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How to get rid of chicken skin or keratosis pilaris

How to Get Rid of ‘Chicken Skin’–AKA Keratosis Pilaris–Naturally

Keratosis Pilaris
Keratosis Pilaris

Have you ever noticed dry, rough, sometimes red, tiny bumps on the backs of your arms, thighs, knees, or buttocks? You scrub, and moisturize regularly, but they still don’t go away?

In today’s post, guest author and licensed aesthetician Lauri Shea, LE shares her insight and personal experience in managing Keratosis Pilaris (KP)–also commonly referred to as “chicken skin”–and then shares a simple, yet effective DIY recipe you can try to help improve the appearance of this condition. At the end, I’ll give some additional holistic measures you can add to your regimen.

About Keratosis Pilaris

One of the most frustrating skin conditions I personally have is keratosis pilaris. My arms are bumpy because every single hair follicle is red and clogged with dead skin. I’ve had a friend ask why my “pores” are so big while pointing at my upper arms. It’s a very visible and unattractive condition.

Keratosis Pilaris, also called KP, is a very common skin condition affecting 40% of adults, and many children. It often occurs on the arms, legs and cheeks. The severity of it varies but it generally gets worse in the winter when the air is drier and the skin becomes more dehydrated.

Part of the reason for the appearance of KP is that the skin of the affected areas doesn’t shed dead skin cells at the same rate as unaffected skin. Plugs of keratin, the protein that makes up the outermost layers of the skin, accumulate and become trapped inside the follicles.

Keratosis_pilaris_armGenerally, people who have this condition immediately think of going to a dermatologist, but this is often not necessary. In fact, one of the best treatments for KP is already right in your kitchen!

I started using this treatment at home when I began studying skin. The symptoms of KP are dehydration, dryness, and buildup; so to address it, you need the combination of water, oil, and exfoliation. As a student I didn’t have the option of buying a “real” skincare product to treat it, so I found an empty jar and made my own–and it works!

Ready for the recipe?

Sugar + olive oil.

That’s it.

I started using this mixture in the shower every morning–this provides the necessary combination of water, oil, and exfoliation. Once my skin is wet, I scoop up some of the mixture in my hands and scrub in small circles, paying particular attention to the most affected areas. Then I rinse very well with water.

sugarThis method exfoliates the buildup of cells while sealing water into the skin with oil. After rinsing, water beads up on the skin. After doing this for a week I noticed a huge difference.

During an advanced class with Dr. Mark Lees about skin conditions, we began to discuss KP and its potential treatments. I raised my hand and said I had been treating my KP with sugar and olive oil and asked whether or not that was okay. He paused for a minute and then said, that seems like it would be effective, as long as the oil gets rinsed away pretty throughly.

So I continued using it. As long as I’m consistent with using this mixture, my arms are smooth and even the redness of the follicles disappear. If I skip a few days, I can feel the dryness start to return and the texture gets worse. For an extra boost, sometimes I add a few drops of organic essential oils, like lavender, tea tree, or rose.

There is no cure for Keratosis Pilaris, but constant, daily treatment with sugar and olive oil makes it look and feel like it has been cured.

I’d like to add that KP has been associated with certain food intolerances and/or allergies like gluten and dairy, as well as with deficiencies of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Zinc. If you have KP, try eliminating gluten and/or dairy and upping your consumption of foods that contain the above nutrients in addition to Lauri’s DIY remedy. Thanks for the great post, Lauri!

Comment BelowDo you have Keratosis Pilaris?

I’d love to hear how you manage it. Please tell me in the comments below!

*Image 1 courtesy of Lauri Shea, LE. Image 2 by Irja from San Francisco (keratosis_pilaris) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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31 thoughts on “How to Get Rid of ‘Chicken Skin’–AKA Keratosis Pilaris–Naturally”

    1. Hi Ann! Amlactin is a lactic acid treatment–it’s a form of chemical exfoliation, while sugar is a form of mechanical exfoliation. I prefer the sugar and oil method because as Lauri mentions in the article, it provides the oil, the exfoliation, and the hydration–whereas prescription drugs just provide the exfoliation and/or a steroid of some kind to reduce inflammation–but in the long run, this can cause other health problems like Candida overgrowth, which make skin conditions worse. Adding raw foods is a good idea for sure–raw foods are naturally anti-inflammatory, hydrating, and also help the body detoxify on its own through the internal organs so the skin doesn’t have to work as hard to detoxify. Plus many raw fruits and veggies are high in the nutrients that people with KP are often deficient in, like Vitamins A and C and zinc. Hope that helps!

      1. Hi,

        I understand that you are trying to give options to people who can’t afford traditional or medical treatments for KP. I want to clarify for you that sugar can also increase Candida in the body. Through research of my own using abrasive methods does not actually help, in fact micro tears prompts the skin to want to repair itself, thus creating more keratin. Yes the skin will feel smooth for a few days after, but it isn’t addressing the underlying condition and can actually make it worse. For a person who already has an overgrowth, this is not the best option. Because KP is started by inflammation in the body and vitamin deficiencies, using anti-inflammatories, diet/supplements, as well as chemical exfoliants a is a better option. Finally while hydration is needed, olive oil is not a hydrator. It is a lubricator. Two different things. It doesn’t penetrated the surface, so thus no hydration. What does penetrat are ingredients such as hyularonic acid, PCA, aloe, and even coconut oil penetrates. Oils like safflower and sunflower oils are a better option than olive oil because they are non-comedegenic. These can be used with the hydrator a as emolience boosters. Only thing missing is advising readers to go see their Derm for diagnosis, allergy testing for intolerances and vitamin deficiencies and to reduce the amount of friction in those areas. You are correct that there is no cure, but it can be managed. There is no cure because of our lifestyles and eating habits. Please don’t be offended by my corrections. I too have this and I am an Esthetician who has researched this topic extensively. Good luck to everyone on your journey.

