Keratosis pilaris, otherwise known as “chicken skin,” causes rough, bumpy skin, most commonly on the backs of arms or the outsides of thighs. The bumps are either skin-toned or slightly reddish and are sometimes mistaken for acne. While harmless, keratosis pilaris is annoying as hell.
The bumps are caused by keratin building up in the hair follicle. I used to have chicken skin on the back of my arms when I was a kid, and I always thought it was acne. And because I was an idiot as a child, I squeezed those suckers. I squeezed them all! However, what came out was not sebum, as I always thought. It was keratin plugs.
At some point in adolescence, my arms cleared up on their own. But once I started having children of my own, my chicken skin came back with a vengeance. While genetic, KP can also be hormonal. Fun!
So since my arms are already scarred AF from my previous strokes of genius, I wanted to find a way to treat my bumps and brighten up what had become very dull skin.
Exfoliating away dead skin cells is the most important method of treatment and prevention. A physical exfoliant like a loofah or a scrub is good, but a chemical or acid exfoliant is much better. Cleansers with ingredients like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, ammonium lactate, or urea help to sloth off dead skin and prevent keratin from building up in the hair follicle.
And while you’re using your cleanser in the shower, remember not to turn the water temperature all the way up to boiled potatoes. Heat leeches moisture from the skin, and hot water can end up making your KP flare up.
But while cleansing is crucial, do not stop at cleansing! Dry skin tends to exacerbate keratosis pilaris, so keeping your skin moisturized is also of the utmost importance if you want to treat and prevent it. Hitting it with a drying ingredient like salicylic acid can make matters worse if you aren’t replacing the moisture being stripped away. Finding a good moisturizer is key.
Josie Maran Whipped Argan Oil Body Butter melts into the skin without leaving you feeling oily. The lightweight formula absorbs quickly and moisturizes thoroughly, helping to keep your skin smooth.
Finding a good moisturizer that also contains one of those exfoliating ingredients is aces. It will keep the exfoliation process going while keeping your skin from becoming parched.
A favorite among the chicken-skinned is CeraVe Renewing SA Lotion for Rough and Bumpy Skin. It exfoliates while moisturizing and restoring the acid mantle of your skin.
While chicken skin isn’t a life or death issue, I know from personal experience that it can make you self-conscious (especially in those sleeveless tops), and it can pop up all kinds of places. Arms and thighs are most common, but many people complain of issues with KP on their butts, under their breasts, and even on their cheeks.
Luckily, there are solutions. KP can be stubborn, but you don’t have to be bumpy forever.