Most of us will experience keratosis pilaris (KP), or “chicken skin,” sometime in our lifetimes. In fact, roughly half of the world’s population suffers from it at any given time [source]! Although there is no known cure for KP, there are plenty of natural ways to treat your skin at home. Check out these keratosis pilaris remedies that include many ingredients you probably already have on hand!
What Is Keratosis Pilaris?
KP is characterized by red, tiny bumps or rough patches on your skin, most commonly found on the back of the upper arms, buttocks, and thighs [source]. People are more likely to have KP in their adolescent years, and some information indicates that the female population may get them more frequently [source].
But even more telling is if it’s in your family, about 50–70% are genetically predisposed to the condition [source]. Thanks, mom!
The actual cause of the condition is still unknown, but it occurs when dead skin cells accumulate, forming plugs in hair follicles [source]. When it worsens, you might see some reddening around the hair follicles, and there may also be itching, both of which indicate inflammation. Since dry skin exacerbates KP, it is usually worse during winter.
How to Get Rid of KP: A 3-Step Plan
This is known as a condition that comes and goes to a certain extent. Puberty, pregnancy, the winter season, and skin dryness are known to cause worsening in some people. Moisturizing, gently exfoliating, and keeping the skin hydrated are keys to banishing the bumps [source].
1. Exfoliate on the Regular
Tackle arm bumps with ACV
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) isn’t just a cooking ingredient. It’s natural medicinal properties also make ACV a great, multi-purpose skincare tool to keep on hand. Like most fruit-based products, there is no doubt that it is an antioxidant.
But it has also been shown to kill some of the more common types of bacteria and fungi that hang out on the skin [source]. To help clear KP, stir a 1:1 ratio of apple cider vinegar and water and then apply to the affected area for a few minutes.
The malic acid in apple cider vinegar is a hydroxy acid [source] that works as a gentle, natural exfoliant to remove excess skin cells. You can do this treatment a few times a day until you see results.
KP on the face? Unclog pores with baking soda
Baking soda is not just for baking your cookies! It also has excellent exfoliating properties for your skin, removing dead cells and opening pores. And it's gentle enough to use as a homemade face scrub. Mix 2–3 tablespoons of baking soda and water to form a paste. Gently scrub the affected areas for 3–5 minutes, and rinse. How easy is that—and cost-effective, too!
For arm or leg KP, combine baking soda with lemon for a simple scrub that adds natural citric acid to unclog pores and exfoliate the skin. Cut a lemon (or lime) in half and dip the flesh into baking soda. Rub onto the upper arm area (or wherever you have bumps) for 1 minute and then rinse. Use twice a week.
Banish butt KP with sour cream
Leftover sour cream from Taco Tuesday? Use it to help treat your KP! Lactic acid, naturally found in sour cream, has been shown to help remove keratin buildup that can clog up your skin [source].
For a simple but effective butt scrub, use sour cream with a little white or brown sugar, gently rub in a circular motion for a few minutes and then rinse. This works well for exfoliating sensitive spots like the bikini area to avoid ingrown hairs. You can also use other ingredients from your fridge that contain lactic acid, such as yogurt or buttermilk.
Exfoliate legs with a coconut shower scrub
One of the best times to get rid of dry skin is in the shower after cleansing. To use coconut oil to both moisturize and exfoliate, mix together a 1:2 ratio of white granulated sugar/brown sugar and coconut oil. Gently scrub the areas for 2–4 minutes, and rinse with water.
2. Diet Tweaks to Keep Skin Hydrated
Up your hydration
Dryness exacerbates KP, so keeping the skin hydrated can make a big difference in its appearance and texture [source]. Keep moisturizer on it at all times, paying particular attention to ingredients such as ceramides that help to maintain the skin’s natural barrier function [source].
Making sure your body is well hydrated is also an important step. Sometimes, it can be a real challenge to drink more water, but your skin will thank you for the effort. You can also hydrate with simple smoothie recipes that easily transform your everyday fruits and veggies into a real treat!
Eat more omega-3 fatty acids
Fish oil has great benefits for keeping our skin, hair, and nails healthy [source]. Cold water fish (think wild salmon, tuna, and sardines) are used to make distilled fish oil supplements. For vegetarians—and everyone—organic chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flax seeds are easy options for adding more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet to nourish and protect your skin cells.
Get more vitamin A in your diet
Be sure to get sufficient vitamin A from the nutritious foods in your diet. Think carrots, sweet potatoes, and really any orange or yellow fruit or veggie. The retinol derived from vitamin A prevents skin cells from accumulating and plugging pores while also encouraging cell turnover—a key part of keeping your skin healthy and glowing.
Bonus: Fruits like strawberries, papayas, and mangoes are naturally high in vitamin A and also make wonderful scrubs.
