10 Facts About Keratosis Pilaris From Dr. Pimple Popper

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Do you have tiny, red, rough bumps on your skin? You're not alone: The condition, known as keratosis pilaris, affects 80 percent of adolescents and 40 percent of adults. "It's one of the most common requests I get from people on social media and my YouTube channel," Dr. Sandra Lee, a.k.a. Dr. Pimple Popper, tells Mental Floss via email.

Lee created her new Body Smoothing System—which includes a body scrub and a lotion—in response to that feedback. "KP is such a common condition but there are not many products available over-the-counter that treat it specifically. Many people may not even know that they have keratosis pilaris and think that the bumps are acne or something else—so I really want to spread the word and educate on what this condition is as well as provide products that will help to control it." Here's what you need to know about KP from Dr. Pimple Popper herself.

1. THE CONDITION HAS A NICKNAME THAT'S FOR THE BIRDS.

The hallmark of KP is patches of small, rough, pimple-like bumps on the skin, according to Lee. It's caused by excessive production of a protein called keratin, which builds up until it plugs hair follicles (a.k.a. the pores) and causes those bumps to form. It's often called chicken skin because the condition resembles the skin of a plucked chicken.

2. IT RUNS IN FAMILIES.

What causes KP is unknown, but some reports suggest it's an autosomal dominant disorder, which means you only need to inherit one copy of the gene to get it. According to Lee, KP starts early—sometimes before a child is even 2—and flares up during adolescence. Thankfully, most KP fades by adulthood.

3. KP IS COMMONLY FOUND ON THE UPPER ARMS.

But that's not the only place it appears: KP can also be found on the front of the thighs, back, butt, or face. It can range in severity from just a few bumps to the majority of a particular area of the body.

4. THE BUMPS AREN'T ALWAYS RED.

KP bumps tend to be lighter and redder on fair skin, according to Lee. But they can also be white, pink, light purple, brown, or black—it all depends on the person's skin tone.

5. THERE ARE A FEW TYPES.

The type of KP varies depending on where on the body it's found. Beyond regular KP—which can either be rough, flesh-colored bumps or red, itchy bumps—according to Lee, there's one other variant to be aware of: keratosis pilaris rubra. It mostly affects teenage boys. The bumps are the same, but the skin is a bright, bright red.

6. IT'S WORSE IN THE WINTER.

Things like low humidity and cooler temperatures mean the skin is drier, which irritates KP. But it's not just winter weather that can cause KP to flare up. "Many people with KP will notice their condition worsen after they’ve spent time in the sun," Lee says. "This can be due to dryness that can worsen the bumps. In addition, unprotected sun exposure can also darken pigmentation and make KP more apparent on the skin."

7. THOSE WITH KP MIGHT WANT TO AVOID SELF TANNING.

It's not because self tanner is dangerous, Lee says, but "because KP lesions are hyperkeratotic," meaning the skin sticks up and is dry. "Self tanner will probably get stuck and collect in these areas, causing those areas to darken/stain more and then the KP would look more noticeable," she says. "Also, self tanner tends to dry the skin up more in general, so would probably aggravate your KP more, since KP has a lot to do with dry skin already."

If you really need to get that just-off-the-beach glow, Lee advises dabbing your KP with moisturizer or lotion "so that self tanner doesn't get caught in it, stain the area more, and make it more obvious."

8. IF YOU HAVE ASTHMA, YOU'RE LIKELY TO HAVE KP.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, people with dry skin, eczema, hay fever, ichthyosis vulgaris (which causes dry skin), and asthma are more likely to develop KP. "I don't believe there is a direct correlation between asthma and KP," Lee says. "However, people who are atopic—[they] have dry skin and tendency for allergies and asthma—have a higher chance of having KP. People shouldn't worry that if they have KP that this means they will develop asthma."

9. IF YOU HAVE KP, YOU SHOULDN'T BE CONCERNED.

"It's a common and harmless skin condition," Lee says. "However, I know that these bumps can be uncomfortable and if they are more severe, [they'll] keep people from wanting to show their arms or wear short sleeves."

10. IT'S NOT CURABLE, BUT IT IS TREATABLE.

"If you have KP, you probably want to treat both the bumps and the dryness on your skin," Lee says. "You can treat the bumps by exfoliation—chemical and physical exfoliants/scrubs can help—and also [by] keeping skin hydrated! I would suggest finding products that contain an exfoliating ingredient such as glycolic acid and hydrating ingredients such as shea butter." The products in Lee's Body Smoothing System both contain 10 percent glycolic acid, making it good for treating KP (as well as skin that is generally dry or bumpy).

