Why Keratosis Pilaris is HELL in winter - and how to fix it!


Why Keratosis Pilaris is HELL in winter - and how to fix it!

Did you know that as many as 50% of us may suffer from chicken skin or what’s known as keratosis pilaris?? And that as we enter winter, it’s likely to get worse as humidity plummets?

You’re going to want to watch this video if your one one of the unlikely 50% like me as I’m going to share the tips and tricks for solving this pesky - but fixable - skin condition.

Keratosis pilaris is actually a genetic disorder - with what’s known as autosomal dominance inheritance. That means if one of your parents has it, you have a 50% chance of getting it too. It may be displayed to different extent in different individuals in the same family - that’s just the way the genetic lottery plays out.

It often develops in childhood and adolescence but it can pop up at any time.

It’s completely harmless, aside for how it looks.

It's characterized by hard, scaly bumps that can be seen plugging up the hair follicles and its found on the backs of the upper arms and the front of the upper thighs. It looks a bit like goose bumps but it feels rough, which is often the bit that bothers people the most.

It can also affect buttocks, I’ve seen it on the chest and it can creep up and affect the cheeks and rarely the eyebrows,

It often becomes more prominent as we get older.

The worst time of year for KP is winter.

Low humidity makes everything look worse as the skin becomes drier.

It seems to be associated with atopic eczema and a condition called ichthyosis vulgaris.

Because its genetic there is no cure. BUT it can be improved with the right skincare. And, it does often get better as you get older by itself.

It’s usually easy to diagnose clinically meaning you’re unlikely to need any tests to confirm the diagnosis.


1. Do no harm.

Its really important to respect the skin’s barrier function. It's tempting to want to scrub away at it but I find that can exacerbate the red inflammatory component so I prefer you stick to gentle, non-foaming cleansers to wash with.

Wash with warm, not hot water and limit bath time. An dpat skin gently with a towel, no rubbing!

I like:

Cerave Hydrating Cleanser

Necessaire Fragrance-free Cleanser

Drunk Elephant Kamili Body Cleanser

I’ll also use Flawless Cleanser on body when my skin is dry and I always use it when I travel for convenience.

2. Use chemical exfoliation (not physical)

This is the area I find alpha hydroxy acids the most helpful in my practice. I like lactic acid at 5-10% and find it suitably hydrating as well as smoothing. Glycolic acid is also helpful.


Lotion Plus

Mene and Moy are all good examples.

I think they lack a little on the pleasure side if things as they’re not very luxue in feel but they certainly smooth and flatten those bumps.

Its best to use these twice a day until you’ve achieved desired level of smoothness; then you can reduce to once daily or alternate days to maintain.

3. Boost barrier function

I think it's really helpful to support barrier function at this time as the dry winter air definitely makes things worse.

This means seeking barrier support with a well-formulated moisturiser with a blend of skin-replenishing lipids, occlusives and barrier repair ingredients. Ceramides and niacinamide really come into their own here.

I like Cerave Moisturising Cream

La Roche Posay Lipikar Baume

These will offer a bit more of that pampering luxe feel which is so desirable at this time of year.

4. Beta hydroxy acids

I find this to be a good option in those who have both acne on their shoulders and back and KP. Beta hydroxyl acids like the pores as they are soluble in oil and exfoliate nicely; they also have anti-inflammatory activity, which is helpful. Find it in the Cerave SA Smoothing range - I like both the body wash and lotion. And the Azelac Spray, which combines salicylic acid and azelaic acid is also great, not to mention easy to apply.

5. Urea

Urea is a natural keratolytic; like lactic acid, it will dissolve the intercellular glue between skin cells, promoting the desquamation of the scaly follicles and softening and smoothing skin. It also functions as a humectant and is naturally present in our skin.

Find it in Eucerin 10% Urea Body Lotion. It also contains Ceramides and Natural Moisturising Factor, so is very hydrating.

6. Consider retinoids if AHAs don’t work.

As this is a keratinization issue, retinoids also have a role to play in normalising the formation of the stratum corneum which can help unplug those follicles. Just respect the delicate balance between retinoid’s potentially drying effect and your skin’s hydration levels.

Want to know more about retinoids - then download my free cheatsheet on achieving retinoid happiness.

So it may take a bit of trial and error to find the right combination for your skin but undoubtedly with a bit of persistence and consistency, you'll be able to banish those annoying little bumps!

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