Keratosis Pilaris (sometimes referred to as “chicken skin”) is a very common skin condition that some people experience on the back of the upper arms, thighs, buttocks and occasionally the cheeks. It is a completely harmless skin condition which affects approximately 50-70% of teenagers and up to 40% of adults. It is also more common in children who suffer with atopic dermatitis (eczema). It appears in childhood but becomes more prominent in adolescence.
Keratosis pilaris runs in families therefore up to 50% of children of an affected parent may show variable signs of Keratosis pilaris. The scaly 1-2mm spots/bumps are symmetrical on the arms/thighs/cheeks and may appear skin-coloured, red or brown. It is usually asymptomatic, however it may be rarely itchy. It may be more prominent during Winter months which is not fully understood but may be due to the fact the skin tends to be drier in the Winter, while in the Summer months the sweat makes it less scaly.
The name comes from ‘Keratosis’ – meaning there is too much Keratin, (the tough outer layer of the skin) and ‘Pilaris’ relating to Pilus, which is the Latin for hair. It is due to abnormal keratinization of the lining of the upper portion of the hair follicle which means the scale fills the hair follicle rather than it being shed/exfoliated. In terms of treatment, there is no cure for Keratosis Pilaris, however it may improve with age, and the following treatments may be useful to improve the appearance/smoothen the skin:
• Exfoliate: Use a loofah or rough washcloth with a moisturizing cleanser in the bath or shower to soften the bumps. Be gentle; do not aggressively scrub. Exfoliate once a day as needed.
• Shower quickly: Long hot showers/baths tend to dry the skin and may worsen KP.
• Soap free: use soap-free cleansers to wash the skin to prevent excessive skin dryness.
• Hydrate: Use a moisturiser immediately after bathing. Creams are better than lotions, opt for those which contain one or a combination of the following ingredients: Urea, BHA’s (beta-hydroxy acids/Salicylic acid) and AHA’s (alpha-hydroxy acids/Glycolic acid).
• Consider topical retinoids to aid with exfoliation to smoothen the skin.
• IPL (intense-pulse light) - may temporarily reduce the redness but unfortunately will not improve the roughness of the skin.
As Keratosis Pilaris is not something you can cure, a maintenance regime is key.
Exfoliating and hydrating your skin at least a few times per week – if not daily - is ideal. If you struggle to manage it or your KP is bothering you a lot, please do book in to see your dermatologist for a bespoke treatment plan.