You’ve probably never heard it called by its medical name, but chances are you’ve seen someone who has it, or you might be someone who suffers from this skin condition. Keratosis Pilaris, or “chicken skin,” is a common skin condition that affects nearly fifty to eighty percent of adolescents and about forty percent of adults. The condition is often mistaken for small, red pimples, but they actually look like small bumps that are scaly or rough-feeling. Overall, it is a simple condition.

It can be embarrassingly or socially damaging for some. Many people are ill-informed and automatically assume it can be spread from person to person like a communicable disease, but that’s not the case. Unfortunately, most over-the-counter treatments and medications won’t minimize the appearance or do anything about the sandpaper-like bumps and make your skin appear to be smoother or clear. It is always better to consult your doctor or a dermatologist for the proper treatment.

By definition, keratosis pilaris is when your hair follicles become plugged and form rough-feeling bumps on your skin. Its rough texture will cover small portions of your body, most notably the arms and cheeks, or anywhere where hair grows on your body. It most commonly occurs in adolescence, which in itself can be damaging because of social ‘norms’ or expectations. But, alas, it is a manageable condition that involves things like daily moisturizing, gentle exfoliating treatments and with the use of mild, non-irritating body soaps.

Anyone who suffers from this condition knows that at certain times of the year like during the winter months or when the skin dries in low-humidity weather, they’re more susceptible to flare-ups. The dead, dry skin causes the pores and hair follicles to clog. That, in turn, promotes keratosis pilaris.

Some promising theories point to a possible genetic component to this skin condition. For instance, eczema can play a large factor in determining whether or not you develop keratosis pilaris. If atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema, is prevalent in your family, you may be more susceptible to developing other skin conditions, including keratosis pilaris.

While there is no known cure for this condition, there is good treatment for the most annoying symptoms. The treatment must be ongoing and usually involve conventional types of treatments like moisturizing lotions that contain lactic acid, urea, glycolic acid, and/or salicylic acid. They are keratolytic agents that help to thin the skin around the area of inflammation or lesions because one of the main components of this condition involves the growth or development of excess skin over the affected area.

As mentioned, these treatments treat the skin condition; they don’t cure it. In order to be remotely effective, the treatment must be used on an ongoing basis in order to keep keratosis pilaris at bay. It should be noted that, as with any treatment or medication, there are also potential side effects to consider and monitor. Reactions can vary from person to person.

Another treatment involves the use of pulsed dye laser targets to help reduce the redness that’s associated with the skin condition. Studies have determined that this therapy is safe and effective for the treatment of the known discoloration, but again, it doesn’t cure it or help to improve the rough, scaly skin roughness.

By Maydelaine Moreno