Keratosis pilaris: If you don't have it, those two words will mean nothing to you. But if you do, the next few months of (hopefully) warmer weather may fill you with dread. The bumpy, rough skin condition can appear on arms, thighs and even cheeks. Delightfully, it's often referred to as "chicken skin," which isn't exactly a great way to get people talking about something that makes them feel self-conscious.
So why do some people have it? According to celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau, the condition occurs when dead skin cells and a protein called keratin build up and block hair follicles. "These are tiny red or white bumps that occur in patches—it's common and completely harmless," she notes. We're not saying you should be embarrassed of the bumps, but if you want to do something about them, we've got a few tricks.
We spoke to Rouleau and skincare specialist Kate Kerr about how to treat the condition, and we're also giving you a quick rundown on how to tell if you have it.
Do I Have It?
Okay, firstly, it is harmless, so there's no need to panic. However, it can be a nightmare to deal with, leading to many wondering why they're afflicted and not others. "Genetics seem to play a role, especially for those with lighter, fair skin," Rouleau says, although apparently it can disappear by your mid-30s. "If you've had it since childhood and it doesn't itch and is pretty consistent, that's a strong indication that it's this condition," Rouleau says. "Contact dermatitis, a skin rash caused by topical allergens, can sometimes look similar but will come and go."
Can I Get Rid of It?
There's good and bad news on this front. Frustratingly, you'll never get rid of it totally, but it can be improved by daily exfoliation. You'll probably notice that the condition tends to clear up on beach holidays. This is partly down to the fact you're probably using a body scrub at this time of year, but the NHS website hypothesises that the dry winter air makes the condition worse, so keeping your skin well-moisturised year-round is probably a good idea.
So What's the Treatment?
When we spoke to Kerr, she also agreed with Rouleau's assessment by an approach of daily exfoliation. "Exfoliate with a scrub and a mitt every day for 10 to 20 seconds (not aggressively)," recommends Kerr. In terms of a mitt, she says that any one from a supermarket will do, but as for the scrub, ideally you want something with salicylic acid in it, such as the ZO body scrub. "There could be a bit of skin irritation in the first instance," says Kerr, "but don't let it put you off."
Once you've exfoliated in the shower, Kerr says you should wipe some salicylic acid pads—you can use the facial ones—over the top (our pick is Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Extreme Pads, £15). Next, add in a urea-based product, such as Eucerin Intensive Urea Treatment Cream (£13) to keep the skin hydrated. Once again, Kerr reiterates that you need to be regular with your exfoliating to see results. Stick with it and you should notice a difference just in time for holiday season.