Do you sometimes get chicken skin even though it’s not cold and you are not watching a horror movie? If you are struggling with the problem of keratosis pilaris, as it’s called by doctors, we have some good news for you. It’s not a serious problem from the health perspective. People try to get rid of it only for aesthetic reasons. Another good news is that even though there is no specific treatment or medicine for keratosis pilaris, you can easily reduce its symptoms and even get rid of chicken skin only by using some simple home treatments.
Causes And Symptoms Of Keratosis Pilaris
Keratosis pilaris (KP) is quite a common skin disorder. It is estimated that up to 40 percent of people experience it at some stage in life. It is more common among teenagers and women undergoing hormonal changes, like during and after pregnancy or hormonal treatment. The skin affected by keratosis pilaris feels a little bit like sandpaper and is covered with small, red bumps. They form when keratin, which protects the skin against infections, builds up in the hair follicles and block the pore opening. They bumps vary in size and sometimes may be slightly swollen or even cause the skin flaking and cracking.
Keratosis pilaris may affect various areas of skin, but most commonly occurs on the arms, thighs, buttocks and – less frequently – on the face. This condition is not contagious, but there are certain factors that may trigger it. The skin is more prone to keratosis pilaris during winter months, when low temperatures may cause skin dryness. Also, even though doctors don’t know the exact reason for keratosis pilaris occurrence, it has been noted that people who have cases of this condition in their family have higher chances of experiencing it, too.
The chicken skin may occur on the skin at any stage of life. Just because you have never had a problem with red bumps on the skin, doesn’t mean that it will never happen to you. Since the process of bringing the skin back to a perfect condition may be very time-consuming, it’s better to prevent the build-up of keratin than have to deal with the problem once it occurs.
Exfoliate and Moisturise
The simplest way to prevent chicken skin is regular exfoliation of the whole body, especially the zones that are prone to the problem, like arms, thighs and buttocks. When you exfoliate the skin, you remove dead skin cells and unblock the pores. Make sure you don’t use any harsh scrubs on the areas affected by KP. Instead, do it gently, but regularly, preferably three to four times a week. Some home-made scrubs we describe below work great for chicken skin, but you can also use a loofah or a sponge and an exfoliating gel. Remember that the key to success is doing it regularly.
Another very important step is the application of hydrating creams, gels or lotions onto the skin where keratosis pilaris seems to be reoccurring. If you maintain the skin well hydrated at all times, it will be easier for the cells to regenerate and there will be a much lower possibility of getting chicken skin again.
Try to protect the areas prone to chicken skin from any pollutants that might block the pores and allergens that could worsen the skin condition. For every person, it might be a different thing, but if you suffer from KP, it’s better to avoid chlorine-treated water, harsh detergents, dust and pet dander. Don’t put perfumes on the skin affected by KP as the alcohol contained in them can dry out the skin that is already devoid of water. Wash your clothes in gentle products. You can try to use the washing liquids and powders designed for babies clothes. The formula of those products has evolved over the years and very often is strong enough to remove various stains while not causing any allergic reaction on the skin.
Relax in the Sun
While prolonged exposure of your skin to the UV radiation is generally not recommended, when you are trying to get rid of the chicken skin, sunbathing for 15 to 20 minutes daily may be very beneficial, provided – of course – that you use a sunscreen. Sunlight boosts the production of vitamin D, which is crucial to maintaining the appropriate level of hydration in the skin. If you live in a place that doesn’t allow you enjoy the sun on a regular basis, you can buy a vitamin D supplement or increase the intake of foods rich in vitamin D, like oily fish, e.g. trout, eggs, tofu, pork and mushrooms.
Drink a Lot of Water
Drinking enough water solves various health problems and help maintain the body in a good condition. To prevent your skin from getting dry and from developing keratosis pilaris, you should drink at least 1,5 litre of water every day. Proper hydration will also help your skin look healthier and younger and will slow down the ageing process by allowing the skin cells a faster regeneration.
#4 – Eat liver!
If you suffer from keratosis pilaris, it is quite probable that you are not getting enough vitamin A. Without adequate amounts of this fat-soluble vitamin, over time the skin cells begin to excrete an excess of keratin creating dry, rough, scaly bumps. (source)
While many folks think that they can get vitamin A from eating foods like carrots, spinach, and sweet potatoes, it's essential to understand that carotene in plant foods will probably not provide adequate daily vitamin A. It's true that beta carotene can be converted to vitamin A in your body once they make it into your blood, but what you may not know is that carotene is not always absorbed efficiently. (source)
Taking true vitamin A as a supplement, however, can also be dangerous since vitamin A toxicity is also a risk.
SO… that brings us to liver. Liver is far and away the best source of naturally occurring vitamin A. If you are in the small minority that like liver, great! Eat it at least 1-2 times per week. If not, you can find some suggestions to feed liver to even the pickiest eater here.
If you simply can't fathom the taste you can try of these ways of getting Vitamin A naturally:
- Cod liver oil capsules – Cod liver oil is good idea for everyone even if you are eating liver and especially for those with keratosis pilaris. (learn what's the best cod liver oil here)
- Dessicated liver capsules (like these)
- Homemade liver ‘pills‘ – check back next week for my post on how to make your own!
There you have it. Ditch the junk, heal your metabolism, eat oranges and liver… Chicken skin begone!
