Keratosis Pilaris: The Chicken Skin Effect


Keratosis pilaris is the official term for those frustrating bumps that appear on the tops of your arms. So, what exactly is it?


What is keratosis pilaris?


Keratosis pilaris (a.k.a. KP) is characterised by rough ‘chicken skin’ which usually appears on the backs of the arms and the thighs. While the skin condition is not harmful, it occurs in a staggering 1 in 3 people and appearance of it can have a significant impact on self-esteem.

Keratosis pilaris is caused by the build-up of keratin in the hair follicle which blocks the pore and hardens to form little bumps over the skin. Certain factors, such as cold weather and harsh soaps, can worsen symptoms and cause redness and irritation.


How do you get rid of keratosis pilaris?


Unfortunately, keratosis pilaris cannot be cured. However, there are several things you can do that will drastically reduce the appearance of it. Further still, symptoms of keratosis pilaris often disappear with age.


Avoid drying products

As keratosis pilaris is a dry skin disorder, it is vital to avoid any products that will dry out the skin further. For example, surfactants (e.g. soap) strip the skin of any oil and moisture, significantly drying it out and blocking the pores more. Watch out for sodium laureth sulphate and sodium lauryl sulphate in skincare products.

Hot water will also dry out the skin, so make sure you are having warm (not hot) showers instead.



Exfoliation is one of the most effective ways to treat KP, however, it is important to distinguish between chemical and physical exfoliants. Physical exfoliants are products designed to manually scrub dry skin off, for example, body scrubs, exfoliating gloves and loofahs. These products are very harsh on the skin and will increase irritation, making keratosis pilaris worse.

Alternatively, chemical exfoliants, such as glycolic or lactic acid, work to gently exfoliate the top layer of the skin, removing any dead skin cells which may be clogging the pores. Salicylic acid is another useful chemical exfoliant; it has the ability to penetrate deep into the pore and break down the plugs of keratin, making it a more effective treatment.

NB: Be careful with chemical exfoliants, as they will make your skin more sensitive to the sun.



Moisturising the skin will not only reduce any roughness, but it will also prevent it from drying out and blocking pores anymore. Urea is a particularly popular ingredient for treating KP. It dissolves down keratin build up, as well as moisturises the skin.


Product Recommendations


Eucerin Intensive 10% w/w Urea Treatment Cream – £12.50

Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Body Cream – £8

Ameliorate Skin Smoothing Body Lotion – £14.50

Dermadoctor KP Duty AHA Moisturising Therapy – £28.50

Amlactin 12% Moisturising Lotion


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