3. Avoid Dry Skin
Reduce redness with coconut oil
Pure, cold-pressed virgin coconut oil is a great go-to for not only maintaining glowing skin and hair but also for treating annoying skin problems. The fatty acids give coconut oil its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and have been shown to reduce the inflammation and redness from skin conditions [source], such as KP.
Consistency is key! Use coconut oil as a 1-ingredient keratosis pilaris moisturizer and apply daily to affected areas. For extra hydration, add shea butter for a whipped body butter.
Soothe skin with an oatmeal bath
Nothing soothes your skin and calms your mind after a long day quite like a bath, right? Toss in a handful of powdered oats to a lukewarm bath (beware, hot water can actually irritate parched or inflamed skin), and you’ve got yourself an extra moisturizing bath to treat your dry skin.
Calm inflammation with olive oil
Most of us keep extra virgin olive oil on hand, and it turns out that its amazing moisturizing properties can also help treat inflammatory conditions of the skin [source]. Rich in vitamin E, olive oil can reduce the dry, bumpy areas of the skin [source]. Apply directly to your skin, or add in a little sugar to exfoliate.
You can also give your hair some extra love at the same time with this great go-to hair mask, all while treating your skin. Multitasking is what we’re all about!
Use a keratosis pilaris lotion
It’s important to keep the areas moisturized consistently, so if you're not into DIY, try a specialized drugstore lotion. Keratosis pilaris lotions containing lactic acid like Amlactin, or alpha-hydroxy acids like glycolic acid, are good options for treatment. Some also recommend Differin, which can be bought over the counter, and other tretinoin products [source].
Avoid dry air with a humidifier
When you run your heater to beat the winter cold, the low humidity that results is a known culprit for dry skin in general, but it’s especially problematic for those suffering from KP. I highly recommend investing in a good humidifier to treat and soothe your dry skin. If you live in an area with hard water, purchasing a home water softener can do wonders for your skin and hair every time you wash or bathe.
Keratosis Pilaris FAQ
Will this help with strawberry legs?
Yes, daily exfoliating and moisturizing can help improve bumpy strawberry legs, which can be caused by KP.
What about popping KP bumps?
A major no-no. Seriously, no popping. And stop picking at the bumps, too. You're only making the skin irritation worse, and it could lead to scarring.
Does having KP mean that I will be more likely to get other skin conditions?
Many people with KP do not have other skin problems, and they are not more likely to develop them. And many people are unaware they even have KP!
How can I fade keratosis pilaris scars?
Follow the same plan as you would for acne scars: protect with sunscreen and apply a repair serum with healing essential oils. Reducing the inflammation will take time, but you should see improvement after 2-3 months.
Can I use essential oils for keratosis pilaris?
Yes, you can add essential oils to your regular body lotion or body oil. Stick with a dilution of 6-12 drops per ounce of lotion/oil and use gentle essential oils that are often used for eczema, like lavender and frankincense.
References (in order of appearance):
1. Sonthalia S, et al. Dermoscopy of keratosis pilaris. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2019.
2. Poskitt, L, et al. Natural history of keratosis pilaris. Br J Dermatol. 1994.
3. Alai AN. Keratosis pilaris: epidemiology. Medscape website.
4. Alai AN. Keratosis pilaris: etiology of keratosis pilaris. Medscape website.
5. Gruber R, et al. Sebaceous gland, hair shaft, and epidermal barrier abnormalities in keratosis pilaris with and without filaggrin deficiency. Am J Pathol. 2015.
6. Hwang S, et al. Keratosis pilaris: a common follicular hyperkeratosis. Cutis. 2008.
7. Yagnik D, et al. Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression. Sci Rep. 2018.
8. Tang SC, et al. Dual effects of alpha-hydroxy acids on the skin. Molecules. 2018.
9. Kootiratrakarn T, et al. Epidermal permeability barrier in the treatment of keratosis pilaris. Dermatol Res Pract. 2015.
10. Duplan H, et al. Skin hydration and hydrating products. Ann Dermtol Venerol. 2018.
11. Meckfessel MH, et al. The structure, function, and importance of ceramides in skin and their use as therapeutic agents in skin-care products. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014.
12. Balić A, et al. Omega-3 versus omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the prevention and treatment of inflammatory skin diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2020.
13. Varma SR, et al. In vitro anti-inflammatory and skin protective properties of virgin coconut oil. J Tradit Complement Med. 2019.
14. Lin TK, et al. Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical application of some plant oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2018.
15. Gorzynik-Debicka M, et al. Potential health benefits of olive oil and plant polyphenols. Int J Mol Sci. 2018.
16. Alai AN. Keratosis pilaris treatment and management. Medscape website.
This post was medically reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Haley, a board-certified dermatologist with extensive experience in medical, cosmetic, and surgical dermatology. Learn more about Hello Glow’s medical reviewers here. As always, this is not personal medical advice, and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.618