When I was growing up, I didn’t know about keratosis pilaris. I had never heard of the name until fairly recently. What I did know about what turkey skin – or at least that’s what I used to call it. You know, skin that looks spotty and feels rough and bumpy from all the little dots covering it. Now that I’m older and (slightly) wiser, I realise that what I had been experiencing and seeing actually had a name – keratosis pilaris. While there are many places that it can show up, I bet some of you didn’t know that you can have keratosis pilaris hands!
What Is Keratosis Pilaris?
Keratosis pilaris, sometimes referred to as chicken skin (I was so close with turkey skin!) is a skin condition that is caused by hair follicles being blocked by the keratin in your skin.1 If you’re wondering what keratin is, it’s a protein that is found in your skin, hair and nails which protects you from infection and harmful substances.2 (Because it’s so good at protecting, keratin is often used as an ingredient in hair care products to help strengthen your tresses.)
When the hair follicles on your skin are blocked, the hair can’t grow out as it normally would and it creates these red or brown bumps on your skin that feel rough. These ‘goosebumps’ look like the skin you see on a chicken in the supermarket which makes it clear why it has the nickname it has. (To be fair, turkeys have the same look.)
We want skin to look and feel smooth so anything that works against that is never appreciated. The good news is that keratosis pilaris is not dangerous or contagious. Other than it being unsightly, there is nothing to worry about. The not so good news is that the exact cause of it isn’t known and there isn’t a cure. Doctors believe that it’s genetic or linked to other skin conditions like atopic dermatitis.3 We do know that dry skin definitely makes it worse.
Even though I’ve already done the good news, now that I’ve told you the bad news there’s actually some more good news to tell you. (Confused yet?) If you find yourself with this uninvited chicken skin, know that most people will grow out of it by the time they are thirty.2
Where Can I Get Keratosis Pilaris?
Keratosis pilaris can show up anywhere where there is hair on the body but the most common places you’ll find it is on your upper arms and thighs. For many of us, it might not even be a concern because, for example, I hardly wear shorts so if I had it on my thighs, no one would really know. But what if you had it somewhere really visible, like on your hands? Even though we don’t consider our hands to be very hairy – I’ve got an image of Wolverine in my head – we still have fine hair follicles there and just like that, it becomes a fair playing field for keratosis pilaris.
What Can I Do About My Chicken Skin Hands?
If your hands are covered in red and bumpy skin, it doesn’t help you feel very confident. Shaking hands, holding hands or doing anything where your hands might be on display (hi-fives – do we even do those anymore?) could make you feel very uncomfortable. See your dermatologist if you’re concerned and want to know about some of the treatments available. Even though there are no known cures, there are a few things you can do at home to help with the symptoms and try to lessen the bumpy look.
- Gently exfoliate your skin to help get rid of the keratin and dead skin cells that are clogging your pores and blocking the hair follicles.3 Be careful not to over exfoliate your skin!
- Soak your hands (or take a warm bath) to help loosen and unclog your pores.3
- Moisturize your skin with an effective lotion like Gloves In A Bottle Shielding Lotion to keep your skin hydrated and help soften the rough bumps. Because dry skin makes the condition worse, you’ll want to keep your hands as moisturized as possible.
- Take care of your skin if you suffer from atopic dermatitis since doctors believe there to be a link between the two conditions.3 Once again, Gloves In A Bottle can help with this too!
Even though the name sounds so serious – keratosis pilaris – it’s nice to know that the condition isn’t. Don’t go counting down the days until your thirtieth birthday for your keratosis pilaris hands to disappear. Chances are, the problem will fade away way before then. In the meantime, moisturize, exfoliate and take those baths and be thankful your hands don’t look like Wolverine’s do!