Keratosis Pilaris (commonly referred to as chicken skin ) is a skin condition that causes small whitish or red bumps. Most commonly it occurs on the upper arms and thighs. Less commonly keratosis pilaris affects the buttocks and face. It presents a rough sandpaper feel.
- Keratosis Pilaris is harmless, except for the distress it causes some people.
- Keratosis Pilaris affects up to 50% of the population.
- It is genetic and requires patience to treat.
What Causes Keratosis Pilaris?
Keratosis Pilaris (KP) is caused by a build-up of keratin (a naturally occur skin protein that is designed to protect your skin from infections or harmful things). The keratin builds up and blocks your hair follicles which result in tiny bumps. KP gives the skin a rough and sometimes reddened appearance. Hence the unflattering term chicken skin.
- The keratin forms a hard plug inside the pores
- Scrubbing will not remove these bumps (and can make the chicken skin appearance worse because it drys the skin out)
Generally, left untreated keratosis pilaris will settle itself. However, this can take months to years. So most people seek treatment to remove the rough scaley texture and appearance.
Keratosis Pilaris Treatment
We recommend a booking with our skin Doctor – at the outset, as you require prescription creams to really lessen the chicken skin appearance. Generally, the cost will be $80 though it can be less or more depending on the time taken for consultation. Below are the 5 most effective approaches to settle your keratosis pilaris. But remember it take time and persistence, it will not disappear overnight.
1. Prescription retinoid for treatment of Keratosis Pilaris
Unless you have a contraindication to its use, prescription retinoids (think the treatment of acne, sun damage, wrinkles and photos ageing ). Vitamin A increases cell turnover and hence exfoliation of surface cells so the chicken skin bumps flatten out. It takes 6 – 12 weeks to see the results and requires ongoing use.
2. Chemical exfoliants for Keratosis Pilaris Treatment
Unlike mechanical scrubs, chemical exfoliants do help. Either BHA, AHA or combinations of both to unclog your follicles. There are many exfoliant choices, and we stock Paulas Choice, Dermaenergy and Synergy. But here are some pointers to look out for in keratosis pilaris treatment with chemical exfoliants. (Starting with a clinic chemical peel can speed settling of the chicken skin bumps, see below.)
- Minimum 10% AHA concentration
- minimum 2% BHA concentration
- Require the daily application to keep the lumps at bay.
3. Try a Chemical Peel To Kick Start Your Keratosis Pilaris Treatment.
A clinic chemical peel allows us to go to higher strength peels which enable deeper penetration, with faster results. If you want to kick-start your treatment, we have a few choices, but perhaps the best is a double layer peel with lactic acid and salicylic acid. Discuss this with our Doctor during your appointment.
4. Other Products and Tips to Help Settle Chicken Skin.
There are a few other topical treatments and considerations which help to remove the keratin scales blocking the follicles, and also to help prevent them from reappearing. Using keratolytic agents (products that help break down the keratin that is blocking the follicles. These include urea, lactic acid and glycerin. They all perform the second function of moisturising as well.
- use fragrance-free products, as KP can be exacerbated by fragrance in your body lotions or creams
- avoid scented soaps and body washes (avoid soap altogether as it can be drying on the skin
- prevent things that dehydrate skin, such as long baths, exposure to cold air and winds
- avoid excessive alcohol causes your skin to dry out
- drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
Lastly what dietary measures can help with keeping chicken skin at bay. A healthy skin diet is rich in whole anti-inflammatory foods. With KP it becomes especially important to make sure your skin stays moisturised, and you get food rich in omega 3’s. Similar to an acne diet plan omega 3’s are very important.
5. Foods to help settle keratosis pilaris.
Eat foods that contain omega-3s:
- nuts, seeds and beans – especially walnuts, flaxseeds and soybeans
- oily fish such as wild salmon, tuna and sardines.
Eat foods that help settle inflammation.
- Include foods which promote a healthy gut microbiome such as fermented foods – Kim chi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha
- eat probiotic food that is rich in insoluble fibre or resistant starch.
- avoid foods that trigger inflammation such as milk, sugar, high GI carbohydrates and processed foods.
Leafy greens, fresh vegetables and fruit are also useful for overall skin health.