        1. Hi Victoria, thanks for your comment. Lauri was offering one possible remedy for KP–not a cure–and it goes without saying that readers should always consult with a licensed skin health professional for any condition. KP is something that can have numerous causes and numerous treatment options, both of which will be different for different people.

  1. I found that my KP nearly disappeared when I took a vacation to coastal Italy one August. I think the combination of UV, sea water and sand helped with the exfoliation. Is there any research that says that sunlight or UV rays can aid in dissipating KP symptoms? I’m going to try your sugar and olive oil solution. Thank you!

    1. Laura, phototherapy is one method that has shown success in treating KP–I’m sure it’s because of the increased Vitamin D, which is very closely tied to healthy skin. I hear that so often, that people who go away to Italy or other lovely warm coastal areas experience near resolution of skin conditions while there, then it comes back when they return home. I think air quality and stress also have a great deal to do with it. Thank you for sharing your experience!–Rachael

    1. Hi Jacqueline! I personally like a raw sugar–and yes 50/50 usually works great. If it seems too gritty or too runny to you you can adjust the proportions. Sesame oil also works great for this. Let me know how it works!

    1. Joanna–yes. That’s been my favorite proportion for sugar scrubs in general but feel free to adjust the proportions to achieve a consistency to your liking 🙂

    1. Andrea–you definitely could! Just be aware that coconut oil will solidify above 76 degrees Fahrenheit, so it might not be as easy to work with when you’re preparing your mixture, though it will melt in your hands as you apply it.

  2. I know this is an old thread, but I wanted to mention some things that have helped me. I haven’t had much of a problem in years so I haven’t been consistent with the treatments. I’ve had good luck with coconut oil + kosher salt, the sugar scrub from Bath & Body Works (loved their salt scrub but they switched to sugar), and the new Gold Bond cream in a jar made for KP (it has a combo of proven ingredients). Getting a little bit of a tan also helps my skin. I haven’t had much of a problem in years but suddenly I had a bad breakout on my thighs, hips and bottom, some even on my tummy. The Gold Bond cream is slowly helping but this time, but it’s hot and sticky on my skin (not good since I live in hot, humid FL) I’m going to see a dermatologist; I cant stand it anymore because I just can’t leave them alone (I’m a picker). This is hereditary and I see it frequently in people with my Irish heritage. I started having problems with breakouts around my mouth and chin; when I used Nair to get rid of the peach fuzz I noticed my pores were cleared out afterward. So now I’m going to try Nair on my thighs and see if that also helps clean out the pores. Makes sense, Nair dissolves hair (keratin) and probably breaks up the keratin plug in the pores. BTW I’m 54 and on bioidentical hormone replacements, maybe it’s due to hormone issues, too?

    1. Thanks for sharing Carol! I’m glad you’re getting it looked at–breakouts around the mouth and chin might have hormone ties for sure. Keep in mind that diet and lifestyle are closely associated to both keratosis pilaris and breakouts on the face, and certain chemical ingredients–like those in depilatory creams–might actually make matters worse. Good luck!

  3. Ok, so I have bad chicken skin.. And it popped up suddenly about a year ago. It’s on my thighs,arms,and chest. And its pretty annoying. I want it to go away before late or mid summer.. Any advice?

    1. Hi Lorelei, give the remedy mentioned in this post a try for about a month and see what happens! If you’re still experiencing symptoms, you might want to consult with an integrative health professional to see what might be causing it.

  4. Hi Rachel,
    In the article it mentions thoroughly rinsing the olive oil off. What is the recommended moisturizer to use after exiting the shower for the day. Should I not use the argon oil or Shea Butter after the scrub?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Maureen, I’d recommend a natural emollient oil or butter Argan or shea are both great choices. Thanks for reading! –Rachael

  5. Hi Rachel, I was so happy to come across this site. I have tried all kinds of lotion, scrubs, creams for my kp and nothing works! It is only on my upper arms but it is very red and really stands out against my fair skin. Will the olive oil/sugar scrub reduce the redness? Also, what lotion do you apply after you shower? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Jacqui-thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment! I can’t comment on whether the remedy will reduce the redness since I don’t know your skin 🙂 But I can say that it can certainly help–I’d just advise to be gentle, because redness is a sign of inflammation, which you wouldn’t want to further aggravate. I either use oil after the shower (I like sesame oil with essential oils), or one of my handmade boutique body butters. All natural.

      1. Hi Rachel, Thank you so much for answering me! I am going to give it a try and I have an organic raw shea butter to use after my shower. I will also look at your body butters too! On a different note, my son who is 16 was just diagnosed with celiac disease and he has had eczema forever so I am wondering if my diet can be a factor in my kp as well???
        Thank you again!

          1. Hi Rachel, that could very well be the case, my son tested positive for the gene for celiac so it could be gluten. Thank you again for all your help!

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