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Getting rid of chicken skin

‘Chicken skin’ is clinically known as keratosis pilaris. No, we aren’t talking about the rough bumps on your arms when you’re cold or nervous; keratosis pilaris is a medical condition that happens for a number of health-related reasons. 

Rough-feeling red or brown bumps can be found on the back of your arms, thighs, legs, butt or face. 

The tiny bumps or pimples, dead skin cells plugging hair follicles. Chicken skin isn’t contagious but can be pretty uncomfortable and sometimes itchy. The skin condition worsens in winter because it tends to dry out. Skin is less subtle and tauter, making it tight. This exacerbates symptoms.

Even though it is technically harmless, genetic chicken skin has no cure. Treatment or prevention can help ease the skin condition and avoid infection 

(that mostly happens because patients scratch and tear their skin). It clears up naturally over time by the age of 30.

What are the symptoms of ‘chicken skin’?

The visible bumps resemble goosebumps or plucked chicken skin. Keratosis pilaris is only found by hair follicles, commonly on your upper arms and thighs. It can extend to your forearms and lower legs. Chicken skin will never appear on the soles of your feet or the palms of your hands.  

Bumps that feel like sandpaper and that appear in different colours depending on your skin tone are other symptoms of keratosis pilaris.

Causes of the keratosis pilaris

Keratosis pilaris is a benign skin condition. The skin condition is a build-up of keratin – a hair protein found in the pores. The cause of keratin build-up is unknowns. 

Chicken skin is a result of keratin clogging your pores. Growing hair follicles are blocked, and small bumps from where hair should be. According to Healthline, skin conditions like atopic dermatitis and genetic diseases are also keratin build-up.

Glamour Magazine continues; hormonal changes might be responsible. For example, the condition usually flares up during puberty and pregnancy. Also, “heat and not using the correct products can make the issue worse,” explains Eilidh. For instance, perfumed soaps and bathing products, overly harsh body scrubs and very hot showers can all contribute. Scratching, picking or rubbing your skin can make it worse.

Who can develop the skin condition?

Chicken skin prevails amongst people with dry skin, eczema, ichthyosis, hay fever and obesity. It commonly affects women, people with fair skin, young children and teenagers too. However, the skin condition is susceptible to anyone. 

Keratosis pilaris often begins in late infancy or during adolescence. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and puberty can cause flare-ups.


Chicken skin usually clears up with age—treatment for the skin condition and improvement may take months. A dermatologist can prescribe iron-enriched moisturiser to soothe itching, dry skin. The moisturiser improves the skin’s appearance after a keratosis rash. 

Over-the-counter and prescription topical creams remove dead skin cells or prevent clogged hair follicles. Urea and lactic acid are two common ingredients in moisturising treatments. 

Intense exfoliating management, chemical peels and retinol creams are other treatments your dermatologist may suggest. The ingredients of the creams should be discussed with your doctor first. Adverse side effects from prescription topical creams with acid may include redness, stinging, irritation and further dryness. 

Experimental treatment options, such as photo pneumatic therapy and vascular laser treatment, are available.

“Chicken skin is pretty easy to treat with the correct knowledge,” says Eilidh Smith, founder and CEO of skincare specialists Skin work. Instead of using harsh scrubs, you can try lightly massaging your skin with a washcloth. You can also use a gentle exfoliating mitt. Or, you could try a chemical exfoliator like glycolic acid, or lactic acid, or salicylic acid. “AHAs and BHAs [both chemical exfoliators] are effective,” says Eilidh. Chemical exfoliators use a minimal percentage of acids to loosen the bonds between old skin cells to unplug clogs in our skin and lift away dead skin cells. “We always recommend salicylic acid [a type of BHA] in the first instance,” Eilidh adds.

Keratosis pilaris home remedies

You can quickly treat chicken skin at home. Self-care treatments can’t cure the condition but can minimise bumps, itching and irritation.

  • Short, warm baths help unclog and loosen pores. A stiff brush can rub your skin and potentially remove bumps. Limit your bath time to ensure you don’t entirely remove the skins natural oils.
  • Daily exfoliation improves the appearance of your skin. A loofah or pumice stone gently removes dead skin. 
  • Hydrating lotions with alpha hydroxy acid hydrates your dry skin encourages cell turnover. Dermatologists recommend Eucerin Professional Repair and AmLactin products. The creams should be applied after bathing or when your skin feels dry – preferably two to three times a day. Glycerin also softens bumps, while rose water soothes skin inflammation. 
  • Tight clothes cause friction which irritates the skin. It should be avoided.
  • Humidifiers add moisture to room air. They maintain the moisture in your skin and prevent any flare-ups.

Maintain your chicken skin

Overall, Keratosis pilaris can be stubborn. If home treatments do not work, see your dermatologist. A list of questions should be prepared in advance. In return, your dermatologist may have questions of their own, such as when your symptoms began and more about your family history.

 Because chicken skin is incurable, you may need to follow a maintenance plan. Your skin needs to it a few times a week. Take good care of yourself!

Before making any dietary, exercise or health-related changes, the best thing to do is speak to a medical professional. Affinity Health is here to make healthcare and advice accessible and affordable so that you can get the professional care you need anytime. 

Affinity Health can provide you with either a day-to-day plan, a hospital plan, or a combination of both for total peace of mind. You can also benefit from booster options.

We have created a wide range of healthcare products designed to protect you and your family. 

Contact us today, and our agent will get in touch with you and take you through all the options available so that you can find an easy, affordable cover handcrafted for you and your loved ones. 


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