Treat Keratosis Pilaris or "Chicken Skin"

Edited by Mian Sheilette Ong, Anonymous, Lynn, syed1 and 5 others

'Perhaps you have noticed small bumps on your skin lately. They usually appear on your thighs, arms or legs. These bumps remind you of chicken skin, don't they? This is an embarrassing skin condition called Keratosis Pilaris. Keratosis Pilaris is a common issue that many people suffer from. It may be harmless but it does affect the way you carry yourself, your self confidence and the way you dress. Because of "chicken skin" appears on exposed areas such as the arms, you become self-conscious of wearing sleeveless blouses or spaghetti strap tops and dresses. This is an issue that you can deal with. If you know how to treat Keratosis Pilaris or "chicken skin", you can resume wearing whatever you want. You can also forget about staying home alone while the others have fun at the beach or at pool parties. All you have to do is be patient and determined to get rid of this bothersome dermatological problem.

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Chicken Skin Facts

When keratin builds up and forms plugs in your hair follicles, bumps appear on your skin. This is called Keratosis Pilaris or "chicken skin". Most people just ignore it, and let it fade away with time. However, if this is creating issues your self-esteem, you should get rid of it. Chicken skin is common in people with very dry skin, eczema or atopic dermatitis. As it's genetic, it tends to run in families. Mild cases of Keratosis Pilaris is like goose bumps. They appear on your upper arms, thighs, buttocks and less often, on the face - making the skin feel like sandpaper. These bumps also tend to appear on thighs and buttocks. The bumps are often diagnosed as acne. This condition can also appear as individual papules the same color as the skin. The papules arise from the hair follicles. Many people acquire this during very cold weather.

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The heat of the summer season usually clears away the bumps. You know you have Keratosis Pilaris when you bumps the same color as your skin, but some of the smaller bumps have a slight pink coloration. Medical experts do not need to scrape off a sample of your bumps to diagnose this, they just need to perform a physical exam to diagnose you correctly. Keratosis Pilaris cannot be eradicated from your system, but it can be controlled. Make sure you understand how to do this to avoid being stressed by having Keratosis Pilaris (KP).

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A gene that is autosomal dominant is said to bring about KP. This means that a gene from either mother or father will determine if your will have smooth, perfect skin or not. It is very depressing to have KP if you look at it from an aesthetic point of view, yet it is harmless. Puberty makes KP more noticeable because of follicular acne. As you grow older, KP usually improves and gradually disappears.

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Products That Help Treat Keratosis PIlaris or "Chicken Skin"

Many helpful products out there maintain they can get rid of KP. Below are some of them:

  1. 1
    Dermatologists use urea to soften crusty, rough skin. This is a very effective product for improving skin with KP.
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  2. 2
    Glycolic Acid.
    Lactic and glycolic acids are AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) that help exfoliate your skin. The process of exfoliation helps remove the dead layer of the skin. Dermatologists either prescribe lactic acid or just tell their patients to purchase OTC lactic acids.
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  3. 3
    KP has always been thought of as a symptom of eczema. These medications are just beginning to treat KP, especially those with very complicated cases.
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  4. 4
    Vitamin A.
    Creams that have Vitamin A as their active ingredient help bring back the smoothness of the skin affected by KP. They can also be used for KP that is aggravated by Acne vulgaris (pimples). There are OTC 1 percent Retinol preparations that can also help. You should just leave the affected area dry, painful, and peeling. Just apply a small pea-sized amount if you are just starting with this product.
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  5. 5
    Peels, Scrubs, and Rubs.
    These products help smooth out the bumps, but they are a temporary fix, and do not keep KP away completely. They also don't assure the disappearance of the pink dots. Chemical peels, microdermabrasions, or scrubs can start you on a path to smoother skin. You should do this as you near the summer season. Think about your budget if you want to undergo these procedures. Weekly treatments can definitely burn a large hole in your pocket.
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How You Can Treat "Chicken Skin"

Treating KP is a never-ending process. If you stop treating it, KP will accumulate once more in your hair follicles. You have to make sure you maintain a routine for KP to keep your skin healthy and smooth. If you know how to handle your KP, you don't have to hide behind long sleeves or long pants anymore. Below are some practical ways you can treat KP:

