Bye, Chicken Skin! 8 Ways to Finally Get Rid of Those Little Red Bumps on Your Arms

For anyone suffering with red, itchy, bumps that never go away, it’s time to test out one of these effective treatments. Your only regret will be wishing you’d known about them sooner!

Understanding keratosis pilaris


Chicken skin, officially known as keratosis pilaris, is a very common, harmless, genetic condition that causes small, hard, skin colored to reddish bumps, most often on the back of the arms. “Skin feels like ‘chicken skin’ or sandpaper, and it is oftentimes mistaken for small pimples,” says Samer Jaber, MD, of Washington Square Dermatology. “It can also affect the thighs and buttocks of adults and cheeks of young children.” Over 50 percent of all children and teenagers, and 40 percent of all adults have some degree of keratosis pilaris (KP), so if you’ve experienced it, you’re certainly not alone. Keratosis pilaris is thought to occur from an excessive buildup of keratin around hair follicles, which may trap and prevent them from reaching the surface, causing bumps on the skin. “Unfortunately, there is no cure for keratosis pilaris, but it usually improves when you reach adulthood, and by our 20s most people will have seen a significant improvement,” Dr. Jaber says. “It’s also better in the summer, and worse in the winter, when skin is dryer.” (If you’re experiencing seasonal dryness, check out these surprisingly helpful secrets to fighting dry skin.) In the meantime, there are many treatments that can drastically, if not fully, reduce the appearance of your red bumps.

Choose the right cleansers


If keratin is blocking those hair follicles, you’ll need to exfoliate that top layer of dead skin cells to see improvement. “For more moderate to severe cases, moisturizers that exfoliate with ingredients like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, urea, or ammonium lactate can be effective,” Dr. Jaber says. “My personal favorite over-the-counter exfoliating moisturizers are Amlactin and CeraVe-SA. Exfoliation with a loofah in the shower can also be helpful.” (To make sure you’re not drying your skin even more as you bathe, here’s the healthiest temperature for your shower, according to science.)

Add topical treatments


The next level of treatment is a topical moisturizer that continues the exfoliation process. A great over-the-counter option is ACGLICOLIC Classic Body Milk by Sesderma, with 10 percent glycolic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid that thins the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the epidermis that’s made up of dead cells, plus Boswellic acid, which is anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic. A budget option is Skinfix Renewing Cream, with a natural form of salicylic acid to exfoliate, bisabolol and shea butter to soothe redness, plus jojoba, grapeseed, and sweet almond oils to soften and hydrate rough patches. If you’re ready for the big guns, talk to your doctor about an Rx remedy. Dr. Jaber often recommends a combination of a prescription salicylic acid 6 percent cream in the morning, with a topical retinoid cream in the evening. “Topical steroid creams can also be used if the skin is red and itchy,” says Dr. Jaber. Retinoid creams are excellent at preventing dead cells from clogging pores, treating oil production, nixing bacteria that causes breakouts, and calming inflammation. A few commonly prescribed steroid creams are Locoid Lipocream and Cloderm, which treat inflamed, red rash areas.

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