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Keratosis pilaris

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Keratosis pilaris is a very common skin condition, where the 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, gray, or flesh-colored, and skin feels rough, dry, and sometimes itchy.

This condition affects up to half of the population, running in families and appearing most commonly 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 moisturizer, especially one containing urea, can help. It can recur if you stop 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 moisturizing 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 moisturizer 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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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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