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  1. 1
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    Getting rid of dead skin cells always improves your KP. Avoid using exfoliants that are too aggressive or harsh, as they might damage your skin eventually.
    1. Opt for a soap that exfoliates. These soaps have gentle beads that do the job.
    2. Try a sugar or salt scrub. You can acquire these products from beauty stores and pharmacies. You can also look for recipes and make your own version. One recipe is a paste made by combining honey and sugar. Rub in a circular motion. Rinse the area with warm water.
    3. Acquire a good loofah sponge or bath mitt that is not too abrasive. Rub your skin with this tool every time you shower. Use a circular pattern and scrub for 20 seconds, then move to another area of your skin. Make an effort to scrub your skin every day, and very soon, you'll see the difference.
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  2. 2
    Apply a good moisturizer is to soften up the rough, pink bumps on your skin. You should apply moisturizer (cream or lotion) least twice daily.  
    1. Choose a lactic acid moisturizer so the keratin can be broken down effectively.
    2. Consider urea in a cream form. This also degrades keratin and dead skin cells.
    3. Mild lotions formulated for sensitive skin can also bring relief and significant improvement.
    4. If you find the lotion you're using worsens your KP – just stop using it, and find something that works with your skin.
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  3. 3
    Apply retinoids topically.
    Retinoids are derived from Vitamin A. They help deal with dry skin, but they can also damage your healthy skin layer if you overuse it. Make sure that you always wash your hands after using this product. Apply amounts according to the labels.
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  4. 4
    Make use of various oils.
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    Oil can also help moisturize your skin. Once or twice a day apply oil to the affected areas to reduce the dryness and roughness.  
    1. Consider using coconut oil. Apply this after your daily shower or put some on the affected area before you go to bed.
    2. Apply Vitamin E oil directly to the affected area. The antioxidant and moisturizing properties in Vitamin E oil will help quench your skin's dryness. This oil will also help provide the needed nutrients that your skin may be deficient in.
    3. Look for the sea buckthorn. Sea buckthorn is a plant made into medicinal oils that target skin conditions. Rub the oil on your skin's affected area once or twice a day.
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  5. 5
    Bathe with oatmeal.
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    Oatmeal baths are known to rehydrate your itchy and dry skin. Once or twice a week would be ideal.  
    1. Pulverize 1/3 cup of oatmeal in a blender. Incorporate this into your warm bath as you run it. This will mix it thoroughly into the water.
    2. You can purchase ready made oatmeal baths from health stores if you don't have the time or the blender to make it.
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  6. 6
    Make use of a humidifier.
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    Dry climates can make skin dry, sensitive, and itchy. By using a humidifier, you add moisture into the air. This will help soften your skin.  
    1. Distilled water is ideal for humidifiers. Your tap water usually has nitrates, lead, and chlorine that you should avoid.
    2. Stay away from dry, cold weather. Dry air at very low temperatures makes your skin rough and dry. This type of weather will aggravate your KP. Moisturize every day to help your skin improve.
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  7. 7
    Get some sun.
    Sun exposure is believed to boost hormones in your body that help clear out your dead skin cells. Some time outside will help your KP a lot. Be sure to wear sun protection so that you can avoid damage to your skin.
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  8. 8
    Moderate your hot water use when you bathe.
    Very hot showers or baths can burn your skin. This will further dry your skin and aggravate your KP. Just take cool or warm baths instead.
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  9. 9
    Have your condition checked by a dermatologist.
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    The doctor will prescribe a medication for your KP. This may be in the form of a cream, oil, or pill that will significantly improve your skin's condition.
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  10. 10
    Consider KP laser treatment.
    This is an expensive solution to KP and is not 100 percent effective. This may only help severe KP cases, especially if you have been suffering for years.
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Keratosis pilaris can affect your self-esteem or prevent you from being close to someone. Consult your dermatologist and discuss the available options and treatments for your degree of KP.


  • Always drink plenty of water to make sure your skin cells are hydrated.
  • Take antioxidants in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Update your dermatologist regarding the progress of your KP.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking because these dry out the skin as well.

Questions and Answers

How is chicken skin acquired?

Keratosis pilaris or chicken skin occurs when there is too much keratin in your body. It causes inflammation of hard plugs also known as hyperkeratinization. Most bumps contain ingrown hairs that have coiled and continued growing inside the skin. Fortunately, this is not in any way contageous.

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Dry itchy skin rash on arms? Is this the start of chicken skin?

It may or may not start chicken skin, but the most important thing is for you to have a doctor determine what's causing the rashes. Rashes can be rather itchy and if you keep on scratching them, that may cause chicken skin. Therefore, the earlier you have it diagnosed, the earlier you'll be able to get the proper treatment for that skin condition.

