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Keratosis pilaris

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 2 minutes read

Keratosis pilaris is a very common skin condition, where skin gets bumpy and red, resembling chicken skin or goosebumps. It typically occurs on the upper outer arms and thighs, where hair follicles get blocked with pockets of keratin, a thick tough substance that helps to protect the skin. Bumps can be red, grey or flesh-coloured, and skin feels rough, dry and sometimes itchy.

This condition affects up to half of the population, running families and appearing most obviously in adolescence, with improvement usually in adulthood. It is completely harmless, but people become concerned with the appearance.

Is it contagious?

There is nothing infectious or contagious about keratosis pilaris. Most people find it gets better in the summer, but if you want to improve the appearance, you can try a gentle physical exfoliation, such as salt scrub or dry brushing. Chemical exfoliants such as salicylic acid or lactic acid can help to break the keratin plugs down, and a regular moisturiser, especially one containing urea, can help. It can recur if you stop cease the buffing, though - there is no "cure" as such.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

Although there is no guaranteed way to get rid of chicken skin, symptoms can be helped with a suitable skincare routine and other measures such as a healthy diet. Keratosis pilaris may also clear up naturally, however mild symptoms can be considerably improved by regularly moisturising the skin.

CeraVe SA Smoothing Cream aims to gently exfoliate the skin with salicylic acid, and contains 10% Urea to smooth dry rough & bumpy skin. This can be used in combination with the smoothing cleanser for the best results.

Am I fit for work?

There is no reason to be off work with keratosis pilaris.

When should I see my doctor?

If you are sure of the diagnosis, there is no reason to go to the doctor. You can speak to a pharmacist about the best moisturiser and exfoliant for this condition.

If you are unsure of the diagnosis, then book a routine appointment with your doctor, who will examine you.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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