Chicken Skin…AKA…Keratosis Pilaris.

Thanks to a genetic tendency for Keratosis Pilaris (KP), even humans can have the de-feathered look of a chicken. Ba-gock!…..but for many of us those dry keratin plugged hair follicles are a bumpy distraction from the baby smooth skin we desire. They take residence over cheeks, arms, thighs, or buttocks. Sometimes these bumps improve spontaneously overtime and sometimes they worsen with fluctuations in hormones like pregnancy. Nonetheless, you can’t change your innate biologics, but you can take measures to smooth away those tactile distractions. There are plenty of OTC and RX treatments to help you do so.


Skin Moisturization

Repair the foundation of your barrier with effective moisturizers like one of my favorites, Shea Moisture 100% Coconut Oil & Organic Shea Butter All-Over Hydration Body Lotion or CetaphilCream. This should be the basis of prepping for healthy, silky skin. From clinical experience, this is best implemented as a whole body prep before use of a topical exfoliant, as such products may dry the bumps but also dry the surrounding skin. A preliminary humectant helps to preserve the normal skin.  When cleansing the skin, stick with something gentle and hydrating like Dove Body Wash or Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Body Wash.

Chemical Exfoliation

Hydroxy Acids such as Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid and to a lesser extent Salicylic acid are mainstays for treatment of KP as they assist in shedding the dry skin barrier (click here for a great hydrating SA cream). Treatments containing such are available OTC or in office as Am-Lactin (lactic acid), Glytone KP Kit (glycolic acid Exfoliating Body Wash & Lotion) or the stronger 8% glycolic acid of Neostrata Ultra Smoothing Lotion and Cerave SA or Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Daily Moisturizing Lotion (Salicylic Acid). A multi-whammy concoction is in each container of Dermadoctor KP Duty, with ingredients like Alpha Hydroxy Acids, Azelaic Acid, Green Tea, Glycolic Acid, and Lactic Acid all in one.

Urea is a natural skin humectant which helps to retain water within the epidermal barrier, while also exfoliating. It can be found on store shelves in brands like Excipial Skin Solutions 20% Urea Intensive Healing Cream.

Retinoids are useful for their effect on cell-turn over and unplugging follicles. OTC brands like Philosophy Miracle Worker Miraculous Anti-Aging Retinoid Pads and Solution or Differin gel can help reduce bumps. Nonetheless, these products can be a tad irritating, so start slow, maybe a few times a week and back off if irritation ensues.

Salt or sugar scrubs are a traditional way for skin beautification while providing an aromatic therapy. Try the Buffy Body Butter from Lush Cosmetics, enhanced with almonds in a cocoa and shea butter base. It moisturizes while it refines. Tree Hut Original Shea Sugar Scrubs (one of my fave brands) is also a great option, with the typical crystalline texture and fab smell.

Mechanical Exfoliation

If used intermittently, mechanical exfoliation can be like a dust-buster for flaky skin. Mechanisms like a natural sponge or sonic oscillating brush can be helpful to brush away dead skin. Although excessive use or pressure may cause irritation, so use with care.



Hydroxy Acids as discussed above are available in greater strengths and combinations via prescription products. KP treatments like Salex Cream (6% Salicyclic Acid), Salvax Foam (6% Salicylic Acid), Hydro-35 Foam (35% Urea), Lac-Hydrin (12% Lactic Acid), and Keralac (Urea 40% cream) are great skin shedders.


Topical steroid treatments may sooth the inflammation that comes with some KP cases and decrease the rosy hue encircling KP bumps. Strengths and vehicles vary for this, but a few common mild-moderate strength brands include Verdeso Foam, Locoid Lotion, Cordran Cream, and Luxiq.


Retinoids could provide another option if others are a dead end. Prescription strength retinoids will have a greater keratin unplugging effect, but may also cause greater skin irritation. Discuss skin type during your dermatology visit and opt for a milder retinoid if you have sensitive skin, like Atralin.

In-Office Treatments

Laser or light therapy may be a cosmetic alternative for those with severe inflammation and redness such as IPL. Laser hair removal spectrums are also appropriate in some cases where ingrown hairs are at fault for worsening KP like lesions. Chemical peels and microdermabrasion are also treatments utilized to debride surface skin and renew. However, keep in mind that KP is a chronic condition, so for many this may not be a cost effective modality. Nonetheless, Neutrogena at Home Microdermabrasion System is a milder OTC alternative within a reasonable price range.

Like many skin diseases, there is no cure for KP. Even with treatment, the skin may be smooth but speckled with pink or brown polka-dots, marking where KP once lived. Yet, the treatments above will help to make KP a background nuisance, rather than, a front stage star.

*The information provided above or in any blogs on this site is for educational purposes only. I does not replace advice or necessary examination and diagnosis from your healthcare clinician. Please see your healthcare provider for any and all concerns with changes in your health or treatment of disease.*

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