Updated 10/27/21. A common complaint I hear from my clients is, “The skin on my body is so dry, and I have these little bumps on the backs of my arms and legs.” Well, the fact of the matter is that those bumps can usually be attributed to something called keratosis pilaris. This is a harmless condition that’s fairly easy to address as long as you use the right products and techniques. Keep scrolling to learn all about this skin condition and how to get rid of it, fast. After this, you’ll be well on your way to smooth, soft skin.
What Is Keratosis Pilaris?
Keratosis pilaris (KP) is a skin condition that causes bumps on the back of the arms, thighs, and buttocks. It’s also sometimes referred to as “chicken skin,” and while it typically appears on the body, it can also appear on the sides of the face. It seems to be a genetic condition, and it has to do with a lack of natural exfoliation.
With KP, dead skin cells aren’t shed as quickly as they should be, so they block the hair follicles, leaving them bumpy, and oftentimes, red or dark in appearance. The reason for this is inflammation that occurs at the base of the hair follicle. This skin is considered to be sensitive, so it should be treated gently. Over-scrubbing it will only irritate it, potentially making it worse (but more on that in a minute).
KP is very common. It’s estimated that it affects 40% of adults. Even though it’s completely harmless, it can be frustrating—especially in the summer when you’re exposing skin with shorts, t-shirts, dresses, and bathing suits. With that being said, it’s actually harder to address in the winter, as it gets worse when there is less moisture in the air.
How Can I Get Rid of It?
Since bumps and dry skin are the direct results of dead skin cell build-up, the most effective way to get rid of them is to exfoliate the body at least three times per week. Traditionally, people would always use a loofah or body scrub to exfoliate the skin on their bodies. However, since KP is a form of irritation, you don’t want to rely exclusively on physical exfoliation. This could potentially be too harsh. Instead, opt for a combination of gentle physical exfoliation and a leave-on chemical exfoliator. This will give you the best results.
Step 1: Loosen Up Dryness With a Body Scrub, Loofah, or Dry Body Brush
Physical exfoliation is the first step in addressing KP, as it loosens up dryness. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, whether it’s a gentle body scrub, loofah, or dry body brush; I think they all work well. It simply comes down to which one you prefer. I have all three, so I’ll use whichever one I’m in the mood for at any given time. I also use a DIY body scrub (I just won’t follow up with a chemical exfoliator right after I use it since it contains oil that won’t allow it to penetrate as well).
Step 2: Dissolve Dead Skin Cells With a Leave-On Chemical Exfoliator
This step is so important when it comes to getting rid of bumps on the body. While physical exfoliators “break through the concrete,” meaning they loosen up dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, chemical exfoliators absorb into the surface layers of the skin to dissolve away the build-up that can lead to bumps. Chemical (acid) exfoliators are a total game-changer, and once you use one, you can immediately see and feel a difference in the texture of your skin.
Here’s how they work. Once the acid makes contact with the skin, it absorbs deep into the surface layers. It puts the skin into an acidic state (by lowering its pH). This jumpstarts the skin’s natural exfoliation process.
When selecting a chemical exfoliator, choose a formula that contains lactic acid. This ingredient not only loosens dead skin cells but also acts as a humectant. This means it provides moisturizing comfort, which is very beneficial for dry skin and keratosis pilaris in particular. Ideally, the formula would also include calming ingredients. Personally, I use and recommend the Smoothing Body Serum. It’s formulated with three powerful acids (lactic, mandelic, and glycolic) that can resurface the skin and offer results, fast. It also contains soothing ingredients like green tea, aloe, and allantoin.
Step 3: Moisturize the Skin With Body Lotion
Once the exfoliation steps are complete, you should have “new,” freshly exposed skin cells. You must keep these in a moist environment to maintain smooth, bump-free skin. The easiest way to do this is by applying body lotion. Find one you like and apply it over the chemical exfoliator. You’ll also want to use it both morning and night and even on days when you’re not using a physical or chemical exfoliator.
If you’re in a particularly dry environment, try applying a body oil over the body lotion. This will seal in moisture. I use Pro Remedy Oil on both my face and my body as a final step in my skincare routine during the dry winter months. It keeps my skin in a healthy, hydrated, and smooth state.
Step 4: Repeat This Process At Least Twice per Week
You should aim to complete this process at least twice per week if you’re serious about getting rid of keratosis pilaris. Once you get into the routine, try doing it three times per week to see if this gives you even better results. And remember, even if you’re not exfoliating, you should still be using body lotion and/or oil both morning and night to seal in moisture.
What Else Do I Need to Know?
Even if bumps aren’t your issue, dry, flaky skin will still greatly benefit from regular exfoliation. Trust me—if having smooth skin is something you desire, this process will help get you there. With consistent use, the combination of physical and chemical exfoliators, along with regular moisture from body lotion and oil, will help reveal soft, silky skin. I know it’s worked for me!
There’s one more thing I want to mention. There are professional treatments that work on a deeper level to address keratosis pilaris, such as chemical peels and lasers. If my at-home recommendations aren’t doing enough, consult a skincare professional to discuss other options.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”