• Jasmine Blake Hollywood, MS, HHP

5 Secrets to Rid Keratosis Pilaris Nutritionally

What is KP?

Everyone suffers from Keratosis Pilaris (KP) but what is it? Keratosis pilaris also known as follicular keratosis, is one of the most common dermatologic conditions worldwide. It is so common some people do not realize they have it or think the condition of their skin is normal. It effects the regions of the back of the upper arms, the front of the thighs, sometimes the lower legs. Many factors go into why a person may have keratosis pilaris, but if your condition is not the result of a chronic condition, there are some secrets to help get your beautiful skin back!

Vitamin A

In my course of training, I have learned that vitamin A is the first secret to managing keratosis pilaris. Vitamin A, recognized by the name Retinol, is known as a retinoid or as a carotenoid. What is so special about these "noids" is that they play a role in the binding of genes and receptors. Too scientific? Let's keep it simple.

  • Carotenoids are the plant form of beta-carotene that later converts into vitamin A after we eat it.

  • While retinoids are the animal form of vitamin A.

Some popular names for Vitamin A are retinol, retinal, retinoic acid, and retinyl ester.

Vitamin A is fat-soluble, meaning it is stored in fat cells. It is also an antioxidant vitamin, meaning it aids in detox. However, to cover today’s topic, it is well known for building surface structures, such as skin, by controlling tissue metabolism and repair by processing and building new structural layers. These new structural layers help build not only just the skin but the structural lining inside the body as well.

Vitamin A is literally required in every process of the body. It regulates cellular retinoic acid-binding proteins, which are required for skin structure building. Also, retinol-binding proteins (RBP) transport retinol proteins to lecithin, which is a hormone that will help the body form retinyl palmitate (another form of vitamin A). However, we need retinol for skin building processes. Therefore, our bodies need to convert retinyl palmitate to retinol to do this.

Both forms of Vitamin A are important in the skin structuring process.

Converting Retinyl Palmitate to Retinol

Retinyl palmitate is an ester or chemical compound, formed when retinol and palmitic acid react to each other. In order to get positive effects from any form of topical vitamin A creams for the skin, the body must convert retinyl palmitate first into retinoic acid.

  • Retinyl palmitate must be broken down into retinol, then broken down to retinaldehyde, and finally converted into retinoic acid.

After retinoic acid is created, then the positive effects of skin structuring can begin. Retinol is so important because it is the purest form of Vitamin A. Additionally, retinol is about 20% more potent than Retinyl Palmitate.


Zinc is another important nutrient for skin surface repair and building. Zinc is so special that it literally exists in all 6 enzyme classes. Plus, the majority of these enzymes are involved in inflammatory actions. Zinc also aids in the structure formation of proteins and preserving the structure of membranes.

Zinc is mostly found in DNA binding areas of hormone receptors.

Zinc can be chemically found mostly in hair, liver, bone, kidney, and skeletal muscle region of the body. Zinc is found mostly in blood circulation and is bound to albumin (a major protein). It's binding to the albumin protein is how it gains strength in building structure.

Many people with keratosis pilaris are also zinc deficient. Deficiency signs of zinc and its symptoms are:

  • white spots on fingernails

  • loss of normal taste or appetite

  • alopecia

  • hyperkeratinization of the skin

  • possible copper deficiency

Hyperkeratinization is when too much of the skin has a high amount of keratin. Zinc is also involved in fatty acid metabolism, thus if suffering from zinc deficiency then a person will have low levels or deficiency of essential fatty acids. This information is important to know because e many people with skin problems also suffer from a fatty acid deficit.

How Zinc aids in the Prevention of KP

Zinc directly links to building skin proteins. However, is also involved in the structure of hair and how it grows. Even better, zinc helps keep the oil glands around the hair follicles working properly. Keratin also plays a role in forming hair by making up the structure of the hair follicle. When keratin is too elevated, this can lead to weaker hair follicles and even hair thinning and hair loss. Therefore, people with keratosis pilaris will often exhibit less hair in the areas that are affected. Nonetheless, if the glands stay oiled, the keratin builds up declines.

In keratosis pilaris, the hair is trapped in the cornified cells of the keratin build up.

So, if you take zinc as a supplement the hair will grow better, the follicle will have a stronger structure, and the skin will be more structurally intact.

