Ketatosis pilaris or chicken rash is a condition that leads to rough, acne like bumps to appear in patches, usually on the buttocks, thighs, arms and cheeks. These patches are often white, but can be red and won’t itch or cause any discomfort. In most cases this condition will disappear on its own by the time the patient is 30, but if it does not it can be difficult to treat in those suffering from chicken skin. Prescription medications and home remedies are often recommended for managing chicken skin.
Symptoms of Chicken Skin Rash
Chicken skin appears as red or white bumps that usually start to appear on the buttock, upper arms, legs or cheeks. These will often be rough and the skin that is covered in the bumps may be itchy. Because it is less humid during this time, the rash will often appear more frequently in the winter. Chicken skin rash is more common when children are young but these symptoms can appear at any age. In most cases the rash will resolve itself without treatment.
Causes of Chicken Skin Rash
Chicken skin is caused by keratin, the hard protein that is designed to protect the skin from infection or harmful substances, building up in the skin and creating a plug that blocks the hair follicles on the skin. Once the plugs form they will become rough and bumpy. This condition will appear in people that are otherwise healthy, but dry skin appears to make chicken skin more common. It is unknown why this keratin buildup occurs but it is suspected that genetics or other skin conditions like atopic dermatitis may play a role.
Treatments for Chicken Skin Rash
1. Home Remedies
Treat Your Skin Gently. Constantly scrubbing on your skin or pulling out the plugs can cause more irritation and aggravate chicken skin rash.
Use OTC Products. Over the counter products that contain lactic acid or urea can be applied twice daily to help remove the excess keratin from your skin and cause a chicken skin rash to fade.
Apply a Humidifier. Portable humidifiers can be placed in rooms around your home or a humidifier can be attached to the furnace to generate moist, comfortable air in your home.
Moisturize Your Skin. After you have bathed the skin, apply moisturizers such as petroleum jelly, lanolin or glycerin to help your skin trap in moisture. Products such as Cetaphil or Eucerin that are very thick are often more effective.
Limit Bath Time. Spending long periods of time in a hot shower or bath will strip your skin of essential oils and dry it out, so use water that is less hot and keep your shower time to 10 minutes to avoid losing moisture.
Avoid Harsh Soaps. Stay away from soaps that are antibacterial or have deodorant because these can be too harsh for your skin. Soaps that have extra fat or oil can help to moisturize the skin instead. Your soap should always make your skin feel smooth and soft rather than dry and tight when you are finished washing.
Pat Dry. When you are finished bathing, pat your skin dry rather than rubbing yourself with the towel. This will help your skin keep some of the moisture from washing so it will remain soft. Moisturize immediately after patting yourself dry for the best results.
Try Oatmeal Baths. Oatmeal baths are available in sores but you can also blend a third of a cup of oatmeal into a powder and add it to a warm bath and soak in this mixture at least once a week to help hydrate your itchy skin and soothe the rash. This powder may remain in the bathtub if you did not grind it finely enough, but it should not harm your tub if you do not leave it to sit for several days before cleaning.
2. Medical Help
- Topical Exfoliants. Medicated creams with lactic acid, alpha-hydroxy acid or salicylic acid can be applied when the rash appears to help make the skin soft so the dead skin cells can easily be removed. Some of these medications are available over the counter, but stronger versions are available via prescription if necessary. Your doctor will examine the rash and determine what type of exfoliant is necessary to manage this condition. These medications are not recommended for young children because they can sting and irritate the skin.
- Topical Retinoids. Medications such as tazarotene or tretinoin will often be prescribed to help remove chicken skin. Retinoids are derived from vitamin A that helps to promote skin turnover so that the skin will not plug your hair follicles. These medications can cause skin irritation like peeling, dryness and redness and are not recommended for those that are pregnant or nursing.
- Laser Therapy. Some forms of chicken skin will be severe and cause inflammation that will need to be managed with laser therapy. This treatment will utilize intense light bursts on the areas of the skin where the rash is appearing. Over the course of a few months, this treatment will continue to be applied until the rash heals.