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Chicken Skin

Red, rough and bumpy, there’s nothing to love about a bout of chicken skin. We asked qualified pharmacist and Victoria Health Co-founder Shabir Daya what it is, why we get it and what we can do to get rid of it. Here’s what we found out…

GTG: What is ‘chicken skin’?

Often called ‘chicken skin’, Keratosis Pilaris is a benign disorder of the skin generally characterised by rough, red bumps around the hair follicles mostly on the arms, though it can also affect the thighs, buttocks and rarely the face.

It may surprise you to learn that Keratosis Pilaris, often abbreviated ‘KP’, affects nearly 40% of the population of the world though in reality this could be even higher.

GTG: What causes chicken skin?

Keratosis Pilaris results from the accumulation of a protein that is present in skin called keratin. Keratin is a protective substance that prevents harmful bacteria from entering skin. In Keratosis Pilaris, keratin and dead skin cells block the opening of the hair follicles, a process referred to as hyperkeratinisation, forming hard plugs which resemble goose bumps.

The exact cause of Keratosis Pilaris remains unknown, though genetics definitely play a part in its development. The condition certainly gets worse in cold weather when the skin is liable to dry out and when the humidity is lower. Whether the causal factor is genetic or otherwise, what remains clear is that there is underlying inflammation that causes excess keratin production which accumulates and blocks the follicles resulting in a characteristic rash caused by the formation of these little plugs.

GTG: How can we get rid of chicken skin?

Treatment of Keratosis Pilaris involves moisturising skin and, crucially, exfoliating to remove the hard keratin plugs.

Regular gentle exfoliation is paramount in improving the appearance of skin. It is also important not to exfoliate skin daily as this can lead to irritation and inflammation and aggravate the lesions. Regular use of loofahs and other scrubs can be abrasive and can make symptoms worse.

It is equally important to hydrate and moisturise skin effectively. There are many body moisturisers on the market and it is important to avoid petroleum based moisturisers as they may aggravate skin or, at best, simply form a barrier to prevent moisture loss.

One effective product is Ameliorate Body Lotion, £27.50, which contains lactic acid, a well known and highly effective natural exfoliant. There are some treatment creams for KP which use glycolic acid, however there is a difference between the two. Lactic acid is a natural humectant that is able to pull moisture from the air and hold it in skin. Lactic acid is also less irritating and more moisturising than glycolic acid and can be used at higher concentrations for better exfoliation. Ameliorate Body Lotion also contains glycerine, milk protein complex and sodium lactate which all help to deeply moisturise skin through a variety of mechanisms.

GTG tried the body lotion out for ourselves and were seriously impressed with the results. Our glossy tester said: “The Ameliorate Body Lotion gets the thumbs up from me. The product really smoothed out my skin and left it feeling softer and far less bumpy after just a few days.”

GTG: Can supplements help?

As with other inflammatory skin concerns such as eczema and psoriasis, suffers of Keratosis Pilaris can benefit greatly from the use of supplements such as Super Bio-Curcumin, £27.75, by Life Extension.

The multiple health benefits of turmeric are primarily due to its content of curcumin, a compound that gives turmeric its distinctive canary yellow colour. From the point of view of KP and other inflammatory skin concerns, curcumin displays potent anti-inflammatory properties specifically within soft tissue structures such as skin and intestines. It also displays antiseptic, antioxidant and cell protective properties all of which are going to be of benefit. Turmeric has been used for decades to treat acne, boils and other inflammatory skin concerns due to its blood purifying properties helping to calm skin and curb inflammation. Additionally, its antioxidant properties protect skin from external aggressions, as well as protecting cells against cellular damage, a factor that can only further benefit sufferers of Keratosis Pilaris.

Super Bio-Curcumin by Life Extension is a supplement that contains a patent pending extract of turmeric containing 95% curcuminoids in a base containing oils derived from turmeric root for greater absorption. This specific patent pending extract has been shown absorb seven times better than conventional curcumin supplements and remain in the bloodstream twice as long ensuring maximum protection.

The rash of Keratosis Pilaris is similar to eczema, dry skin or vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A helps to regulate cell production and prevent a build up of cells. Both these effects may benefit to minimise Keratosis Pilaris and to improve the skin’s appearance. There are many vitamin A supplements on the market but most of these tend to be dry powder forms of such as beta carotene. Vitamin A is oil-soluble, and hence to get maximum benefits from this I tend to recommend Vitamin A by HealthAid, £6.99, which provides this nutrient in a softgel capsule within a base of fish and soyabean oil.

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