Keratosis pilaris, sometimes called “chicken skin,” is a common skin condition that causes patches of bumps that feel rough on the skin. These little bumps or pimples are actually dead skin cells that clog the hair follicles.
Keratosis pilaris is almost always found on the upper arms, thighs, cheeks, or buttocks. It is not contagious, and these bumps are not usually uncomfortable or itchy.
This condition is known to worsen in the winter months when the skin tends to dry out and can also worsen during pregnancy. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this harmless, genetic skin condition, but there are some ways to treat it or prevent it from getting worse. Keratosis pilaris usually disappears naturally by the time you are in your 30s.
The most noticeable symptom of keratosis pilaris is its appearance. The visible bumps that appear on the skin resemble goosebumps or the skin of a plucked chicken. For this reason, it is commonly known as “chicken skin”.
The bumps can appear anywhere on the skin where hair follicles exist and therefore will never appear on the soles of the feet or the palms of the hands. Keratosis pilaris is commonly found on the upper arms and thighs. In excess, it can spread to the forearms and lower legs.
Other associated symptoms may be:
- Slight redness or redness around the bumps
- irritable itchy skin
- Dry Skin
- Bumps that feel like sandpaper
- Bumps that can appear in different colors depending on skin tone (flesh-colored, white, red, pink, brown, or black)
Although keratosis pilaris has no long-term consequences, aggressive scratching can leave scars.
This benign skin condition is the result of a buildup of keratin , a hair protein, in the pores.
If we have keratosis pilaris, the keratin in the body hair becomes clogged in the pores, blocking the opening of the growing hair follicles. As a result, a small bump forms over where the hair should be. If we were to touch the bump, we can notice a small body hair emerging.
The exact cause of keratin buildup is unknown, but doctors believe it may be associated with skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and genetic diseases .
Chicken skin is common in women, children or adolescents, and those of Celtic descent, as well as those with dry skin, eczema, ichthyosis, allergy, or obesity.
Anyone can be susceptible to this skin condition, but it is most common in children and adolescents . Keratosis pilaris usually begins in late childhood or during adolescence. It usually goes away by your mid-20s, with most cases completely gone by the age of 30.
Hormonal changes can cause breakouts during pregnancy and puberty. Keratosis pilaris is more common in people with fair skin.
There is no known cure for keratosis pilaris. It usually goes away on its own with age. There are some treatments we can try to alleviate its appearance, but keratoses are often resistant to treatment. Improvement can take months, if the condition improves at all.
Your dermatologist may recommend a moisturizing treatment to soothe dry, itchy skin and improve the skin’s appearance of the keratosis rash. Many over-the-counter and prescription topical creams can remove dead skin cells or prevent hair follicles from becoming blocked.
Two common ingredients in moisturizing treatments are urea and lactic acid . Together, these ingredients help loosen and remove dead skin cells and soften dry skin. Other treatment methods that a dermatologist may suggest include microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and retinol creams.
However, be careful with the ingredients in these creams and we will talk to a doctor before using them. Some prescription topical creams include acids that can cause negative side effects such as redness, stinging, irritation, and dryness.
There are also some experimental treatment options available, such as photopneumatic therapy and laser vascular treatment .
Keratosis pilaris cannot be prevented . But following a gentle skincare routine can help prevent breakouts and minimize their appearance. For example, using an oil-free cream or ointment to moisturize your skin can help prevent clogged pores that contribute to keratosis pilaris.
home remedies for keratosis pilaris
If we don’t like the look of keratosis pilaris, there are some techniques we can try to treat it at home. Although the condition cannot be cured, self-care treatments can help minimize bumps, itching, and irritation.
- Warm baths – Taking short, warm baths can help unclog and loosen pores. However, it’s important to limit time in the bathroom, as longer wash times can strip natural body oils.
- Exfoliate : Daily exfoliation can help improve the appearance of the skin. Dermatologists recommend gently removing dead skin with a loofah or pumice stone.
- Apply a moisturizing lotion – Lotions with alpha hydroxy acid, like lactic acids, can hydrate dry skin and stimulate cell turnover. Some dermatologists recommend products like Eucerin Advanced Repair. Glycerin, found in most beauty supply stores, can also smooth out bumps, while rose water can ease skin inflammation.
- Using corticosteroids : A topical corticosteroid applied to the rough areas twice a day for one to two weeks can relieve itching and redness. These are available both over the counter and by prescription.
- Avoid tight clothing : Wearing tight clothing can cause friction that can irritate the skin.
- Using humidifiers – Humidifiers add moisture to the air in a room, which can keep moisture in the skin and prevent itchy flare-ups.