Ask a dermatologist How can I get rid of the “chicken skin” on the backs of my arms?

La Perla Fall 2010 beauty How can I get rid of the chicken skin on the backs of my arms?

The question

What really works to get rid of keratosis pilaris (the bumpy skin on the backs of my arms)?

The answer

Dr. Paul Cohen says:

Keratosis pilaris—which is sometimes called “chicken skin”—is something I see maybe 50 times a day. It’s a ubiquitous problem. It’s a variant of eczema, where the skin around the hair follicles becomes thick.

We can improve it but it’s hard to make the bumps go away completely.

The first thing is you need to moisturize diligently. This will improve the appearance and feel of the bumps. Look for products containing urea or ceramides [such as Aveeno Eczema Care]—they’re important because of their high moisture content, which helps smooth those rough paches.

Some people like to also use an exfoliating brush or sponge, or products containing lactic acid, to break down the roughness of the skin.

Sometimes this condition tends to get better with bit of sun. A tan also helps to mask its appearance. So a little bit of sun exposure can improve it somewhat.

If it’s really bad, a prescription retinoid medication such as Retin-A can help. Typically, I advise short contact retinoid therapy. You put the cream on the backs of your arms for five to 10 minutes, and then wash it off. If you keep it there too long, it gets too dry. (When you use Retin-A on your face, it’s better tolerated because there are more oil glands there.)

Dr. Paul Cohen is a Toronto-based dermatologist working with Aveeno.

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Disclaimer: This information is for general purposes only and is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice relative to your specific medical condition or question. Dr. Cohen recommends that you consult your physician or other medical professional for insight into your specific condition and medical options.

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Friday, May 3/2013 at 8:18 pm

I haver keratosis pilaris on almost my entire body and is a huge pain in the…forgive me :-). Since I also have actinic dermatitis, which means I have to be really careful exposure to sun I can’t use that to help it. I sometimes use creams but they’re so expensive (remember I have to use them on my entire body) and my insurance doesn’t cover those because it’s an aesthetic problem not a “medical” one. What kind of makes it worse is that I too see the symptoms all the time but never as bad. Usually people really only have it at the backsides of their arms…Depressing thing.


Saturday, May 4/2013 at 6:26 am

I use a lotion called AMLactin. They have a regular formula and a stronger formula. I’ve been told the reason for the bumps is because the skin doesn’t exfoliate. This lotion helps to exfoliate the skin. I use it everyday (I only have it on the back of my arms). It works. It does cost more than regular lotion. Also Mario Badescu makes a soap called A.H.A. Botanical Body Soap and that seems to help too.


Sunday, May 5/2013 at 2:39 am

Using all these expensive lotions give just a short term results. I find out that liquid nitrogen (peeling) gives wonderful results. Not permanent, though, but much cheaper and healthier.


Tuesday, May 7/2013 at 4:25 pm

Peeling and exfoliation ist WAY to agressive for my skin. I have very, very light and thin skin. I could try maybe once a month but my skin would look horrible for two weeks afterwards…I try to just moisturize, don’t shower too often and let it be for most of the time…


Sunday, May 5/2013 at 1:36 pm

I too have it over most of my body, diligence is really the most effective for me. Both manual and chemical exfoliation and being militant about moisturizer. I like a line called kp duty and cerave lotion which has lots of ceramides.


Monday, May 6/2013 at 3:12 pm

Didn’t realize that “chicken skin” is a skin problem like eczema. Thought it was normal. Now I have to pay attention to moisturizing my skin more. And even doing body exfoliation like applying skin scrubs.


Monday, July 8/2013 at 4:52 pm

LUSH makes a great product called ‘Buffy the Backside Slayer’ that really helps with Keratosis Pilaris. I used to work at LUSH and many customers I spoke with swear by this product. Great for smoothing the backside too!


Sunday, August 25/2013 at 9:20 am

Derma Doctor makes two products specific for keratosis pilaris. My clients have great success with these products! The first is called KP duty. It is a body scrub that contains glycolic acid and a physical scrub. It’s like getting a chemical peel and micro dermabasion for your body! After the scrub you apply KP Duty Moisturizing Therapy cream. This also contains a buffered glycolic that will hlp smooth and hydrate the skin.


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