What is Keratosis Pilaris AKA chicken skin?

Keratosis Pilaris (KP) is a common inherited disorder of the skin affecting around 1 in 20 of us. It occurs due to an accumulation of keratin at the opening of the hair follicle, leading to stubborn, scaly plugs on the skin’s surface. These are often surrounded by a rim of redness giving a stippled or speckled appearance and may resemble goose bumps or “chicken skin”.

KP usually becomes apparent during childhood and is most likely to affect the upper arms, front of the thighs and sides of the cheeks. The size of the bumps is said to increase and decrease over a period of months and can fluctuate in different hormonal states, such as pregnancy.

Even without therapy, the condition tends to become less prominent with age, although this is not always the case. In light of the genetic predisposition there is unfortunately no cure for KP, however there are a few things sufferers can do to improve how it looks and feels.

1. Avoid harsh soaps and cleansers which may dry the skin out contributing to a feeling of roughness.

2. Body washes containing glycolic or salicylic acid can help smooth the skin and the addition of gentle massage with a polyester sponge or body polish a couple of times a week in the bath or shower has been shown in dermatological studies to improve results. Vigorous scouring, however, is likely to cause irritation and should be discouraged.

3. After bathing, a moisturising cream or lotion should be applied to damp skin in a downward direction, that is in the same direction as the hair growth.

4. Glycolic acid, ammonium lactate, salicylic acid and urea containing “humectants” are preferable to simple moisturisers for their added keratolytic effects, meaning they can help excess dissolve keratin.

5. If symptoms persist despite this, a Dermatologist may prescribe a retinoid cream to help smooth the skin or a short burst of steroid cream if the bumps are particularly red, itchy and inflamed.

6. Persistent skin discolouration, redness or pigmentation caused by KP have been treated with skin lightening agents and lasers with varying degrees of success.

For moisturisers, I love Ameliorate Transforming Body Lotion with lactic acid, Eucerin Intensive 10% Urea Treatment Lotion with urea or Neostrata Ultra Smoothing Lotion or Lotion Plus with gycolic acid. For the shower, I like Jan Marini Bioglycolic Resurfacing Body scrub and/ or Ameliorate Exfoliating Body Mitt to be used once or twice per week.

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