1-2-3 Easy: The 5 effective things I did to lessen the chicken skin on my legs

I was about 7 when I noticed that my body’s skin was a bit different from others. The skin on my upper arms and my legs look like they perpetually have goosebumps - they have raised bumps that feel coarse. The hair follicles appear redder than my actual skin color, too, so it sometimes looks like I have pimples over the rest of my body. They don’t itch or feel like anything really; they’re just there to make me feel conscious about wearing sleeveless tops and exposing my legs. I’ve since learned that there’s a name for my condition, and that it’s actually pretty common!

Keratosis pilaris is a genetic skin condition that often affects females. They usually occur on the upper arms, buttocks, and legs. The “chicken skin” or “strawberry legs” look is caused by excess keratin production on hair follicles which causes them to get clogged and inflamed. This. Is. Not. Contagious. (Hi to everyone who shouted “yuck” when my skin brushed against them!). Most people grow out of it although some, like me, don’t.

There is no cure for this condition but it is 100% medically harmless - it’s just a source of stress for me because of its unsightly appearance and the teasing I’ve gotten as a result. Though there is no treatment I can apply to magically make them disappear, there are ways to manage KP so that they look (and feel) less obvious!

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Gentle Cleansing

Prevention of excessive skin dryness is the top priority when dealing with KP as dryness can aggravate the condition. I stick to using gentle and moisturizing body washes such this one I currently like from Dove (P200 from Watsons). I love its rich lather, and how it makes my skin feel soft and smooth after the rinsing.

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Physical Exfoliation

Since KP is caused by excess keratin production that causes a plug on the skin, it is super important to regularly exfoliate to remove that plug. But do not exfoliate vigorously! Scrubbing too hard is damaging to the skin and cause it to become irritated. Gentle but regular exfoliation is key, because if you stop doing it for even just a couple of days, you will definitely see raised bumps again.

I love using Korean “Italy”” towels or scrubbing mitts (about P15-P70 in Korean groceries) which are made of viscose fabric. This is what they use to get a good scrub down in jjimjilbang or bath houses! The texture is rougher than that of a loofah or bath sponge, but just enough to efficiently remove dead skin without causing abrasions. They come in different colors that signify the degree of roughness: pink is the mildest, green is a medium, and yellow is best reserved only for thickened skin areas like calluses on the feet. It is best to use this after rinsing in warm water to soften skin and loosen the dead layers. If you have sensitive skin and find it too abrasive, you can use it apply your body soap or wash, so skin is more slippery and the towel causes less friction.

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Chemical Exfoliation

Since skincare acids became popular and more product options have cropped up, I had been curious about what other uses they may have aside from face application. Acids are actually gentler exfoliants compared to scrubbing so I tried using the CosRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner (P680 from Watsons/SM Beauty) on my KP. The fine spray bottle is convenient to use, and I simply spritz it on after getting out of the shower. After about a week or two of use, I noticed that the bumps on my arms were smoother! I have since switched to using In Her Element’s Glow Job Glycolic Acid Cream (P799 from inherelement.ph) every other day since it has a higher AHA content, and it has maintained the smoothness of my skin and lessened the hyperpigmentation.

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Moisturize Well

After all that exfoliation, you’ll need to restore moisture to your skin. Keeping skin hydrated minimizes the appearance of a rough texture, and also soothes the inflammation. I prefer to use gel lotions such as Aveeno’s Skin Relief Moisturizing Lotion (P714 from Watsons) but any gentle moisturizer will work. I also sometimes feel like one layer is not enough, so I just re-apply as needed.

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Hair Removal

Since most of the KP bumps have a small coiled hair inside, I regularly have my legs waxed (or shaved) to reduce the number of hair growing in the first place. I usually have my lower leg waxed at Belle La Peau, at about P400 per session. On days that I can’t wax, I opt for a quick shave every three or so days using Gilette’s MACH3 Turbo (P359 from Watsons), which has three blades that retain sharpness for more than 10 uses. The cheaper, disposable 2-blade razor from Schick Exacta 2 (P55 for 2+1 pack from Watsons) gets dull quite fast so I don’t recommend reusing it too much. If you have the budget and prefers to have longer term effects, this can be a great time to start your LASER hair removal!

My progress photos show how following these tips has significantly improved my KP. Most of the texture was gone and there was less hyperpigmentation by week 2! Remember: exfoliation, moisturization, and regular care is what’s most important so build a routine that you can follow easily. You only need to exfoliate once daily so it’s best to alternate physical and chemical options.  

Do you have keratosis pilaris? What’s your maintenance routine?