and upper chest. They can be wart-like in appearance, and rough, gritty or scaly in texture. AK can sting, itch or burn. They’re usually removed as a precaution, as they can very rarely develop into cancerous squamous cell carcinoma.
Many AK resolve on their own and don’t need treatment, although all cases of AK need monitoring by a medical professional because of the risk of them becoming cancerous. They are usually removed with photodynamic creams, cryotherapy or surgical excision.
Trying to scrape them yourself off can risk infection or permanent damage, and is unlikely to get rid of them permanently, as they have a tendency to reappear in the same spot, as the damage to skin cells is at a deeper level than surface.
Seborrheic keratosis or SK is a benign (ie non-cancerous) condition that causes waxy, hyperpigmented growths on the surface of the skin, particularly on the chest and back, though they can affect the face too. SK are usually brown and raised, ranging in tone from tan to dark brown. Although harmless, SK can be uncomfortable, itchy and cause sufferers to feel self-conscious or distressed if the SK is somewhere visible. If appropriate, doctors can remove SK with surgery, cryotherapy and topical medications.
Some people do scrape SK off by themselves, though not all doctors would recommend it! The risk of doing it yourself is that you could cause bleeding, more damage to the skin, and are also making yourself vulnerable to infection.
It is always worth getting a proper medical diagnosis of any kind of skin growth, and noticing any change in texture or sensation of your skin.
It is not always easy to tell different conditions apart, or know which is dangerous and which benign.
Moisturising your skin with intensive, non-irritant creams or salves can help keep your skin in good, healthy condition, even if you need medical treatment to remove actinic or seborrheic keratosis as well. Natural emollients can help soften and smooth itchy, rough patches, nourish depleted or damaged skin, and can also support healing from any procedure to remove a lesion.
We advise customers not to apply oil-based balms like Skin Salvation to skin exposed to direct sunlight, as the high oil content can cause burning and we don’t add sunscreens to our products. Apply last thing at night instead!
Balmonds Skin Salvation
with hemp and beeswax
Balmonds Cooling Cream
with shea, menthol, aloe vera & lavender
Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream
with shea butter and calendula
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.