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]. 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].
The actual cause of the condition is still unknown, but it occurs when dead skin cells accumulate, forming plugs in hair follicles [source]. Since dry skin exacerbates KP, it is usually worse during winter.
Although there is no known cure for KP, there are plenty of natural ways to treat your skin at home. Moisturizing, gently exfoliating, and staying hydrated are keys to successful KP treatment [source]. Check out these remedies that include many ingredients you probably already have on hand!
10 Natural Remedies for Treating Keratosis Pilaris
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar isn’t just a cooking ingredient. This vinegar’s natural medicinal properties also make it 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 fungus 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 the excess skin cells. You can do this treatment a few times a day until you see results.
Dry skin exacerbates KP, so staying hydrated can make a big difference in the texture of your skin [source]. 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!
3. 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.
4. Coconut Oil
Pure, 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 anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties and have been shown to reduce the inflammation and redness from skin conditions [source], such as KP.
To make an exfoliating scrub, 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.
5. Vitamin A
Be sure to get sufficient vitamin A from the nutritious foods in your diet. Think carrots, sweet potatoes, and really anything orange or yellow. 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.
6. 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. 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!
7. 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.
8. Sour Cream
Leftover sour cream from Taco Tuesday? Use it to help treat your KP! Lactic acid, which is naturally found in sour cream, has been shown to help remove keratin buildup that can clog up your skin [source].
Alone, or with a little white or brown sugar, gently rub in a circular motion for a few minutes and then rinse. You can also use other ingredients from your fridge that contain lactic acid, such as yogurt or buttermilk.
9. 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 decrease 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!
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.
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 review board here. As always, this is not personal medical advice, and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.11