The skin condition keratosis pilaris is often referred to by the appreciably less scientific term, ‘chicken skin.’ The reason for this is simply and obviously because it can look very similar to the skin on raw chicken!
The physical appearance of keratosis pilaris – often also simplified to ‘KP’ – is a patch of rough bumps on the skin, and the affected area can appear in varying colours. Sometimes the bumps will be the same colour as your skin, but they can also look dark brown, white, pink and red, depending on skin colour and tone.
Although keratosis pilaris isn't caused by the same thing, you could say that the little bumps look a bit like ‘goosebumps.’
Where On My Body Can I Get Keratosis Pilaris?
Keratosis pilaris on the upper body most commonly appears on the outside of the upper arms, hands, face and back. Areas of the lower body that can be affected are the tops of legs, thighs and buttocks.
While the exact cause of keratosis is not yet entirely understood, the most common theory is that it's due to the buildup of keratin in hair follicles. Keratin is a protein that provides the surface of your skin with the ‘toughness’ it needs to protect you. That means KP only occurs on areas of the body where there is hair; so not, for example, on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet.
Does Keratosis Pilaris Always Look the Same?
There does not seem to be any great consistency in the appearance of keratosis pilaris, so it can and does differ from person to person.
In the affected areas the bumps can either be densely clustered together, or spread wider apart. Wherever on the body the keratosis pilaris occurs it can manifest as an area with small individual clusters of bumps.
Their colour can also differ: on dark skin, KP can have a brownish-black appearance, whereas on fairer skin keratosis pilaris can take on a kind of pinky-purply shade, but the variation can be quite wide, from white, to a faint reddish-pink, a deeper red, or brown and black tones, depending on skin colour and tone.
For more information about managing KP, see our article Help, I Have Chicken Skin!
Recommended Products for Keratosis Pilaris:
Balmonds Bath & Body Oil with hemp, chamomile and lavender, £12.99 for 300ml
Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream with chamomile and shea butter (from £13.99 for 100ml)
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.