How to deal with a chicken skin, AKA a keratosis pilaris, flare up

When it comes to keratosis pilaris (or chicken skin) there’s no forever fix. However, sticking to a skincare routine to manage flare ups will help reduce the appearance and feel of both bumps and redness. 

If you’ve ever had keratosis pilaris (KP) dot the back of your arms you’ll know it’s hard to budge. Also known as chicken skin, the red, raised bumps can also show up on the cheeks, thighs and bum and although they’re harmless and completely common, they’re less than ideal and there’s unfortunately no cure (yet).

The good news is, higher humidity levels and sunlight are said to help with controlling breakouts – so they’re less likely to appear in summer.

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What causes keratosis pilaris?

Aside from genetics (yep, if it runs in your family you’re more likely to experience it), one of the main causes is due to skin cells not turning over properly, leading to a buildup of keratin (the protein that protects our skin, hence the name) and blocked hair follicles – which show up as those red, tiny bumps similar to ingrown hairs. If you’re more likely to experience inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema or dermatitis, KP will be more prevalent too.

What’s the best way to ‘treat’ keratosis pilaris?

If your first thought is to reach for a physical exfoliant such as a grainy scrub or body brush, you could be making it worse. Scrubbing the bumps away can exacerbate inflammation, cause more redness and make it more noticeable.

Instead, reach for a chemical exfoliant that caters specifically to KP – you can find these in moisturisers, body serums and even body wash. Look for a combination of Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) like lactic acid and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid. These will work to gently resurface the skin and unclog the follicle while reducing some of that redness.

We like:

PCA Skin Body Therapy, $105, at Adore Beauty and Paula’s Choice Weightless Body Treatment with 2% BHA, $40, at Paula’s Choice

Dermatologists and skin experts also believe hydrated skin can help manage KP flare ups. After exfoliating, apply a moisturiser with anti-inflammatory ingredients to damp skin to help lock in moisture and sooth inflammation.

We like:

Lanate face & Body Cream, $30, at Chemist Warehouse and CeraVe Moisturising Cream, $18.99, at Chemist Warehouse

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