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Chicken Skin (Keratosis Pilaris): Why You Just Can't Get Rid of It

By Alison Vavra
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An estimated 40- 50 percent of women have Keratosis Pilaris (KP), affectionately known as Chicken Skin. I was unfamiliar with the term until yesterday when I read an article that mentioned the ailment. It makes perfect sense when I think about it, or when I look at my arms—rough, bumpy patches of skin that do, in fact, resemble that of a chicken.

I have always noticed people with KP on their arms and noticed it on my own, but I never knew what it was called, what caused it, or how common it really is. KP occurs when excess keratin (a protein that makes up hair, skin, and nails) accumulates in hair follicles on the body. It can be found most commonly on the arms and thighs but can also occur on the back, torso, buttocks, and in some cases, the face.

KP is an inherited skin condition (sorry, if you have it, you're probably stuck with it). If a parent is affected there is a 1 in 2 chance that the offspring will also be affected. It is more prevalent in childhood and dissipates with age but it is not uncommon for adults to show symptoms. KP causes the skin to become dry and sometimes itchy and is usually worse in the winter because skin becomes much drier in the winter months. KP cannot be transmitted from one person to another by touch; it is not contagious or infectious. The bumps associated with KP are spiky, rough, and can look like goose bumps that do not go away.

Although there is no cure for KP, many dermatologists believe that keeping skin moisturized will help. Of course, there are a lot of products on the market that claim to help reduce the appearance of Chicken Skin. Skin creams or ointments containing lactic acid or salicylic acid, which are readily available at drugstores, have been shown to have better results than those containing no acids.

The bottom line: if you are looking to improve the appearance of your KP, there is no need to buy expensive moisturizing creams from department or specialty stores. Find a cheaper moisturizer at a drugstore (Wal Mart, Target, CVS, etc…) that contains salicylic or lactic acid and use it to keep the skin affected by KP moisturized.

Add a Comment27 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I'm a male and I believe I have this. Is it possible for males to get this? I've only seen females on these article. Mine looks exactly like some of these pictures. It's located On my triceps(back of my arms). It doesn't itch at all but it feels rougher than the rest of my skin. I'm 18 and I've had it for about 3 or 4 years I think. Maybe longer. I heard cocoa butter helps it to clear.

January 19, 2015 - 11:44am
Susan Cody HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Hi Anon!

Yes, males get it too. It's genetic and you were probably born with it. It doesn't appear on some people for years. I think I was in my 20s when my showed and it has gotten worse with age when supposedly it's supposed to clear with age!

Try lactic acid - a product called LacLotion, I think it's over the counter and it's not too expensive - about $18 and lasts a few months. It won't cure KP but it will help ease the symptoms. 


January 19, 2015 - 4:03pm
EmpowHER Guest

I've tried so many ways to treat my keratosis pilaris. I have them on my arms and all over my legs. I hate it so much. I wear jeans in the summer because I want to cover them. The sight disgusts me. I wish I could wear dresses and shorts like all the other girls in my school and not have to worry about a thing. I just stare at girls legd and wish I had normal skin like theirs.

July 8, 2014 - 3:11pm
EmpowHER Guest

Keratosis pilaris is not a dangerous or malignant medical condition, therefore, treatment is not necessary, but many seek it due to cosmetic reasons. Creams and lotions are the most common treatments, although many prefer to take pills that promote healthy skin as well, such as biotin. The creams and lotions can have a variety of ingredients, including general acne prevention ingredients such as salicylic acid as well as moisturizers such as Vitamin D and E. Steroid creams can be used to reduce redness. Remedies such as using coconut oils to treat keratosis pilaris is one of the options available for ones that looks for a cheaper way to get rid the skin condition.

July 5, 2014 - 7:31am
EmpowHER Guest

I started noticing my KP around 15 (I'm 20 now) and since then have always been self conscious about them. My mom said that she used to have them, and now her upper arms are completely smooth and dot-less. If hers faded with age, will mine get better also as I get older?

September 4, 2013 - 11:07am
Susan Cody HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Hi Anon

In many cases, yes, age does diminish K.P.

Unfortunately in my case, it has gotten worse but many people do see them fade as they get older. Since KP is hereditary, hopefully you will follow your mom and see it get better.



September 4, 2013 - 11:31am
EmpowHER Guest

This helps me a lot, knowing that more people have what i have. I get so frustrated looking at the other girls in school with the perfect smooth skin and wish I could have that. It's very hard to wear tank tops or dresses knowing that your ugly bumps on your arms are showing. I wish they just went away. But I will do what you say and put lotion on and everything hopefully they go away a little.

Avon had a lotion just for people having chicken skin. that worked! i used it and the bumps got super soft and some went away!! but I cant find it on Avon anymore..

September 28, 2011 - 6:10pm
EmpowHER Guest

Im really sad that I have it on my legs. I cant even wear a skirt because my legs look gross. Im really depressed about this. Is there surgery on removing this ?

June 14, 2010 - 9:02pm
EmpowHER Guest

oh this simply sucks.i had it on both of my hands and legs.And this makes me feel less confident to wear short pants and skirts,as i feared people might look and talked behind me that my skin is yucks!!!

February 11, 2010 - 7:59am
Alison Beaver (reply to Anonymous)

Have you tried any of the suggested treatment options mentioned above? One of the topical treatments can be found at any local pharmacy/drug store.

Why do you feel that people would be talking behind your back? Have you had bad experiences in the past, or is this just a fear that you have...that it could happen?

Just to make have been diagnosed with KP, and not another skin condition, such as eczema? KP does not usually show up on hands (anything is possible, perhaps?), and is typically found on upper arms.

February 14, 2010 - 1:22pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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