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Chicken skin is often caused by enlarged pores. That's another reason you should avoid scratching the rashes.

Do African-Americans have a propensity for Keratosis Pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris (KP) or commonly called, "chicken skin", is an annoying and disturbing chronic skin disorder characterized by discolored, bumpy, and rough skin. The skin seems pebbled and hard to the touch due to the multiple keratin plugs. This is very common in African Americans as well as Asians and Hispanics. This looks like acne blemishes on the skin. Some appear to be colored red or tan. This is usually predominant in the cheeks, shoulders, hips, and calves; but can appear almost anywhere in the body. Shaving body hair and wearing very tight jeans are common culprits for Keratosis Pilaris, as well as people who are genetically predisposed to it. Hormones also play a significant role. Elevated estrogen and testosterone levels can cause this skin condition. African Americans who tend to have coarse hair, are also more prone to this skin disorder.

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Is there a safe way to scrape Keratosis Pilaris yourself?

Yes, you can safely exfoliate your skin to deal with Keratosis Pilaris on your own by following these easy, quick, and effective tips:

Sugar Scrub

Sugar Scrub. Exfoliate with a sugar scrub. You can opt for ready-to-use sugar scrubs widely available in grocery stores or prepare your very own sugar scrub with these ingredients:

  • pure virgin coconut oil or olive oil
  • sugar
  • honey (optional)
  • orange zest (optional)
  • clean container

All you have to do is pour some pure virgin coconut oil or olive oil in a clean bowl or container with the sugar until it reaches your desired consistency. You can add some honey or even orange zest for that added aromatic scent and therapeutic properties.

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  • Apply the sugar scrub after having soaked in the shower for a couple minutes to soften the skin. Use the sugar scrub and gently massage it to your entire body or the affected areas of Keratosis Pilaris for a few minutes until the sugar scrub completely dissolves.
  • Rinse thoroughly with water.
  • Scrape off the oil and dead skin cells (Keratosis Pilaris) with the use of the plastic scraper. (something like a credit card would work).
  • Rinse and wash off your body with soap and water to get rid of the accumulated excess oil and grime.
  • Do the sugar scrub at least 2 to 3 times per week.

Exfoliate With A Dry Skin Scrub

You can do this right before you take a shower or bath. Dry exfoliate and scrub your skin with a loofah. You can observe ingrowing hairs and dead skin falling off as you do circular scrubbing motions. After you do dry exfoliation, hit the shower or tub and rinse yourself off with your favorite organic soap and water. Also, do this at least 2 to 3 times every week.

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It is important to keep your skin hydrated and moisturized with the use of pure virgin coconut oil or your favorite lotion. This is especially important when you are exfoliating or scraping your Keratosis Pilaris, because your skin can get dry and itchy in the process. Virgin coconut oil is very affordable and can be purchased at any grocery store. This is also very effective for keeping your skin smooth, glowing, and well hydrated.

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I have had Keratosis Pilaris for more than 5 years.

Please help I got this 5 years ago and I can't live in peace with my low self-esteem.

Hello, I am someone who has been suffering from mild KP since I was a young girl. I know it is very annoying, but Remember it looks worse to you than it does to other people. They may not notice it, or pay any mind to it. But if someone asks, don't feel bad about yourself. 50% of the population has it. It is very common since it runs in families. Use the article above to help treat it. It's not expensive to treat, but you have to treat it regularly, in order for it to stay away. It doesn't just magically go away. Once again, don't worry if you have it because if you look up pictures, there are normally conditions that seem way worse than what you have. So be grateful it isn't too bad. It could always be worse, and you are very lucky to have what you have. I know it's annoying, but it's something you can deal with. As you get older it starts to fade away with hormones, so no worries. Think on the good side of things and try your best to treat it. Hope this helps! :)

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I have Keratosis Pilaris on my arms, my legs and my hips.

How can I apply methods at home, and how can I get rid of it?

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Keratosis Pilarison on my legs is ruining my life!

I have darker skin and my Keratosis Pilaris is very dark. It's all over my legs and has been for almost 15 years. It's been there since I can remember. What can I do? Please help me! I have tried: I have tried just lotion and exfoliated. I think it was caused by: I don't know, bad luck maybe, because none of my family have it.

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Recent edits by: joanna alverson, vc, Doug Collins

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