Full disclosure: we have all walked around with bumpy arms, thighs and butts (!!) at some point in our lives. Whether it occurred post a waxing session or just popped up on its own, it has invariably happened to all of us. Commonly known as 'chicken skin', this condition of the skin is actually keratosis pilaris - clogging up of pores with dead skin and keratin (hair protein), leading to a blockage in the opening of new and growing hair follicles. Quite often confused with acne, and treated like one by clueless teens and young adults, keratosis pilaris treatment and behavior is quite different. The tiny bumps that pop up where a new body hair should have been, are rough, quite visible and can be a hindrance while showing skin. It can make some people conscious about exposing their arms or legs. And we are here to tell you while there is no need to be stressed about these common, bumpy patches of skin, there are ways to help deal with it for aesthetic reasons, and we spoke to an expert about it!
- Factors responsible for keratosis pilaris
- Who is more likely to be affected by keratosis pilaris?
- What is the best way of identifying keratosis pilaris correctly?
- What is the expert recommended way to help deal with keratosis pilaris?
- What are the precautions to be taken with keratosis pilaris?
- General tips to help deal with keratosis pilaris
- FAQs about keratosis pilaris
Factors responsible for keratosis pilaris
According to Dr. Divya, “Keratosis pilaris is the retention of dead skin in the hair follicles of the skin, especially occurring in the sides of the arms, back, buttocks and sometimes even thighs. The lesions of keratosis pilaris flare-up in the form of red, brown or yellow bumps at times. They are completely asymptomatic and are not accompanied by any itching or pain. They are quite commonly confused with acne, which is often accompanied by itching or pain.”
Who is more likely to be affected by keratosis pilaris?
While the major causes behind keratosis pilaris are still under research, there are some factors that make some people more likely to be affected by it. “People who have dust allergy, asthma, sinusitis, or excessively dry skin are at a higher risk of developing keratosis pilaris. It is also much more common in colder areas as compared to humid areas. It is also common in women who show higher levels of androgen in their body. Even factors like weight gain can render someone more prone to developing this condition.”
What is the best way of identifying keratosis pilaris correctly?
Keratosis pilaris is quite common among young people and can start to fade by your mid-30s. But the commonality of the condition makes it so easy to be confused with other conditions like acne or other mild forms of breakouts. The best way to identify the condition is to take these pointers on consideration:
- They don't constantly itch under normal conditions
- Can get itchier and more visible in the winter months due to lack of humidity
- Start to scar if you pick or scratch at them
- Look like goosebumps or the skin of a plucked chicken (thus the name)
- Always pop up on areas of your skin where you find hair follicles (back of the arms being very common)
What is the expert recommended way to help deal with keratosis pilaris?
While keratosis pilaris cannot be fully cured, the symptoms can still be managed. There are some effective steps that can help improve the appearance of the flare-ups and not be so prominent that you have to hide it all the time. Dr. Divya recommends two main methods:
- Daily moisturisation in the morning, followed by a good sunscreen.
- At night, a good chemical exfoliating agent, like glycolic acid or salicylic acid, is preferred.
Pro tip: Body washes with mandelic acid or tea tree oil can also be incorporated into your routine to help deal with the flare-ups. Exfoliating lotions and serums are available to help deal with keratosis pilaris patches on your body. Chemical exfoliants, like glycolic acid and lactic acid, are known to slough off dead skin cells while being gentle on your skin. So, look out for them!
What are the precautions to be taken with keratosis pilaris?
Dr. Divya further recommends watching your weight if you are suffering from keratosis pilaris. Avoid using harsh soap bars or too many stripping agents on your skin. Physical exfoliation is a big no-no since rubbing and scrubbing the affected area can make it darker. You might find a keratin plug or pimple-like material inside the bumps, which can be very tempting to pop, but doing so can lead to irritation and should be avoided. Do not rely on over-the-counter acne treatments as they can lead to issues like redness, stinging, irritation and dryness in the affected area. If the condition becomes too annoying for you, consult a dermatologist - they can take advanced approaches like microdermabrasion, chemical peels or topical retinoids to help with the issue.
General tips to help deal with keratosis pilaris
Here are some general tips to help deal with keratosis pilaris:
1. Improve your showering habits:
Improper showering habits like taking long, long baths and using boiling water can strip your skin of its natural oils and make it drier. Switch to shorter showers with lukewarm water (unclog and loosen your pores) and try to air dry your skin post it.
2. Keep up with exfoliation:
Quite often, body care takes a backseat when compared to the routine you follow for your face. Keep with your regular exfoliation with gentle, chemical exfoliant-infused products to help slough off dead skin cells. Look for AHAs to safely and gently exfoliate on a regular basis.
3. Keep your skin hydrated:
Maintain ideal hydration levels to help deal with keratosis pilaris. Ingredients like lactic acid can help boost cell turnover and keep your skin moisturised. Load up on humectant-infused ingredients to help trap moisture in your skin and keep irritation at bay.
4. Invest in a good humidifier:
If you live in dry weather, invest in a good humidifier to add moisture to your skin and keep it hydrated. A humidifier on super-dry days can help control itchy flare-ups on your skin.
5. Minimise friction on your skin:
Keep the friction on your skin, especially on patches with keratosis pilaris flare-ups, as minimal as possible. Avoid tight clothing and choose your accessories smartly to keep it away from the affected area.
FAQs about keratosis pilaris
Q. What happens when you scratch at the area affected with keratosis pilaris?
A. Scratching or picking keratosis pilaris areas while they are still spiny can lead to making the skin surrounding it darker (hyperpigmentation) or lighter (hypopigmentation). Both of these conditions can be pretty prominent, so make sure you avoid doing that.
Q. Can dry brushing help keratosis pilaris?
A. In theory, dry brushing may seem like a good idea to help slough off the plugged dead skin cells from your pores. But dermatologists recommend gentler forms of chemical exfoliation, as physical ones can be too harsh for the skin. Especially a practice like dry brushing that cannot be controlled or targetted only on a smaller patch of keratosis pilaris.
Q. Are there any home remedies to help deal with keratosis pilaris?
A. If regular exfoliation and moisturisation is not helping your case, reach out to your dermatologist to help you deal with it. DIY home remedies can sometimes do more harm than good. But a gentle homemade sugar scrub, made with coconut oil as a base, can be used if you're keen on giving home remedies a try.
Q. Does sun exposure help deal with keratosis pilaris?
A. It is a common misconception that sun exposure can help mitigate ‘chicken skin’ flare-ups. In reality, sun exposure can further damage and sensitise already dry skin, leading to worsening of the condition.