Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris, sometimes known as “chicken skin”, is a common skin condition that is characterized by dry, rough patches and tiny bumps. The tiny bumps are generally painless and don’t itch, but worsen in appearance during winters when the skin dries out. Keratosis pilaris is localized to areas such as the upper arms, thighs, cheeks, and buttocks.


The cause of keratosis pilaris is due to the build-up of keratin, an integral protein of the skin that provides a natural barrier against harmful substances and infection. When the protein is produced in excess and clumps together, it forms a scaly plug that blocks the opening of hair follicles.


Keratosis pilaris is not contagious. However, you are more likely to develop Keratosis pilaris if you have the following:

  • A family history of it
  • Dry skin
  • Asthma
  • Eczema
  • Excess body weight
  • Hay fever


There is no cure for Keratosis pilaris, but there are means to alleviate its severity. Regularly apply moisturizers, such as Eucerin Professional Repair and AmLactin, to hydrate the skin. The Eucerin moisturizer is rich in alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and urea, and will significantly help exfoliate the bumps. AmLactin contains lactic acid, which is integral to breaking down the extra keratin. There are also a few home remedies one can utilize to minimize bumps, itching, and irritation. Since hot water strips the skin of natural oils, it’s important to take short, lukewarm baths instead, and to use gentle soaps. Also, avoid vigorous scrubbing or removal of hair follicles to prevent aggravation of the condition. Consider adding a humidifier in your room, especially during winter to prevent dryness of the skin.


Doctors may prescribe medicated creams. Creams containing AHAs, lactic acid, and salicylic acid, are generally recommended as it further helps with exfoliation, or removal of dead skin cells. There are also topical retinoid creams that are derived from vitamin A and can help with the prevention of plugged follicles. Some examples include Tretinoin (Retin-A, Renova, and Avita) and Tazarotene (Avage and Tazorac). However, be careful to not use too much, as overuse can irritate your skin. If you’re pregnant or nursing, your doctor may delay the topical retinol therapy and suggest an alternative treatment.


Dermatologists may recommend laser treatments if moisturizers and medications don’t work well. The laser will help reduce swelling, redness, and discoloration, and improve skin texture. You may also do a few microdermabrasion sessions in order to effectively remove superficial layers of skin with keratin, and create keratosis free surfaces.


Keratosis pilaris is generally not a threat and clears up on its own by the age of 30. However, if you’re concerned about the appearance of your skin, your physician can provide you with a treatment best suited to your specific needs and concerns. The doctor will be able to diagnose you based on the unique characteristics of the condition. No further testing will be required.


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