How to get rid of keratosis pilaris or 'chicken skin' 

chicken skin
Credit: janusphoto janusphoto/janusphoto janusphoto

Chicken skin is one of those things that you only really notice if you suffer with it yourself. It’s predominantly a skin condition that affects women and those with skin issues, including dry skin and eczema. A whooping one in three people in the UK suffer with it.

If you’re one of those people and spend the majority of your time disguising it with long sleeves or hemlines, here’s a guide to reducing the appearance of chicken skin…

What is ‘chicken skin’?

“Is a very common, harmless skin condition that affects about 40% of the population in the UK," advises Robin Parker, Ameliorate Technical Director. It causes small, hard bumps that make your skin feel rough, sometimes with redness or swelling. They usually appear on your upper arms, thighs, buttocks and face."The skin produces a natural protein, Keratin, which is an important part of its outer layer. Bumps occur when excess Keratin is produced and together with dead skin cells, builds up inside the hair follicles. Sometimes, hairs can become trapped in the follicle and coil in on themselves causing ingrown hairs.”

When and where does it appear?

It’s most commonly found on the back of your upper arms, thighs and derrière. Although, it can also occur all over, including your face and scalp.  If you suffer with keratosis pilaris, it’s likely that your mum or dad did too as it’s an inherited condition. It usually appears when you’re a child and if it doesn’t go with puberty, it can remain until your late 40s and 50s.

How can you get rid of it?

While there isn’t a cure, there are a couple of things you can do to help soothe and reduce the appearance of the bumps. “The best way to combat the rough texture is with exfoliation and hydration,” says aesthetic therapist Pam Marshall.

Advances in body moisturisers means smoothing out your skin doesn't have to be prescriptive. Glycolic infused body creams act as gentle body exfoliators to help smooth out any roughness."Our new bath milk made from colloidal oats, enables the skin to retain moisture," advises Parker. It will also help soothe any dry skin thanks to the sweet almond oil which is rich in oleic and linoleic fatty acids.

Softening Bath Milk Oil, £19 ( launching September)

This bath milk has been created to bring the joy and luxury of a bath back to sufferers of Keratosis Pilaris and dry skin. This oil-rich formulation pours like a cream, creates an indulgent, milky bath, smells delicious and promises to leave your skin so, soothed and moisturised.

KèraPhine Body Smoothing Lotion, £60.48

This  new body lotion works to restore healthy looking skin by addressing the appearance and texture of rough skin and conditions such as keratosis pilaris. To powerfully exfoliate, the product contains 15% Glycolic Acid and 5% Ammonium Lactate, as well as glycerin to keep the skin hydrated.

It might be tempting to scrub the bumps away with a gritty exfoliator, but that can aggravate the area more. Instead, Marshall recommends using acid-based moisturisers. This treatment combines glycolic acid to gently exfoliate with gluconolactone (a water-loving polyhydroxy acid) to hydrate and maintain the skin’s natural barrier function,” says Marshall. 

Bio-Oil, £5.99

If you have a patch of skin that is particularly dry and would rather avoid the use of acids, consultant dermatologist Justine Hexstall recommends another approach: "Use an oil to intensively treat the area to help improve the skin barrier and add oil to the lipid layer of your skin.” Hextall.“Treat the area twice a day and you should see results in a couple of weeks,” says Hextall. 

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Takeaway tips

  • Swap your body lotion for a richer cream or oil to provide maximum nourishment.
  • If you happen to find yourself in a spa, make time to enjoy the steam room, which will help unblock the follicles.
  • Hot water strips oils from the skin faster than warm or lukewarm water – long and hot showers can do more damage than quick, lukewarm ones.

  • Avoid fragrances soaps and try formulas dedicated to sensitive skin types that are less drying.