Exfoliate your way to soft, silky-smooth skin (with sandpaper!)

One complaint of those suffering from disseminated superficial actinic porokeratosis (DSAP), a rare skin disease, is the rough texture of the skin that the lesions create. These roundish little spots are characterized by a thread-like ridge that surrounds the actual spot, making the skin feel rough to the touch.

A few years ago I was getting a massage in a dimly lit room.  The massage therapist, who didn’t speak English, was so surprised by the rough feeling of my arms that he exclaimed something in Chinese (probably in disgust) and proceeded to tell me in very broken English what I should be doing to smooth my skin. And he couldn’t help but pick the spots in between the massage. Tip: always make sure you tell your massage therapist, even if it is in mime, about your condition before your actual massage. And be sure to mention that it’s not contagious!

So what can we do to smooth the texture of our skin? Exfoliation is the obvious answer, and there’s much debate over which exfoliation product is the best.  But the one that most  say is the hands-down best might surprise you– sandpaper!

I must admit, it does sound extreme, sanding down your skin! But numerous DSAP’ers have tried it and say it’s the way to go especially if you want to use self tanner.

Many  with DSAP use self tanner to hide their DSAP spots. But if there are raised ridges around the spots, then the self tanner just makes the lesions more noticeable. So, exfoliation of some sort is a must! The drawback is that the ridges do come back in a matter of days, so you have to keep on top of it.

There are two ways you can go about sanding your skin. The first is with actual sandpaper, and the second is with a device like a microdermabrasion kit or a sandpaper type hair removal kit.

We’ll start with the straight sandpaper first. Here’s a breakdown of how it works, what you’ll need and the steps you’ll take if you decide you want smoother skin.

What you’ll need

  1. Wet/Dry Sandpaper. You can get wet/dry Sandpaper  on Amazon or at any hardware or big box store. You’ll want to get a very fine grade. Most people use a 600 grade, but if you have very sensitive skin, you can go for an even finer grade like 800 or 1000 (the bigger the number the finer the grade).
  2. A rich  lotion, like Amlactin. This product has 12% alpha hydroxy so it further helps to exfoliate, while moisturizing.

How you do it

  • Choose which coarseness of sandpaper you want. Note that thicker or less delicate skin can tolerate a coarser grade. So on calves you might be able to get away with a 400 grade, but for hands and feet you’ll need a finer grade, like a 800 or 1000. Through trial and error you will discover which grade is best for which body part, everyone is different!
  • Take a warm bath or shower so your skin is more malleable. You can stay in the bath  or you can get out for the actual sanding.
  • Wrap a very wet piece of sandpaper around your fingers, and rub it ever so gently on your spot, specifically around the ridges (do not use sandpaper on your face!).  At first, apply very little pressure until you can gauge how how hard you can press without irritating.  If it feels agitating, even with very little pressure, you may need to use a finer grade. DO NOT sand red spots, as it  will make them more red.
  • Caress your smooth silky skin, or better yet, have your partner caress you 🙂


  • Do one arm and one leg at first to compare to the arm and leg you didn’t do so you can judge the effectiveness of this type of exfoliation.
  • Always use a fresh piece of sandpaper each time you follow this procedure. A new piece will be more effective, less friction and less work.
  • A gentle touch is key!

Microdermabrasion Kits
Essentially microdermabrasion and hair removal kits do exactly the same thing. There’s a vibrating wand that works crystals into your skin. You get the same results with the added benefit of being able to use it on your face, and it is gentler and more precise. With the wet/dry sandpaper it’s hard be really precise, so that’s where the microdermabrasion kits excel. Remember, don’t use the sandpaper on your face). Here’s a few highly rated and recommended microdermabrasion kits you can try. I don’t recommend the really cheap ones if you want to get any results!



Here’s what people have said about using wet/dry sandpaper on their DSAP lesions

“Tried this for the first time today and it’s BRILLIANT!! Makes my legs feel like normal “

“I have to say that it has been the ONLY thing that actually makes my skin smooth. I mean really smooth, like the skin on my rear end and abdomen”

“I have found that keeping my skin incredibly soft and smooth with the wet/dry sandpaper, and well moisturized, has made a world of difference for me.  Simply not shirking away when someone touches me, I feel so much more like my old self.”

“The wet/dry sandpaper thing works enough so you don’t have to worry about someone touching your arms or legs & feeling all the roughness.”

Have you tried wet/dry sandpaper?

Have you tried using wet/dry sandpaper on your DSAP spots? If so, please share your results in the comments section below so others may benefit!





11 comments on “Exfoliate your way to soft, silky-smooth skin (with sandpaper!)

