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The Dreaded Chicken Skin

Home - The Dreaded Chicken Skin

Have you ever glared at the back of your arms and wondered just what those funky little bumps were all about? Don’t be embarrassed to admit it…millions of women have done the same thing and I have spent countless mornings wishing those little "chicken bumps" gone. After years of hiding my upper arms and bemoaning the bumps, I finally got serious about figuring out what they were and how to banish them. Read on to discover my findings and, yes! The Holy Grail of remedies…

What is it?
Ah, you’re the unlucky victim of Keratosis Pilaris, an extremely common skin ailment that manifests itself on the back of arms, shoulders and thighs. The rash is commonly called “chicken bumps” because of its appearance: small white or red dots that resemble pimples. They’re not painful and rarely itch, but can become inflamed. And more than 50% of the American population has them. Yes, I know that right now you’re probably saying "So that’s what that is!" I did it, too… If you need to see the bumpies up close and in-person for confirmation, click here.

How did I get it?
No worries- you did nothing wrong. Like most things in life, you can blame your mother. The bumps are hereditary, affecting more women than men and often making their first debut in the pubescent years.

Why do I have it?
Keratosis Pilaris is caused by the skin’s inability to exfoliate itself. The bumps are essentially clogged pores around which a protein called keratin builds up. The result is a tiny bump, usually appearing in wide clusters that can make one remove the words “tank top” from their vocabulary entirely. KP does, however, often accompany eczema, so if you’re prone to the dreaded eczema, you’re more likely to deal with chicken skin as well.

What can I do about it?
After spending the better part of my 29 years bemoaning the bumps, I finally decided to do something about it and immersed myself in research. I was astonished to discover that there were steps I could take to reduce the frequency and severity of outbreaks.

It’s essential to unclog those pores. Start by selecting a well-formulated sugar scrub and make it your new best friend.  Exfoliate several times a week, gently massaging the bumps using a circular motion, but exercising caution not to be overly aggressive, which could increase inflammation. Because skin affected by keratosis pilaris is inherently inflamed, I do recommend that you stick with sugar rather than salt scrubs. I found that exfoliating a few times a week really helped with the severity of my bumps, but it didn’t eliminate them completely. The downside is that exfoliating (and generally all other KP remedies) is a temporary fix- stop treating them and the bumps will rear their ugly head once again.

Get thee a good topical cream. Not just any cream- you need an intense moisturizer with specific ingredients designed to have those little bumps begging for mercy. Look for cream rich in alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s) or lactic acid as they help dissolve the keratin and build-up of excess skin cells. Urea is a miracle worker as well and I have had great success with DermaDoctor’s KP Duty cream. I could see a significant improvement in my skin after applying the cream morning and night for about 10 days. The bumps weren’t gone, but you could no longer spot them from across the room, either. Your best bet: frequent exfoliation combined with a daily cream for a one-two punch.

If you have a show-stopping sleeveless gown for the holidays, you may want to consider microderm abrasion treatments. While quite spendy, they are said to work well on keratosis pilaris and may be worth it if you need a quick fix. But remember- without consistent treatment, the bumps will rear their ugly heads again all too soon.

So I still wage war on the bumps, but at least I’m winning. Last month I dared to wear a sleeves turtleneck to an event and I didn’t even try to cover my upper arms with the wrap- I didn’t have to. Fear not ladies…get determined and you, too, can win the bumpy battle against keratosis pilaris.

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