6 Effective Ways to Get Rid of Keratosis Pilaris (Chicken Skin)
Have you or someone you know ever been affected by those tiny hard “goosebumps” commonly found on the back of the thighs and arms?
They make it look like you’re always shivering, although they’re not caused by temperature at all.
The medical term for these is keratosis pilaris (KP for short), and they’re caused when your body produces too much keratin.
Too much keratin causes a buildup of dead skin, which clogs your hair follicles and leaves you with those annoying bumps some call “chicken skin.”
Certain people are genetically predisposed to be more prone to keratosis pilaris, but seasonality has a lot to do with it too.
You’ll usually notice more bumps when your skin tends to be dryer — such as too much sun exposure in the summer, or not enough humidity in the air during winter.
Although not harmful in any way, KP can be uncomfortable and embarrassing — especially when you want to wear shorts or tanks during the warmer months.
KP affects about 40% of adults1, and although there is no “cure” for it, there are simple, effective ways to minimize the bumps.
But before I get into the ways you can deal with KP, keep in mind that vigorous scrubbing is not one of them.
(If you’ve ever tried to scrub your bumps away, you already know this.)
Manual exfoliation is important… but you have to do it gently. If you scrub too hard, you’ll just end up irritating the bumps more and make them redder.
Instead, try the methods below to keep your bumps at bay.
6 Most Effective Ways to Get Rid of Keratosis Pilaris
1. Avoid Harsh Cleansers
Soaps with lathering agents like sodium lauryl sulfate can strip your skin’s natural lipid layers and dehydrate your skin — making KP worse. Instead, use a gentle sulfate-free cleanser.
You can also look for body washes that contain glycolic or salicylic acids, which leads into…
2. Try Chemical Exfoliation
Since you have to be gentle with manual exfoliation, chemical exfoliation is the best option when it comes to unclogging your hair follicles.
An alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) such as glycolic or lactic acid removes the top layer of dead skin by dissolving the bonds between skin cells.
But you’ll also need something that unclogs the pore from the inside. A beta hydroxy acid (BHA) like salicylic acid is great for this.
There are a lot of products that combine AHA and BHA into one, easy to use formula, so look for those. Be mindful that acids make your skin photosensitive, so make sure to wear proper sun protection when using them.
3. Use Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a skin powerhouse ingredient because it contains retinol, which known for its skin-restoring properties. It helps with cell-turnover and can prevent hair follicles from clogging.
Try breaking open a vitamin A capsule and rubbing the oil on your skin to minimize KP, or try an over the counter 1% retinol.
Just be mindful that retinol can cause redness or peeling on sensitive skin, so start slow and use it only a couple times a week until you know how your skin reacts.
4. Look for a Specialty Moisturizer
Because keratosis pilaris is more visible on dry skin, moisturizing is key when it comes to minimizing it.
Look for moisturizers that contain urea — a moisturizing substance that promotes water retention within the skin. When in concentrations of 10% or more, it helps remove stubborn layers of keratin.
(The popular moisturizer Eucerin, for example, uses urea as a main ingredient).
There are also special moisturizers that contain linoleic acid, BHA, and AHA — allowing you to exfoliate and moisturize all at once.
5. Watch Your Water Temperature
Hot showers may sound luxurious, but they’re not doing your skin any favors. Water that’s too hot strips your skin’s natural protective barriers and dries it out, so opt for warm water instead.
And of course, put on moisturizer right after the shower while your skin is still damp to seal in moisture.
6. Make an Apple Cider Vinegar Spray
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a natural exfoliant because it contains malic and lactic acids. These help unclog your pores and balance skin’s pH levels.
To make an a topical solution, mix equal parts ACV and water and put in a spray bottle. Apply the mixture to the skin and rinse after 15-20 minutes.
As with any new routine, consistency is key. People report their KP returns as soon as they stop taking preventative measures, so pick a method that works for you and stick with it.
If you’re trying an acid-based approach, be mindful about potential skin sensitivity and do a patch test first.
And remember to be patient — you might not see baby-smooth skin overnight, but as with anything good, it’s worth the wait.
P.S. You might be wondering why I didn’t include coconut oil on this list. Although coconut oil is a great natural remedy for many other skin conditions, it’s pretty high on the comedogenic scale (level 4 out of 5) — meaning it may clog pores.
While it may be great for other parts of your body, I would avoid using it on clogged hair follicles.
Do you know of any other methods that work well for treating keratosis pilaris? Please let me know in the comments below!