Hey guys, Sandra Lee, M.D. (aka Dr. Pimple Popper), here!

I see you’ve found The Pretty Pimple — I hope you’re enjoying the articles and learning something new! I’ve heard your requests for effective, acne-fighting products, and that’s why I’m so excited to introduce SLMD Skincare to you guys. This line exists to provide solutions for the skincare concerns you popaholics have always asked me about. These products bring together the most effective, blemish-banishing ingredients, so you can treat your skin with clinical confidence.

xo, Sandra

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Understanding “Chicken Skin” aka Keratosis Pilaris

Characterized by small, rough bumps on the surface of the skin, keratosis pilaris is a common, yet harmless skin condition. In fact, medscape.com cites that up to 80% of adolescents and 40% of adults are affected by keratosis pilaris, sometimes called KP. This, of course, doesn’t stop the feelings of frustration and embarrassment that come with having red, itchy bumps and a condition that’s nicknamed chicken skin.

Curious about keratosis pilaris, or think you may have it? Learn more about this skin condition and how it’s best treated.

What are the symptoms of keratosis pilaris?

Most often, keratosis pilaris presents as small, hard bumps on the skin’s surface. The bumps can look almost like tiny pimples and feel rough or dry — they may also be itchy and uncomfortable. These bumps tend to be lighter or redder on fair skin and darker on more pigmented skin, but can appear to be white, red, pink, light purple, brown, or black depending on the person’s skin tone.

Keratosis pilaris got its nicknames of “chicken bumps” and “chicken skin” because the affected area of keratosis pilaris can look like the plucked skin of a chicken.

The condition most commonly appears on the upper arms, back, thighs, butt, or face and can appear as just a few spots or it can overtake an entire area, looking almost like a rash.

Why do people get keratosis pilaris?

Technically, dermatologists don’t know exactly why people get KP. But they do know what it is.

When excessive amounts of keratin — the protein that protects our skin — build up at the surface, it clogs our pores (also known as hair follicles) and creates hard, rough patches of skin.

It’s generally believed to be a genetic condition, as it runs in families, and it’s more common in kids and adolescents. If you’ve got eczema or super dry skin, that tends to be a sign that your body is more likely to have that buildup of dry, dead keratin. And that means, you guessed it, you’re more susceptible to KP, too. People who have asthma, obesity, hay fever, or ichthyosis vulgaris (another skin condition that causes extra dry, flaky skin) are also at risk for KP.

Who gets Keratosis Pilaris?

The condition usually appears in young children (under the age of two) and teenagers. While it can continue as you get older, most cases clear up by adulthood.

Those who have dry skin or eczema are more prone to keratosis pilaris, and it can also be a side effect of asthma, obesity, hay fever, or ichthyosis vulgaris.

Image courtesy of WebMD.

Are there different types of keratosis pilaris?

Yes, keratosis pilaris has a few variants, based on how the condition presents and where on the body it’s found. But the two main kinds you need to know about are keratosis pilaris and keratosis pilaris rubra.

Keratosis Pilaris 

Yes, the main condition is simply called keratosis pilaris, and it can be anything from asymptomatic (that means it shows no symptom of illness) flesh-colored bumps that are rough to the touch, to red, irritated and itchy bumps.

Keratosis Pilaris Rubra

This the most common variant of KP, and it’s most commonly found on adolescent boys. KPR is still those signature rough, goosebump-like, flesh-colored patches that we’ve been describing, but the skin that surrounds and is behind these bumps is a patchy, bright red.

How do you treat KP?

Let’s start with the bad news… there’s no cure for keratosis pilaris. But the condition is technically benign and harmless, even though it may be itchy or annoying to look at. Don’t worry though, there are lots of treatment options to help alleviate the symptoms and appearance of the condition.

The best way to treat keratosis pilaris is with chemical exfoliants — alpha hydroxy acids or beta hydroxy acids. These are ingredients like salicylic acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acid that are super effective and remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin and helping to restore smoothness.

Vitamin A-derived retinoids can also be helpful for clearing hair follicles and preventing those annoying bumps from forming.

If the condition persists, ask your doctor about the possibility of microdermabrasion, light therapy, or laser treatment, all of which have been known to ease the appearance of keratosis pilaris.

Remember to always consult your doctor, and have patience — we know KP is frustrating, but it’s important to remember that it’s a harmless condition that you don’t need to worry too much about. And luckily, there are lots of effective exfoliants out there to help you scrub away your KP!

Dr. Betty Yan, a dermatology resident at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine (SIU), helped contribute to the accuracy of this story.

