Chicken skin (Keratosis pilaris)

Ever had those pesky red bumps on your arms? It’s easy to see why they’re nicknamed “chicken skin”.  It doesn’t normally cause pain or discomfort, unless the bumps get inflamed. These little bumps are referred to as keratosis pilaris rubra faceii.

Although Keratosis pilaris is extremely common, many people don’t even realize that this condition has got a name in medical parlance. Each bump is a hair follicle that got clogged by dead skin cells, often with a hair trapped inside. If you scratch off a bump, you may see a small coil of hair, but avoid scratching the bumps since it can inflame the follicles and introduce pathogens that cause infection.

The exact cause of this skin disorder is not known, but skin dryness seems to be a contributing factor; it usually becomes worse during the drier months. Hormonal changes may have a role too, as it is more common during adolescence and pregnancy, and in women who are overweight.

Keratosis pilaris is generally considered a cosmetic problem rather than a serious skin disorder requiring medical intervention. But the roughness of the skin and its chicken skin-like appearance can be annoying. Worrying about it doesn’t help, but it won’t go away by ignoring it either.

There are several home remedies you can use to reduce or even resolve this problem. The main objectives are exfoliation and moisturisation.

Regular exfoliation is the simplest way to reduce the bumps. It removes the dead cells on the skin surface, including the extra pile over the follicles, opening them up and releasing any trapped hair. You can expect visible improvement within a few weeks, but exfoliation has to be done regularly to maintain the smooth feel of the skin.

Exfoliation can be done either mechanically or by chemical peeling of the skin. Although mechanical exfoliation does not involve any active chemicals, it may irritate sensitive skin. The constant rubbing can dehydrate the skin and make it rougher over time.

Loofah or Sponge scrub

Every time you bathe, use a piece of natural sponge or loofah gourd to rub down the keratosis pilaris-affected areas. A washcloth will do too, but if your skin is very sensitive, konjac sponge may be a better choice. It is very gentle on the skin.

Do not attempt to rub off the bumps at one go. It may irritate the skin and inflame the follicles. If you’re already using scrubs, you may need to use ones with a rougher texture to even out the bumps over several days. Apply a moisturizer after bath to keep the skin hydrated.

Oatmeal skin rub

Oatmeal is a gentle, skin-friendly scrub to smoothen out the bumps.


  • 2 Tbsp oatmeal crushed
  • 2-3 Tbsp water/milk


Just mix with water or milk and apply on the affected areas. Rub it on with a circular motion for a few minutes and then wash off. This can be a messy affair, but it leaves your skin silky soft.

Alternately, you can bundle up some oatmeal in a muslin cloth and use it to rub down your body as you sit in the bath.

Apply a moisturizer after washing off the oatmeal residue.

Olive Oil skin rub

A two-in-one operation where the salt/sugar does the exfoliation while the olive oil moisturizes the skin.


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp table salt or sugar


Mix olive oil and table salt to make a slightly abrasive skin rub that can help you get rid of the bumps. Rub on the skin and massage for a few minutes before washing off with soap.

Repeat applications may be necessary

Coconut Oil skin rub

Coconut oil has anti-inflammatory properties that make it ideal for sensitive skin. It gets almost completely absorbed into the skin, so rinsing with plain water to remove the sugar crystals should be sufficient.


  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar/brown sugar


Coconut oil may be semisolid as you make a paste with the sugar, but melts into a liquid with the heat from the skin. Rub on with a circular motion before or after a bath. Wipe off and rinse with water.

Baking Soda and Salt scrub

Baking soda has a mild chemical, action while the salt provides the abrasive power.


  • 2 Tbsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp table salt


Mix the two together adding just enough water to make a paste. Apply on the affected area and leave for 5-10 minutes. Rub well and wash off. Repeat 3-4 times a week.

Apple Cider Vinegar

The acidity of the vinegar acts as a chemical exfoliating agent, helping to gently peel away the excess skin cells plugging the follicles.


  • 3-4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar


Apply directly on the skin with a sponge or washcloth. Use a wet sponge to dilute the vinegar, if necessary. Leave it on for about 10-15 minutes and wash off. If the skin becomes too dry, use a moisturizing cream or a few drops of coconut oil.


The lactic acid in the yogurt exfoliates the skin chemically. The milk fats may moisturize the skin.


  • 3-4 Tbsp yogurt


Apply on the affected area and allow to dry on the skin for 10-15 minutes. Wash off with a gentle soap.


Aspirin comes from the same source as salicylic acid which is a great chemical exfoliant.


  • Aspirin


Crush several tablets up and making a paste with water. Apply with a gentle scrubbing motion and rinse clean.



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