Keratosis Pilaris Causes, symptoms and treatment for chicken skin

What is Keratosis Pilaris?

Keratosis Pilaris (also known as Keratosis Follicularis, Lichen Pilaris and Follicular Keratosis) is a non-contagious skin disorder. 

An overproduction of keratin blocks the hair follicles and small bumps form. This causes skin to thicken, especially on the upper arms and thighs but also on the buttocks and on the face. Small pimples develop and skin feels rough and uneven − hence why Keratosis Pilaris is often referred to as ‘chicken skin’. 

A genetic condition, young people are particularly effected: the first symptoms of Keratosis Pilaris usually appear during childhood and are very common in adolescents. Chicken skin can clear up as we age, or it can keep coming back.

Sadly there are no known ways to get rid of it, but symptoms can be alleviated by regular skincare using appropriate oils, peels and skin creams.

The small red, skin-coloured or brown pimples of chicken skin
Small skin-coloured, red or brown pimples appear on the skin.

What are the symptoms of Keratosis Pilaris?

The symptoms of Keratosis Pilaris are small pimples which tend to be skin coloured or red on light skin and brown on dark skin. They appear on the arms, thighs, buttocks or the face and are sometimes compared to ‘goose bumps’. If these symptoms occur on other parts of the body you should consult a doctor or dermatologist.

The pin-head sized bumps (keratoses) are harmless and do not normally cause any pain but they can be itchy, and regular, aggressive itching may lead to inflammation. When the symptoms appear on parts of the body that are clearly visible, Keratosis Pilaris can cause issues around self-esteem and what starts as a cosmetic problem can become a psychological one.

Dry skin is particularly susceptible to ‘chicken skin’. The symptoms of Keratosis Pilaris worsen in conditions of low humidity (e.g. the winter) and tend to improve when humidity is higher (e.g. the summer). Keratosis Pilaris also accompanies certain allergies and Atopic Dermatitis.

Pimples on the skin are typical symptoms for chicken skin
Small pimples on the skin are typical signs of the keratinisation disorder known as Keratosis Pilaris.
Keratosis Pilaris can cause stress
Keratosis Pilaris can cause stress

What causes chicken skin?

The exact causes are not known but, as a large percentage of those effected by chicken skin have family members who also have the condition (it often occurs in twins), it is highly likely that it is genetic and inherited.

What we do know is that the bumps form as a result of the overproduction of keratin. Keratin is the protein that gives body tissue its stability and is the building block of our hair and nails. In cases of Keratosis Pilaris, the excess of keratin produced collects in (and blocks) the hair follicles. Skin thickens as a result and bumps turn into hard plugs.

What can you do to treat Keratosis Pilaris?

Even though there is no cure for chicken skin, symptoms can be alleviated with a suitable skincare routine and other measures (such as diet).

The first step to managing keratinized skin is thorough personal hygiene. When symptoms are mild they can be considerably improved by regularly applying moisturiser.

Daily moisturising helps with Keratosis Pilaris
Thorough daily moisturising can help alleviate symptoms.

Skin lotions with Urea (one of skin’s own Natural Moisturising Factors) are particularly suitable for daily skin care. Urea binds moisture into the skin and has a keratolitic effect so is ideal for dry and flaky skin. For best results use lotions or creams that are fragrance- and colourant-free and apply the product several times a day to the affected area of the body.

Eucerin UreaRepair PLUS Lotion 10% Urea has been specially formulated for the intensive care of dry or extremely dry skin and is often used as a treatment for Keratosis Pilaris. The formula, which combines Urea with other Natural Moisturising Factors and Ceramide (a valuable skin lipid), instantly soothes skin. It helps to exfoliate dead skin cells and makes skin smooth and supple.

Extensive clinical and dermatological studies on dry skin have proven the effectiveness of the product in treating both dry skin and Keratosis Pilaris.

 

UreaRepair PLUS Lotion 10% Urea helps with chicken skin
Eucerin UreaRepair PLUS Lotion 10% Urea provides intense and long-lasting moisture.

A regular skincare routine that can help alleviate symptoms

Chicken skin - use a soap-free cleanser

Thoroughly clean the affected area once or twice a day with a soap-free product such as Eucerin UreaRepair pH5 Washlotion.

Keratosis Pilaris - gentle exfoliation helps

Regular exfoliation of the top skin layer of skin will help to loosen and remove any ‘plugs’ which may have formed. Sea salt, products containing fruits acids and even milk can help.

Chicken skin - Regular moisturising relieves symptoms

Daily moisturising with a Urea-based skin lotion such as Eucerin UreaRepair PLUS Lotion 10% Urea. Massage the lotion gently into the skin until completely absorbed. For best results, the lotion should be left to work overnight. Try covering the affected part of the body with cling film to increase the benefits of the moisturiser.

Keratosis Pilaris -treat larger affected areas with ointment

For the worst affected areas try using ointments with Urea such as Eucerin UreaRepair ORIGINAL Ointment 10% Urea.

In addition, creams with Vitamin A (Retinoids) or oils with Vitamin E (e.g. coconut oil or olive oil) can help alleviate symptoms.

What else can you do to treat chicken skin?

It’s a good idea to try out lots of different ways to treat Keratosis Pilaris to find out what works for you and what doesn’t. People with Keratosis Pilaris have found that the following can help:

Visit a solarium
As chicken skin often improves in the summer due to exposure to the sun, regular visits to a solarium in winter can help. But be careful when using solariums as they can increase the risk of premature skin ageing and cancer.

 

 

 

Exfoliating skin with sea salt
Exfoliating gently removes dead layers of skin and can help improve overall skin condition. But skin peels – especially those on the face – should be used sparingly and not too frequently so as not to irritate sensitive skin or worsen the condition.

 

 

Nutrition
People who experience Keratosis Pilaris should be sure to eat a healthy diet. It can also help to avoid foods that can trigger allergies such as gluten, or to have yourself professional tested for allergies to see if you have any intolerances.

You should also drink at least two litres of water a day and avoid unhealthy options such as sugary and fizzy drinks. 

 

 

Saunas and steam baths make peeling easier
Saunas and steam baths soften skin making it easier to remove dead cells
Gentle peeling helps with Keratosis Pilaris
Gentle exfoliation helps with Keratosis Pilaris
A healthy diet also promotes skin health
A balanced diet rich in vitamins and nutrients is important for healthy skin

Although there is no known cure for Keratosis Pilaris, an appropriate skincare routine and regular moisturising with a Urea-rich product such as Eucerin UreaRepair PLUS Lotion 10% Urea will help alleviate symptoms and smooth skin.