Keratosis pilaris (KP) is the medical term for chicken skin. It causes small bumps to appear on the surface of the skin in 50-80% of kids and teens and 40% of adults. It definitely has a genetic component. And although studies haven't yet determined the root cause, some scientists believe it to be linked to a defect in the hair shaft, causing unsightly and sometimes itchy plugs of keratin to form. If you're looking for an effective treatment for KP, follow these tips to help ease your symptoms.

Hydrate and Moisturize

Since the symptoms of KP manifest from plugs of keratin that form in the skin, one of the best ways to treat it is by keeping the skin hydrated and moisturized.

The best kind of moisturizers to use are ones that contains alpha hydroxy acid (or glycolic acid), urea, and salicylic acid. Ask your dermatologist what kind or brand they recommend for your skin type, and be sure to apply it to the affected areas—usually the backs of the arms, buttocks, and thighs—after showering and while your skin is still damp. Most dermatologists say that a twice daily application is vital, but you may need to apply it three times daily.

KP tends to worsen during the winter when your skin is driest, so it's especially important to keep up with this regimen when the weather is cold or if you live in a dry climate.

Avoid Hot Showers

Overly hot water can wash away too much of your skin's natural oils, triggering the body to release more keratin and other natural moisturizers. According to dermatologist Sejal Shah, M.D., the ideal water temperature when showering is lukewarm. This means keeping it at or below 110 degrees. Since most people don't carry thermometers to the shower with them, you'll know it's too hot if your skin is turning red.

Indulge in Foods Rich in Vitamin A

While diet is not a known trigger for KP, it's advised that you consume foods that are rich in vitamin A, and here's why. There are some skin problems that mimic KP, caused by a deficiency in this particular vitamin. They include dry and scaly keratinized skin as well as rough patches. Some professionals have achieved results with many of their patients by simply putting them on a diet that increases their intake of vitamin A.

Foods that are rich in this vitamin include beef liver, carrots, kale, apricots, sweet potatoes, spinach, egg yolks, broccoli, butter, and winter squash. Talk with your doctor about taking a supplement if needed, such as cod liver oil.

Apply Topical Steroids

You should seek advice from your dermatologist before applying a steroid cream, but this has been known to help some patients with itchy KP get relief from symptoms. OTC creams may be sufficient, or your doctor may choose to prescribe something stronger than what you can get at the drug store.

Ask About Laser Therapy

Studies regarding the use of carbon dioxide laser therapy suggest that this might be a viable treatment for some patients. While those with KP shouldn't expect a miracle cure, all 20 patients in one particular study reported an improvement in their lesions, and doctor evaluations indicated that 30% of the lesions treated showed improvement at the 12-week follow-up visit.

Not all patients are a candidate for carbon dioxide laser therapy, but it's worth a mention to your doctor.

Use Fragrance-Free Products

Not everyone is sensitive to smells and fragrances, but if all else fails, try switching to fragrance-free soaps, shampoos, and lotions, and avoid spraying perfume on affected areas. It's believed that some people who have KP may react to fragrances by releasing more keratin and oils in an effort to flush the skin of these substances. So while the fragrances are not a cause, they can exacerbate symptoms.

Contact a dermatology center like Vail Dermatology to learn more.