Keratosis Pilaris (KP) is a harmless, benign skin condition which causes rough, dry bumps to appear on the skin. This common condition is often referred to as goosebump skin or chicken skin. KP is a genetic condition which does not have a cure but it can often be minimized or reduced through dermatological treatment.
KP occurs when the body produces too much keratin, a protein found in your hair. This protein blocks your pores and causes small bumps to form where your body hair is supposed to emerge from the follicles. Keratosis pilaris may also cause itching, dryness, or irritation, and may cause some patches of skin to feel dry and sandpapery.
People with KP will typically notice rough, dry bumps which appear on the skin, most commonly on the face, arms, thighs, legs, and/or buttocks. These bumps may appear red or pinkish purple on fair skin or brownish black on dark skin.
There are a number of different factors that can make you more likely to develop chicken skin, including being overweight or having some conditions like asthma or hay fever. There is also a genetic component to KP, meaning that you are more likely to have this condition if it has also affected close family members. Skin conditions which may be linked to keratosis pilaris include ichthyosis vulgaris and atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema. Because chicken skin is typically exacerbated by dry skin, you may be more likely to notice symptoms in cold, dry weather.
A dermatologist can usually diagnose chicken skin rather easily through a simple physical examination of the affected skin.
A dermatologist can prescribe over-the-counter treatments which moisturize the skin, removing dead skin cells and unblocking your pores. Topical creams containing urea and lactic acid are often used for this purpose. Other things you can do that might help include exfoliating, using a humidifier, or avoiding tight clothes which rub against or irritate the skin. While there is no specific cure for keratosis pilaris, it typically clears up on its own by around the age of 30.
While many of the risk factors for KP are things that are not within your control, there are some measures you can take that may help keep your skin healthy and moisturized. Avoid taking long showers which may ultimately dry out the skin, and apply moisturizer after bathing. You should also make sure that you are avoiding any products which cause irritation or allergic reactions.
While keratosis pilaris may be unsightly, it is harmless and not contagious, meaning that it does not necessarily require treatment and there are no major long-term risks of the condition.
Keratosis pilaris can be caused by some skin conditions such as eczema and ichthyosis vulgaris.