And, last but not least, Lee says you shouldn't forget your sunscreen: "It's important to remember to always use broad-spectrum sun protection, but especially on those areas you have KP."

The Long Stride of Tony Little, Infomercial Titan

Mike Coppola, Getty Images for MTV
Mike Coppola, Getty Images for MTV

Tony Little didn’t see it coming. It was 1983, and the aspiring bodybuilder and future Gazelle pitchman was living in Tampa Bay, Florida, winding down his training for the Mr. America competition that was coming up in just six weeks. While driving to the gym, Little stopped at a red light and waited. Suddenly, a school bus materialized on his left, plowing into Little's vehicle and crumpling his driver’s side door.

Dazed and running on adrenaline, Little got out and sprinted over to find the bus was full of children. After seeing that none of the kids were seriously hurt, he promptly passed out. When Little later awoke, he was in the hospital, where he was handed a laundry list of the injuries he had sustained. There were two herniated discs, a cracked vertebrae, a torn rotator cuff, and a dislocated knee. He struggled to maintain his physique in the weight room and made only a perfunctory appearance at that year's Mr. America competition. Little's dreams of becoming a professional bodybuilder had been derailed courtesy of an errant school bus, whose driver had been drunk.

Though it took some time, Little eventually overcame the setback, pivoting from his original goal of being a champion bodybuilder to becoming one of the most recognizable pitchmen in the history of televised advertising. Before he did that, however, he would have to recover from another car accident.

 

For someone so devoted to physical achievement, Little was constantly being undercut by obstacles. During a high school football game, Little—who was a star player on his team in Ohio—ended up tearing the cartilage in his knee after he collided with future NFL player Rob Lytle. From that point on, Little's knee popped out of place whenever he stepped onto the field or went to gym class.

Tony Little is photographed at the premiere of Vh1's 'Celebrity Paranormal Project' in Hollywood, California in 2006
John M. Heller, Getty Images

In There’s Always a Way, his 2009 autobiography, Little wrote about how that injury—and the loss of a potential athletic scholarship—caused him to act out. A friend of his stole a Firebird and took Little for a joyride. When they were caught, Little took the blame; as he was under 18, Little figured he would get by with a slap on the wrist, while his older friend might be tried and convicted of a serious crime as an adult. According to Little, the judge gave him a pass on the condition that he relocate to Tampa Bay, where he could live with his uncle and put some distance between himself and the negative influences in his life. Little agreed.

Because of his previous injury, Little was unable to play football after making the move to Florida; instead, he devoted himself to his new high school’s weight room, where a bad knee was not nearly as limiting. After graduating, he pursued bodybuilding, earning the titles of Junior Mr. America and Mr. Florida. Little envisioned a future where he would be a fitness personality, selling his own line of supplements when he wasn't competing professionally.

The school bus changed all that. Little, who was now unable to train at the level such serious competition required, retreated to his condo, where he said he relied on painkillers to numb the physical and emotional pain of the accident. More misfortune followed: Little accidentally sat in a pool of chemicals at a friend’s manufacturing plant, suffering burns. He also had a bout with meningitis.

While Little was convalescing from this string of ailments and accidents, he saw Jane Fonda on television, trumpeting her line of workout videos. Little was intrigued: Maybe he didn’t need to have bodybuilding credentials to reach a wider audience. Maybe his enthusiastic approach to motivating people would be enough.

By now it was the mid-1980s, and a very good time to get into televised pitching. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed the Cable Communications Policy Act, which deregulated paid airtime for cable networks. Herbalife was the first to sign up, airing an infomercial for their line of nutritional products. Soon, stations were broadcasting all kinds of paid programs. Exercise advice and equipment pitches were abundant, a kind of throwback to department stores that used to feature product demonstrations. It was not enough to read about a Soloflex, which used resistance bands to strengthen muscles. It was better to see it in action.

Now that he was back in shape, Little was ready to make his mark. He was told by his local cable access channel that he could buy 15 half-hours of airtime for $5500. To raise the money, Little started a cleaning service for gyms and health clubs. After airing installments of an exercise program, he was picked up by the Home Shopping Network (HSN). Little made his HSN debut in 1987. With his energetic pitch and trademark ponytail, he sold 400 workout videos in four hours.

