Move over, goosebumps, we’re more worried about chicken skin. (And no, we’re not talking about actual chickens.)
It starts when you notice a rough patch of skin on your arm, or maybe an outcropping of scratchy bumps across your thigh. You write it off as body acne or a rash...but it just won’t go away.
Is this normal?
If persistent bumps are plaguing your skin, you may have a common condition called keratosis pilaris. Find out what KP really means for your health, and get our best tips for at-home treatment.
What is Keratosis Pilaris?
First off, take a deep breath. Keratosis pilaris sounds scarier than it is.
KP is essentially a plugged pore (or sometimes, dozens of them). This blockage occurs at the surface level of your skin, where a hard knot of excess keratin forms in the mouth of the pore.
Keratin is a natural protein that usually helps protect your skin. But in the case of keratosis pilaris, these scaly plugs end up giving your skin a rough, bumpy texture. Hence, KP’s slightly goofy alias: chicken skin.
Though often confused with acne — the bumps can resemble tiny pimples — they definitely aren’t the same. Unlike acne, KP usually isn’t accompanied by swelling or inflammation and doesn’t involve any nasty bacteria.
Keratosis Pilaris Symptoms
Trying to identify your mystery bumps? Here are the signs that may indicate keratosis pilaris:
- Small, persistent bumps on your arms, thighs, cheeks, buttocks, or face. They may be skin-toned or in shades of white, red, or brown.
- Patches of rough, dry skin that feel scaly or sandpapery to the touch.
- Extra flare-ups in winter or dry weather. (And fewer in summer or humid weather.)
- Some cases of KP may include mild itchiness but should not result in significant pain or discomfort.
Pro tip: because keratosis pilaris occurs in your hair follicles, it will not appear on the pore-free soles of your feet or palms of your hands. If you see bumps there, it’s not KP!
Keratosis Pilaris Causes
As we mentioned earlier, KP results from a buildup of keratin, blocking your pores. But doctors haven’t completely agreed on what causes this buildup to begin with.
The most popular theory involves a simple genetic error in the way our skin regenerates. But it has also been suggested that KP bumps may be triggered by coiling hair shafts irritating your skin from within.
However keratosis pilaris originates, it is personal to each individual and 100% NOT CONTAGIOUS. So there’s one less thing to worry about, at least!
Triggers Which Contribute to Keratosis Pilaris
- Dry weather
- Long baths or chlorinated swimming pools (which can dehydrate your skin)
- Friction from tight clothing
Fighting body acne? Tight, skin-smothering outfits can also result in breakouts known as acne mechanica.
Who Gets Keratosis Pilaris?
Keratosis pilaris mostly affects kids and teens, often developing before the age of 2 or during puberty. Sometimes, though, it can persist into adulthood. In rare cases, people with KP may deal with recurring, lifelong flare-ups.
Keratosis pilaris affects people of all races and ethnicities, though it is particularly common to people with fair complexions. It is also slightly more common among women.
If you are already prone to keratosis pilaris, pregnancy can also trigger new KP flare-ups. (Thank you, hormones.)
Conditions That Make Keratosis Pilaris More Likely
- Dry skin
- Seasonal allergies or hay fever
- A family history of KP
How to Get Rid of Keratosis Pilaris
The bad news is that keratosis pilaris has no known cure. It’s technically considered a “normal variant” of human skin, affecting up to 80% of the population during adolescence.
The good news? Keratosis pilaris is also considered harmless and will usually disappear on its own during your early adulthood (around age 30).
In the meantime, there are ways to minimize KP’s impact on your skin and lifestyle.
If you’re interested in professional treatments, begin by speaking to a dermatologist. They may suggest microdermabrasion, chemical peels, prescription creams, or laser treatments. As always, be sure to thoroughly discuss your options — including potential side effects.
Generally, these procedures are not for use on children. And be extra careful if you have sensitive skin or are pregnant — some of these treatments won’t be right for you, either.
Keratosis Pilaris Treatment at Home
In-office treatments definitely aren’t for everyone. If you prefer a gentler, at-home routine, there are also steps to care for your skin on your own.
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
Dry skin can trigger KP, so you want to make sure you’re supple and well-hydrated. Reach for a nourishing cream that deposits moisture deep into your skin. For best results, apply 2-3 times a day and after every shower or bath.
Take short, warm baths.
It will help help unclog your pores. But don’t give in to the temptation of long, hot soaks, which will only leach more moisture from your skin.
Choose cleansers with skin-friendly oils.
Use a mild exfoliating scrub.
It will help discourage keratin plugs. But choose a gentle option, like our Illuminating Essence Exfoliating Mask or Rejuvenating Essence Body Polish. Harsh exfoliators with acids or microbeads may further irritate your sensitive skin.
Wear loose, comfortable clothes.
Constant friction from tight outfits can smother your skin and contribute to keratosis pilaris.
Try a humidifier.
If you live in a dry climate or suffer parched skin in the wintertime, it can worsen your KP symptoms. Dodge this bullet by adding more humidity to your environment.
No skin picking!
Just as we recommend with acne, do not pop or pick at keratosis pilaris bumps. It won’t help. You’ll just end up with further damage, redness, and possibly permanent scarring.
Breathe a sigh of relief, because regardless of the maintenance regimen you choose, your keratosis pilaris will most likely clear up over time.
Right now, you may be feeling a little itchy or embarrassed, but it’s not forever! There is a light at the end of this tunnel, and it’s called “clear, healthy skin.” xx