Tips for Improving the Appearance of Bumps
Keratosis pilaris becomes more severe during the winter months. With low humidity your skin becomes drier and the appearance of any bumps becomes worse. Use a moisturizer on the affected areas to help overcome this and keep them manageable (we talk about moisturizers that are specifically good for keratosis pilaris further below).
You could also look into getting a humidifier for your home which will add moisture back into the air helping with any dryness and reducing the roughness of bumps.
If you have a more severe form of keratosis pilaris and your bumps are heavily inflamed, it’s important to look out for irritating ingredients in any body washes or lotions you use because they will only further inflame them.
In general, if you have sensitive skin it’s a good idea to avoid any products that contain sulfates (ex. sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate etc) as they are all harsh irritants. You can check out other ingredients to avoid for sensitive skin here.
Another tip is to use a self-tanner to help cover up the spots. A natural looking color that isn’t too orange will minimize their appearance and in a safer way than tanning naturally. This is especially useful if you have them on the arms because they’re more likely to be exposed and visible to other people. Remember to use the tanner over the other parts of your skin and face to make it blend in more naturally.
- Keep skin moisturized — apply a moisturizer to the affected areas and consider a humidifier. Anything to keep your skin from getting dry because this makes things worse.
- Avoid sulfates and other known irritants in skincare products. Above we linked to an article that discusses some other common ingredients to look out for.
- Use a self-tanner to darken your skin and help blend in the bumps.
The above three tips are all keys to improving the general appearance of bumps but on their own, they aren’t enough to treat keratosis pilaris. They’ll make it manageable in the mean time but you need something more to attack the root cause — keratin buildup.
Basic Routine & Recap
- In the morning, after taking a shower or bath, apply urea cream to the affected areas before you go about your day.
- Use a chemical exfoliator once a day to help break down keratin, unclog pores, and free the trapped hair follicles.
- Salicylic Acid is best for oily skin.
- Glycolic acid is best for less sensitive skin.
- Lactic acid is best for highly sensitive skin while also doubling as a moisturizer.
- After exfoliating, use a moisturizer that contains lactic acid as an ingredient (if you aren’t already using it already). This will keep your skin hydrated as well as help break down keratin to complement the previous step
- Finish your day by applying the urea cream or lotion once again before you go to bed.
- Avoid using body washes / bar soaps that contain harsh ingredients. This will avoid further inflaming skin.
- Use a self-tanner to help conceal any bumps on your arms.
There you have it! If you have any other tips, questions, or personal experience treating keratosis pilaris let us know!
Do I have keratosis pilaris?
‘Resembling permanent goose pimples, these small bumps can either be red or white in appearance,’ says Dr Mervyn Patterson, cosmetic doctor and founder at Woodford Medical (woodfordmedical.com). As the name suggests, ‘keratosis’ means too much keratin. ‘The raised bumps are caused by small keratin blockages in the entrance to the hair follicles, which is why you get that rough coarseness of the skin,’ explains Dr Patterson. ‘It has a strong family history, and there’s probably a one in two chance of you developing it if one of your parents has it.’
Will my keratosis pilaris go away?
The good news is that keratosis pilaris does improve with age – although there are a few exceptions. ‘Hormonal fluctuations, such as with pregnancy, menopause and the use of HRT can all exacerbate keratosis pilaris,’ says Dr Patterson. ‘Here, the oestrogen to progesterone ratio is disturbed and this in turn affects epidermal cell division and adhesion on the surface of the skin.’ Eczema can be another trigger. Again, this relates to the dryness of your skin – the drier it is, the more likely the keratin will harden and block your pores. However, armed with some knowledge and the right products there is plenty you can do to ease the problem. Bye bye, bumps!
How to get rid of keratosis pilaris
There’s no quick fix but you can seriously lessen the appearance of those pesky bumps. ‘It’s more of a management strategy than a cure,’ explains Dr Susan Mayou, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogen Clinic.
- EXFOLIATE: Up your exfoliation regime, especially on those hard-to-reach areas,such as the backs of arms and buttocks. This will help to remove dead skin cells and therefore prevent the hair follicle from becoming blocked. Never scrub too hard though and be sure to avoid taking extremely hot showers as these can overly dry out your skin.
- ACID FIX: Opt for creams and moisturisers that contain lactic acid or salicylic acid to help with unclogging pores. ‘AHAs (lactic and glycolic acid) work by dissolving the glue between cells which hold keratinocytes together and removing the skin cells at the surface of the pore. BHAs (salicylic acid) do the same, but also work inside the pore,’ explains Dr Mayou.
- EXPOSE SKIN: It might be the last thing you feel like doing but symptoms of keratosis pilaris can improve with exposure to the sun: ‘The reddening around each pore is due to the inflammatory component of the condition, and sun acts as an anti-inflammatory,’ says Dr Mayou. Protect yourself witha high factor but non-greasy, non-oily SPF and avoid wearing any fabrics that might cause you to sweat.
- LASER HAIR REMOVAL: Surprising but true: ‘Laser hair removal can be successful in treating cases of keratosis pilaris as it decreases the hair growth in the affected areas,’ says Dr Mayou. However, it’s only effective on zapping dark hairs on white skin. It won’t cure the condition, but can give you the appearance of smoother skin’.
- Now read: how to stop your thighs chafing
- Skincare tips for autumn