  1. It is so nice not to feel alone with this skin problem. Since first reading your site I have started to think my skin could be improved immensely and will be seeking Tazarotene from my GP.

    I look forward to reading more and trying sandpaper (wow who would have thought).

    Thank you for setting up this group x

    • Hi Elaine,
      ahhh, thank you so much, it’s comments like those that make this worth doing! So glad to be able to share information!

      As you try the different ways to manage your dsap, please leave comments as to how it worked for you, as your contribution could help someone else, and leave photos of your spots too, if relevant to the article. The more information the better!

      And if you have any questions or ideas, please email me on lorna@dsapinstitute.org

      • Lorna – I have used sandpaper many times over the years and, while it works, for me it is a pain in the neck. I have found that I need to soak in the tub for quite a while for the best result and I often just do not have the time or the inclination to do so. What really works better for me is lemon juice and sugar. After my normal shower I dip my fingertips into fresh squeezed lemon juice and moisten one leg and then dip my fingertips, still moist with the lemon juice into granulated sugar and exfoliate. I then do my thighs, followed by my forearms, etc. Then I run the shower again just long enough to rinse off the sugar, I pat my skin dry and use my regular moisturizer. I really like Dial 7 Day. This protocol is fast and leaves my skin extremely soft, at least for a couple of days, much like the sandpaper. I have tried other combinations such as lime juice or even the fake lemon juice that comes in a Squeeze bottle, and it’s just not the same. There might be other products that work, but I don’t know what they might be. I just know the acidity from the lemon works well with the sugar and does not dissolve the sugar, much like water does.

  2. I just wanted to thank you so so much for putting together this website. I only came across you, a month ago. I, too , began with it around 24 years old , i am now 52 and its been such a terrible way to live . I am in constant communication with a #1 dermatolgist in Boston since its where i live, who will always stay on top of things in case a cure arises or new treatments.

    I have tried PDT treatment at the request of him, , it is used for cancer patients so he thought it could possibly help.

    It helped a little bit , but not so much as i would of wanted. It helps the more you get it done, however t is also very costly and insurance does not cover it since is considered “cosmetic” really? though our DSAP is not life threatening as cancer, it does so much to our emotional and physical being as well.

    Photodynamic therapy or PDT is a treatment that uses special drugs, called photosensitizing agents, along with light to kill cancer cells. The drugs only work after they have been activated or “turned on” by certain kinds of light. PDT may also be called photoradiation therapy, phototherapy, or photochemotherapy.
    Depending on the part of the body being treated, the photosensitizing agent is either put into the bloodstream through a vein or put on the skin. Over a certain amount of time the drug is absorbed by the cancer cells. Then light is applied to the area to be treated. The light causes the drug to react with oxygen, which forms a chemical that kills the cells. PDT might also help by destroying the blood vessels that feed the cancer cells and by alerting the immune system to attack the cancer.
    The period of time between when the drug is given and when the light is applied is called the drug-to-light interval. It can be anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days, depending on the drug used.

    How do we get doctors to really really research and find a cure????? I have spent easily over a $1,000 purchasing Maybelline #110 powder foundation which seems to coverup them pretty well, but of course rubs off at the slightest brush against something.

    Do you think if we went nationwide or spoke on any news or television programs someone would reach out and help?

    Thanks again for your time.

  3. Another skin smoother- Dr. Scholl’s Dual
    Action Swedish file. $3.86 online. Course
    And fine. Handle makes it easy to manipulate.
    Use while skin is dry, then wipe down with
    Damp cloth. Apply Eurcerin original healing
    Try it!

  4. Baiden Mitten has been such a huge help for me. It’s $50 on amazon but it’s worth it and it lasts forever. It’s basically a sandpaper mitten. It makes your skin feel like normal skin and i’m hoping with use overtime it may even help prevent DSAP spots from surfacing.

  5. I have had DSAP for about ten years. The spots on my arms are not terrible, but the spots on my calfs are bad. I’ve decided to take action. I think I will start by exfoliating . I have a question for anyone that has experience doing this… Would shaving my legs help in the process? My spots are raised and seems it may help? Being a guy, I don’t shave my legs, but if it will help the process I will start.

    • Since I’m female I do shave my legs but I don’t think it helps. In fact, I think it is probably irritating and increases the redness, so to your questions, I don’t think you need to shave your legs to reap the benefits of exfoliation.

  6. I just stumbled upon this link after looking up sanding your skin. I have some weird skin issue that doctors shrug at. The other day I had enough and used a nail filer on my arm. My husband asked if I was really sanding my skin. I was embarassed but this seriously has my akin super soft. I have tried several lotions, potions, herbal treatments etc and nothing compares yo sand paper.

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