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What is Keratosis pilaris? How to smooth the condition known as ‘chicken skin’


What is Keratosis pilaris? How to smooth the condition known as ‘chicken skin’

If you are one of many that experience keratosis pilaris, you might find it is worse at this time of year. The tiny rough, but harmless, bumps over skin anywhere on your body but particularly the upper arms, thighs and buttocks, are sometimes referred to as ‘chicken skin’. 

They can vary in colour and look white, red or the same hue as your skin.

According to DermnetNZ, it affects 50–70% of teenagers and 40% of adults.

“Keratosis pilaris is a very common dry skin condition where the follicles get clogged with keratin,” [a protein in skin] says Vanessa Feehan-Meldrum,  National Technical Trainer for Sothys

Though there is no cure for Keratosis pilaris and susceptibility to the condition is believed to be genetic, there are some things you can do that may improve its appearance. 

“It is advised to gently exfoliate, preferably with an AHA, and a light hydrating moisturizer,” says  Feehan-Meldrum.

She points out that in winter the issue can be exacerbated due to clothes rubbing onto the skin.

Exfoliants that use alpha hydroxy acids as well as, or instead of physical particles are now popular in facial skincare, and given they are so effective and can be gentle they are becoming more widespread in body products too. Products with salicylic acid, lactic acid or glycolic acid can be useful for dry skin and keratosis pilaris. These can be found in body washes, scrubs and lotions or creams.

In general skin can start looking dull and dry when covered in winter layers, so regular use of an exfoliant can help in that regard too. 

Smooth and renew skin with these products: Kopari Body Bumps Be Gone; Sothys Silhouette exfoliant; Paula’s Choice Weightless Body Treatment with 2% BHA; CeraVe Moisturising Cream; Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Exfoliating Body Treatment

Dry, ashy and crepe-y skin isn’t acting in a healthy manner, so it wont naturally turnover effectively or retain moisture, achieving that healthy plump appearance and resilience and can worsen those Keratosis pilaris ‘plugs’. Which is why you’ll need to give it a helping hand. If you simply layer on a thick moisturiser, you won’t be getting the best out of it as it can’t effectively penetrate those dead surface skin cells that are still lingering. 

“We need to remember to exfoliate the body as regularly as we exfoliate the face, ” explains Feehan-Meldrum.

“So once to twice a week, use an exfoliating body product followed by your body moisturizer. This will ensure skin is softened, refined and moisturised,” she says. 

She suggests massaging skin with Sothys Silhouette exfoliant, a physical exfoliant made of  sugar and volcanic rock powder in the shower. 

Exfoliating can exacerbate dryness in some conditions, as can overdoing it with too aggressive scrubbing that can also irritate sensitive skin.  So it’s worth carrying out a couple of times a week and following with a gentle moisturiser with barrier-nourishing ingredients like urea and ceramides to help skin retain hydration.


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