 

Little was on the home-shopping and infomercial circuit for years before landing his breakthrough project. In 1996, the Ohio-based company Fitness Quest was preparing to launch their Gazelle, an elliptical trainer that could raise the heart rate without any impact on joints. People used their hands and feet to move in a long stride that felt effortless.

Little felt he would be the perfect spokesperson for the Gazelle and entered into an arrangement with Bob Schnabel, the company's president. The night before the infomercial was scheduled to shoot, Little was driving when he got into another serious car accident that required 200 stitches in his face. Little called Schnabel to break the news, and was told he’d have to be replaced.

Tony Little demonstrates a Gazelle during an MTV upfront presentation in New York in 2016
Mike Coppola, Getty Images for MTV

Undaunted, Little flew from Florida to Ohio to speak to Schnabel in person. By insisting that he could make the story inspirational (and that he could cover up his injuries with make-up), Little managed to convince Schnabel to proceed with the infomercial as planned. The Gazelle ended up with $1.5 billion in revenue, with Little’s other ventures—Cheeks sandals, bison meat, and a therapeutic pillow—bringing the total sales of his endorsed products to more than $3 billion. Little later reprised his Gazelle pitch for a Geico commercial, which also served as a stealth ad for the machine—which is still on the market.

While pitching wound up being relatively low-impact, it was not completely without problems. Little once said that the accumulation of appearances—more than 10,000 in all—has done some damage to his neck because of constantly having to swivel his head between the camera and the model demonstrating his product.

Those appearances have made Little synonymous with the machine. In 2013, the Smithsonian's National Zoo wondered what to name their new baby gazelle. The answer: Little Tony.

What You Should Know About Necrotizing Fasciitis, the 'Flesh-Eating' Infection

DragonImages/iStock via Getty Images
DragonImages/iStock via Getty Images

You’ve likely stumbled across one of several recent news stories describing cases of necrotizing fasciitis, or “flesh-eating bacteria.” The condition can follow exposure to certain bacteria in public beaches, pools, or rivers. This July, a man in Okaloosa County, Florida with a compromised immune system died after going into local waters. Just two weeks before, a 12-year-old girl was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis after scraping her foot in Pompano Beach, Florida. The stories and their disturbing imagery spread on social media, inviting questions over the condition and how it can be avoided.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, necrotizing fasciitis can be caused by different strains of bacteria, with group A Streptococcus (strep) being the most common. When group A strep enters the body through a break in the skin like a cut or burn, a serious and rapidly spreading infection can develop. People will have a high fever, severe pain at the site of exposure, and eventual tissue destruction, which gives the condition its name. Necrotizing is to cause the death of tissue, while fasciitis is inflammation of the fascia, or tissue under the skin.

Because necrotizing fasciitis spreads so quickly, it’s crucial for people to seek medical attention immediately if they see early symptoms: rapid swelling and redness that spreads from a cut or burn, fever, and severe pain. Doctors can diagnose the infection using tissue biopsies, blood work, or imaging of the infected site, though they’ll almost always initiate treatment immediately. IV antibiotics, surgery to excise dead tissue, and blood transfusions are all used in an attempt to resolve the infection.

Even with care, necrotizing fasciitis can lead to complications like organ failure or sepsis. An estimated one in three people who are diagnosed with the condition die.

Fortunately, the condition is extremely rare in the United States, with an estimated 700 to 1200 cases confirmed each year. The CDC acknowledges, however, that the number is likely an low estimate.

Because group A strep can be found in water, the CDC advises people to avoid going into public waters with any kind of open wound. This applies to both public beaches and rivers as well as swimming pools or hot tubs. Chlorination is no guarantee against group A strep. Any cut or other wound should always be cleaned with soap and water. It’s especially important that people with compromised immune systems from illness, diabetes, cancer, or another conditions be exceedingly careful.

Rising ocean temperatures may make necrotizing fasciitis more common, unfortunately. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggested that warmer water temperatures in Delaware Bay has allowed another kind of bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, to flourish, resulting in five cases of necrotizing fasciitis in 2017 and 2018. Previously, only one case had been confirmed since 2008. Florida is also known to harbor group A strep in seawater.

But, owing to its rarity, necrotizing fasciitis should not overly concern people with healthy immune systems and unbroken skin. If you suffer a cut with a reddened area accompanied by severe pain and fever, however, seek medical evaluation right away.

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