What is Keratosis Pilaris (Chicken Skin Appearance)?

Keratosis pilaris is a common, mostly harmless skin condition that causes small, rough, white or reddish bumps or patches on the skin. Although it can occur at any age, it most commonly affects children and adolescents. Symptoms usually improve and disappear completely in adult life. You can find more information below.

What is keratosis pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris , manifested by the appearance of chicken skin , is a common but harmless skin condition that causes areas of rough skin to form on the skin. These rough areas are actually dead skin cells that clog the hair follicles. These roughnesses sometimes appear red or brown in color.

The chicken skin appearance is usually found on the upper arms, thighs, cheeks or buttocks. Keratosis pilaris is not contagious and these bruises usually do not cause any discomfort or itching. This condition is known to worsen during the winter months when the skin tends to be dry and can also worsen during pregnancy.

There is no clear-cut treatment for this harmless, genetically derived skin condition, but there are ways to treat symptoms or prevent them from getting worse. The chicken skin appearance usually clears naturally by the time you reach 30.

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Causes of keratosis pilaris

The appearance of chicken skin is caused by a buildup of keratin, a tough protein that protects the skin from harmful substances and infection. Keratin forms a scaly plug that prevents the hair follicle from opening. Often many plugs form and cause patches of rough, bumpy skin.

No one knows exactly why keratin forms. However , it can occur in association with genetic diseases or other skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis . Dry skin makes this condition worse.

Who is at risk?

Chicken skin appearance is common in people with the following problems:

  • skin dryness
  • Eczema
  • ichthyosis
  • Hay fever
  • Melanoma
  • Obesity

Anyone can be sensitive to this skin condition, but it is more common in children and teenagers. Chicken skin appearance usually begins in late infancy or adolescence. It usually clears up in the mid-twenties, with most cases fully healed by age 30.

Hormonal changes can cause flare-ups during pregnancy for women and during puberty for teens. Also, this condition is more common in people with fair skin.

Keratosis pilaris symptoms

The most obvious symptom of keraosis pilaris is its appearance. Visible mini bumps appearing on the skin resemble the skin of a chicken whose feathers have been plucked. Therefore, it is commonly known as chicken skin disease or appearance .

Affected skin areas can appear anywhere on the skin where hair follicles are located and therefore never appear on the soles of your feet or palms. Keratosis pilaris is usually found on the upper arms and thighs. Sometimes it can extend to the forearms and lower legs.

Other symptoms associated with it include:

  • Mild redness on bumps
  • Itchy, restless skin
  • Dry skin
  • Sandpaper-like feel
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Keratosis pilaris diagnosis

Doctors diagnose the appearance of chicken skin with a simple physical examination of the skin where the scars are found. Some patients may see a dermatologist (skin specialist), but are most often diagnosed by a family doctor.

Medical tests are not usually necessary to diagnose this condition. Doctors may do other tests if they’re not sure if you have keratosis pilaris. They may test (biopsy) a small sample of your skin to rule out other possible causes for discomfort.

Keratosis pilaris treatment

The appearance of chicken skin usually clears up gradually on its own. Meanwhile, you can use any of the various products available to improve the appearance of the affected skin. If moisturizing and other self-care measures don’t help, your doctor may prescribe medicated creams.

Creams to remove dead skin cells

Creams containing alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid or urea help loosen and remove dead skin cells. It also moisturizes and softens dry skin. Depending on their strength, these creams (topical exfoliants) can be purchased over-the-counter or by prescription.

Your doctor can advise you on the best option and how often you should visit. The acids in these creams can cause redness, stinging or skin irritation, so they are not recommended for young children.

Creams to prevent clogged follicles

Creams derived from vitamin A (topical retinoids) work by promoting cell turnover and preventing clogged hair follicles. Tretinoin and tazarotene are examples of topical retinoids. These products can irritate and dry the skin.

Also, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, your doctor may recommend delaying topical retinoid therapy or choosing another treatment.

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Regular use of medicated cream can improve the appearance of the skin. But if you stop the treatment, it will come back. Also, even with treatment, the chicken skin appearance tends to persist for years.

Remember, your doctor will decide which medicine to take and how.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Self-help measures will not prevent or eliminate the appearance of chicken skin. But they can improve the appearance of affected skin.

  • Use warm water and limit bath time: Hot water and long showers or baths remove oils from the skin. Limit bath or shower time to about 10 minutes or less. Use warm, not too hot water.
  • Be kind to the skin: Avoid harsh, dry soaps. Gently remove the dead skin with a cloth or scrub. Rubbing or removing hair follicle plugs vigorously can irritate the skin and worsen the condition. After washing or bathing, gently wipe the skin with a towel so that some moisture remains.
  • Try medicated creams: Apply an over-the-counter cream containing urea, lactic acid, alpha hydroxy acid, or salicylic acid. These creams help loosen and remove dead skin cells. It also moisturizes and softens dry skin. Use them in consultation with your doctor.
  • Moisturizer: While skin is still damp after bathing, apply a moisturizer containing lanolin, petroleum jelly, or glycerine. These ingredients soothe dry skin and help retain moisture. You can reapply it to the affected skin several times a day.
  • Use a home humidifier: Low humidity dries out the skin. A portable home humidifier will add moisture to the air inside your home.
  • Avoid friction: Protect the affected skin from friction caused by wearing tight clothing.

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