Keratosis pilaris is a skin condition that causes the skin to become rough and bumpy, hence the nickname “chicken skin.” The corresponding bumps on the skin may look red or pink or even look like small pimples.
What does keratosis pilaris look like? The skin may be itchy, dry, irritated, or red in people with chicken skin. Although the condition is harmless, it can certainly affect your appearance and self-confidence.
Children and teens are more likely to have keratosis pilaris, although the condition typically goes away with age, with or without treatment. However, people with mature skin, especially those undergoing menopause, can also experience chicken skin.
What is chicken skin, why does it happen, and can you treat it naturally? Here’s your ultimate guide to keratosis pilaris in mature skin.
What Is Chicken Skin and Why Does It Happen?
Up to 80% of adolescents and 40% of adults suffer from keratosis pilaris. Keratosis pilaris is a genetic disorder, therefore having a family member with it increases your chances of getting it. There are nearly two dozen genetic mutations that have been associated with keratosis pilaris.
What does keratosis pilaris look like? People who suffer from keratosis pilaris have bumps that may look like pimples on affected areas of the skin. However, what’s really happening is that keratin, a type of protein, is accumulating in the tiny hair follicles that cover your body, so what may look like pimples are actually not.
Chicken skin can happen on any area of the body but is most common on the upper arms, thighs, and buttocks. Some people can even have chicken skin on their face—namely the cheeks. These rough and bumpy patches of skin can happen anywhere you have hair follicles.
What is chicken skin, and what causes it? Keratosis pilaris happens when surplus keratin accumulates and blocks pores. Then, small bumps form, which clogs the follicles and causes the rough skin people with keratosis pilaris experience.
What You Need to Know About Mature Skin and Keratosis Pilaris
People with skin conditions, such as eczema, may be more prone to developing chicken skin. People with mature skin tend to have dry or dull skin with a compromised skin barrier, so they may be more at risk for keratosis pilaris, especially if they have the genetic mutations linked to the disorder.
In people with keratosis pilaris, the condition worsens in the winter, especially for those who already have dry skin. People with fair skin are also more at risk to have the condition.
Although research doesn’t directly connect the hormonal changes associated with menopause with keratosis pilaris, the condition has been linked to pregnancy. It may be related to other hormonal changes in the body.
It’s also possible that having certain food sensitivities can influence the development of keratosis pilaris, especially if you already have the genetic mutations for the condition. These include foods such as dairy, eggs, wheat, and peanuts. Getting food sensitivity testing with your doctor may be necessary for managing your keratosis pilaris.
How Is It Treated?
Unfortunately, keratosis pilaris tends to be resistant to treatment. However, your dermatologist may recommend a cream or lotion to help. Some skincare treatments, such as chemical peels or laser skin treatments, may also help enhance the appearance of your skin.
Retinol and certain chemical exfoliants such as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) can also help increase cellular turnover, which may help improve the appearance of keratosis pilaris. Your dermatologist may be able to prescribe you a prescription-strength form of retinol that can help.
Since people with dry skin are more at risk for keratosis pilaris, keeping your skin moisturized is essential when managing the condition, whether you use a lotion or a cream. Generally, heavier, more protective creams tend to be better for those with chicken skin.
If you had chicken skin as a child or teenager and it hasn’t gone away or has returned with your mature skin, you can do a few things to help better manage the condition, although there isn’t an official “cure” for chicken skin.
Ways to Help Manage Keratosis Pilaris
A few simple steps can help improve chicken skin or prevent the risk of a flare-up.
- Some research suggests that follicular inflammation can trigger keratosis pilaris, which means anything you can do to keep inflammation low may be helpful, including eating healthy, managing your stress, and exercising.
- Exfoliating at least once a week can assist in removing keratin buildup in hair follicles. Use a chemical or physical exfoliant that’s safe for your skin type and use as directed on affected areas.
- Take baths, but don’t make the water too hot. Doing short soaks in a tub may help loosen keratin deposits in hair follicles. Following that, exfoliate to maximize the effects and apply a hydrating lotion or cream to prevent skin from drying out.
- Avoid wearing tight clothing. Tight clothes can irritate your skin and either increase your symptoms of keratosis pilaris or potentially cause a flare-up of the condition in the first place.
- It’s possible that vitamin D may play a role in the treatment of chicken skin, although the evidence isn’t conclusive.
- Avoid harsh or irritating skincare products. Always know your skin type and choose products that won’t irritate your skin or strip your skin barrier, such as gentle cleansers and exfoliants.
If you’re asking “what is chicken skin?” because you’re noticing signs of what could potentially be keratosis pilaris, always follow up with your experienced dermatologist or physician who can help diagnose the issue and help you pursue treatment.
What’s Your Skin Type?
Like managing other types of skin conditions, knowing your skin type is important when caring for skin that’s been affected by keratosis pilaris. Now that you know what keratosis pilaris looks like, you can more easily identify the condition. Don’t know your skin type yet? Take our free skincare evaluation to learn more and get started on your healthy skincare journey now!