For as long as I could remember, the backs of my arms had a smattering of dry red bumps on them. They were completely painless and only began to bother me when I moved to Dubai and wearing short sleeves became a daily occurrence. I would scrub them with a loofa in the shower in an attempt to get rid of them but to no avail; they just got redder and more prominent.
Keratosis Pilaris is a very common, harmless skin condition that causes small, hard bumps that make your skin feel dry and rough. They usually appear on upper arms, thighs, and bums, and whilst they’re usually a light colour, they can sometimes look red and swollen- particularly on darker skin tones. They can also show up on your face, but that’s less common in adults. It tends to be genetic and whilst it can affect anyone of any age, it’s mostly younger people that suffer from it.
Keratosis Pilaris is caused by a buildup of keratin, the protein that protects skin from infections and other harmful things. The buildup forms a plug that blocks the opening of a hair follicle, but it’s not known what the main cause of this buildup could be. If you have dry skin, you’re more likely to develop it, particularly in the winter when there’s less moisture in the air.
Sadly, there’s no “magic” solution to KP and treatment really is a matter of consistent TLC and using products that work for you. I started using Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel as recommended by an aesthetician who I’d visited for a standard cleansing facial and who had happened to notice my chicken arms. The pads are soaked in a blend of acids that gently exfoliate the surface of the skin daily over the course of thirty days. I followed this with a daily dose of Neostrata Lotion Plus body cream which contains glycolic acid to gently loosen skin cells and improve the rough, scaly texture. Some people find that shaving the affected area also helps to smooth the skin’s surface, as it not only gets rid of hair, but also evenly scrapes away the top layer of dead skin. Our good friend retinol is also an effective way to control the bumps. Vitamin A derivatives speed up cell turnover, which prevents buildup of skin cells and, in turn, bump-causing keratin.
Whatever method you choose, the key to winning the battle against chicken skin is to “slough it off, slap it on”. In other words, consistent, gentle exfoliation and intensive daily hydration. If you do decide to use acid or retinol-based products, don’t forget to use a high SPF as AHAs and retinoids will make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, which may result in irritation and possible burning.
Check out some of my favourite bump-fighting products below.