  1. Dear Doctor Lee, I enjoy your Videos so Much! Not for the pimple popping but to watch the surgical techniques you use . I seem to often compare your surgical techniques to the other doctors on You Tube and it is my opinion that you are by far better trained , try to keep the surgical area cleaner, concerned about the looks of the interior of the surgical area, etc. I would imagine that your patients have fewer infections and minute if any scarring. I also appreciate the softness and kindness you extend to your Patients and you never let your vocabulary or knowledge intimidate your patients. I admire and respect your work and kindness. My heart broke when I learned of Pops passing away. But,I think you helped him more than you will ever know. Your kindness, I am sure eased the days after his wife’s passing and his transition into his smaller living environment. I hope you will continue to be successful with You Tube. I know your kind ways help others that may not be as loving to see how brotherly love so greatly helps our most needy. My deepest respect and admiration to you! Your avid student,Jane L. Parrott
    One hour north of Chapel Hill, North Carolina Home of the TarHeels

  2. My 3 year old son has this on his upper arms, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by it at all so I’ve just left it alone. I had it for years but grew out of it, like him I wasn’t too fussed.

  3. I have had KP my whole life. I have never been bothered by it, although my family is. I have tried everything possible, but nothing works for me. I have noticed when I eat gluten free the redness gets lighter, and the bumps are not as large. Would gluten have anything to do with KP?

  4. Why didn’t you mention products like Amlactin? You did mention “chemical exfoliants” but you failed to mention an extremely accessible product that doesnt require a trip to the doctors office…this product has been well known to minimize KP….there are 100’s of positive reviews on amazon for this…

  5. I’ve had this problem as long as I can remember. All the doctors I’ve gone to say there’s nothing that can be done. I’m now 28 and still deal with this on a daily basis. It’s embarrassing and uncomfortable. It just keeps spreading over there years. What treatment would you recommend is the best way to get rid of the look of the bumps?

  6. What type of body wash can i use for “chicken skin” ? I have ingrown hairs in these areas and shaving my legs seams to make it worse.on my legs

  7. Ive always wondered what this was called! I have this on my arms. My husband has it on his arms/legs/torso and my 5year old has this on her arms and legs. Our dr was just giving us a steroid cream to treat it but it never helped! Now i know what to do for us to help it. I love following your Instagram.

  8. Hi there! I love your channel and I’m pumped that you’re talking about KP. I’ve suffered with this for years. I developed a bad habit of ‘popping’ the bumps, or essentially squeezing out the keratin. It’s created some scarring, but seems to have limited how many bumps I have. What is your opinion on this process?

  9. I used to have this really badly all my life up until about three years ago. I started using neutrogenas body acne scrub and it literally cleared it from my arm the first time I used it with shower gloves! I haven’t stopped using the scrub since because I feel that it exfoliates so well and leaves me soft and smooth and my “chicken skin” is barely visible and barely feels like it’s there! To anyone struggling with it-I would recommend that you check this product out. 😁

  10. Gold bond rough & bumpy helps treat mine!! You can totally tell when I don’t use it 😖. The cream is expensive, about $15/jar, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay to have smooth skin!

  11. I’d love if you could address Alopecia and its forms. My daughter has had it since 1 yr of age and has Alopecia Totalis- no hair on the head, as well as KP. Getting the word out so acceptance rises for these patients is my dream as a mom. There is so much lack of self esteem associated with this skin condition that it can be heartbreaking.

  12. I had this condition for over 25 years. Then I began the Keto diet to control my type 2 diabetes. Within a month, the redness and inflammation was noticeably reduced. One year later, and it is completely gone!

  13. I had these bumps on my upper arms, elbows, and my thighs. My doctor told me to get KP Double Duty by DermaDoctor at Sephora. All the bumps cleared up. Later I found out I have Celiac Disease which is caused by gluten. I had run out of the cream and the bumps returned but after about 2 wks on a gluten-free diet, the bumps started to go away. Before long, all bumps cleared up and I only get them if I accidentally eat gluten.

  14. Yes I do have this keratosis pilaris. I’m looking forward to trying the SLMD products. I’m not as concerned with it as another skin problem I have. I have Rosacea. It seems to be getting worse. There’s so many things that set it off. I would greatly appreciate it if you would talk about it. If I remember right when you lasered Mr Wilson’s nose. You mention the thickness was a form of Rosacea. I work hard to keep my skin soft. But I still have the tell tale signs of different shades of red. It sometimes covers my whole face & turns my eyes red. That’s when it concerns me. I have seen 2 doctors regarding this. They have me use 2 topical ointments. It doesn’t work. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Also I’m appreciative of you taking the time to read. Sincerely

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