Keratosis pilaris (chicken skin)

Keratosis pilaris is a very common, harmless condition where small bumps appear on your skin. It can last for a long time, but there are things that may improve your skin.

Check if you have keratosis pilaris

Symptoms of keratosis pilaris may include:

You usually get patches of small bumps on your arms, thighs or bottom, but they can appear in other places.

The bumps can be red, white, skin-toned or darker than your skin.

The skin can sometimes feel itchy, and may be better in summer and worse in winter.

If you're not sure it's keratosis pilaris

Things you can do yourself to help

Most people with keratosis pilaris have it for years, and it may eventually clear up by itself.

Until it does, there are things you can do to help improve the appearance of your skin.

Do

  • moisturise your skin – ask a pharmacist what's most suitable for you
  • use mild and unperfumed soaps and bathing products
  • gently scrub your skin with a washcloth or exfoliating mitt
  • have cool or lukewarm showers and baths
  • pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it after washing

Don't

  • use perfumed soaps or bathing products that can dry out your skin
  • use harsh scrubs on your skin – this can make it worse
  • have hot baths or showers
  • scratch, pick or rub your skin

A pharmacist can help if:

  • things you try yourself aren't helping and the condition is bothering you
  • your skin becomes itchy or inflamed
  • you're not sure if you need to see a GP

They can recommend creams or lotion to help your skin. They can also tell you whether you need to see a GP.

Causes

Keratosis pilaris happens when your hair follicles become blocked with a build-up of keratin – a substance found in skin, hair and nails.

No one knows exactly why keratin builds up, but the condition is thought to run in families. So if your parents have it, you may get it too.

Keratosis pilaris isn't infectious, so you can't spread or catch it.

Page last reviewed: 03/04/2018
Next review due: 03/04/2021

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