Essential Fatty Acids

Vitamin A and zinc play a role in essential fatty acid production. Essential fatty acids are also called EFA’s. They are called essential because the cannot produce them on its own. Therefore, we must obtain them from the diet. essential fatty acids serve important metabolic roles. They provide anti-inflammatory effects, antioxidant activity, growth, repair and normal metabolic function. Additionally, they are also considered a good fat.

The good fats are polyunsaturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, and plant-saturated fatty acids.

Essential fatty acids are described as Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. The three common Omega 3 types are:

  • alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found in plants)

  • eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), found in fish and other seafood

  • docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), found in fish and other seafood

These types of fats directly influence the way the body detoxes and fights inflammation in cells and tissues of the body, making these fats a superior source for survival.

How EFAs aids in the Prevention of KP

Since essential fatty acids provide anti-inflammatory effects, they are useful in the reduction of hyperkeratosis inflammation. Essential fatty acid improve the dermis, which is the under- layer of the skin. This ultimately will allow for a smoother outer skin layer after the initial processes of natural skin layer shedding.

Exercise and Keratosis Pilaris

Exercise is vital in maintaining skin structure. One reason is the lack of blood circulation. Ultimately, the lack of exercise decreases circulation, because less oxygen is getting into the blood. Basically the more we breathe the faster our circulation becomes. With a decrease in blood circulation nutrients and oxygen delivery to the cells are reduced. Also, certain phases of skin metabolism happen with a consistent circulation of blood, in which oxygen and nutrient delivery occur on a regular basis. In other words, exercise and physical activities are a critical component of getting blood flowing. Thus, maintaining the flow of nutrients such as vitamin A, zinc, and essential fatty acids and ensuring they get to the cells of the skin.


  1. Vitamin A - found in liver, meats, fruits, and vegetables

  2. Zinc - found in meats, seafood, and nuts

  3. Topical creams - can be prescribed or purchased over-the-counter

  4. Essential Fatty Acids - found in plants and seafood

  5. Exercise - can be done daily


  1. Almohanna, H. M., Ahmed, A. A., Tsatalis, J. P., & Tosti, A. (2019). The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. Dermatology and therapy, 9(1), 51–70. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13555-018-0278-6

  2. Blindauer, C. A., Harvey, I., Bunyan, K. E., Stewart, A. J., Sleep, D., Harrison, D. J., Berezenko, S., & Sadler, P. J. (2009). Structure, properties, and engineering of the major zinc binding site on human albumin. The Journal of biological chemistry, 284(34), 23116–23124. https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M109.003459

  3. Brown TM, Krishnamurthy K. Histology, Hair and Follicle. [Updated 2020 Jun 30]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532929/

  4. Costa, A., Talarico, A. S., de Oliveira Parra Duarte, C., Pereira, C. S., de Souza Weimann, E. T., de Matos, L. S., & et al..., Vasconcellos, C. (2013). Evaluation of the Quantitative and Qualitative Alterations in the Fatty Acid Contents of the Sebum of Patients with Inflammatory Acne during Treatment with Systemic Lymecycline and/or Oral Fatty Acid Supplementation https://www.hindawi.com/journals/drp/2013/120475/

  5. Deo, P. N., & Deshmukh, R. (2018). Pathophysiology of keratinization. Journal of oral and maxillofacial pathology : JOMFP, 22(1), 86–91. https://doi.org/10.4103/jomfp.JOMFP_195_16

  6. K. Seetharam Bhat, & Belavady, B.(1967). Biochemical Studies in Phrynoderma (Follicular Hyperkeratosis): II. Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Levels in Plasma and Erythrocytes of Patients Suffering from Phrynoderma. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 20, Issue 5, May 1967, Pages 386–392,https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/20.5.386

  7. Pennycook KB, McCready TA. Keratosis Pilaris. [Updated 2020 Jun 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546708

  8. Ragunatha S., Jagannath Kumar V., Murugesh S. B., Ramesh M., Narendra G., Meenakshi, K. (2014). Therapeutic Response of Vitamin A, Vitamin B Complex, Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) and Vitamin E in the Treatment of Phrynoderma: A Randomized Controlled Study. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research : JCDR, 8(1), 116–118. https://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2014/7086.3918

  9. Thomas, M., & Khopkar, U. S. (2012). Keratosis pilaris revisited: is it more than just a follicular keratosis?. International journal of trichology, 4(4), 255–258. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-7753.111215

  10. Törmä H. (2011). Regulation of keratin expression by retinoids. Dermato-endocrinology, 3(3), 136–140. https://doi.org/10.4161/derm.3.3.15026

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