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Keratosis Pilaris Popping: What You Need to Know

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition characterized by skin with multiple skin-colored bumps that are rough to the touch. 

These small bumps or pimples are the result of keratin, a normal protein of your skin, blocking hair follicles and can sometimes appear reddish when irritated or mimic your skin color (It depends on your skin phototype).

Read ahead, you will find all you need to know about this skin condition and how to manage it effectively and prevent these nasty bumps from slowing you down.


Keratosis Pilaris (KP) or Chicken skin: What is it?


Keratosis Pilaris is so common that many classify this bumpy skin as a type of skin. This genetic skin condition is believed to be associated with sensitive skin and a low level of Vitamin A.

It is characterized by multiple small bumps that have a rough texture and if manipulated they release a white material. These bumps resemble the texture of chicken skin and can be bothersome for those affected for cosmetic reasons. 

Typically found on the upper posterior arms, thighs, or buttocks. KP is not contagious and typically does not cause discomfort or itching. While this harmless genetic condition has no cure, there are ways to treat it or prevent it from worsening. It is reported that KP often improves naturally by the time an individual reaches 30 years old, but many continue to suffer from KP for a long time, me included and I’m past 30.

What causes Keratosis Pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is typically caused by a buildup of keratin, a hard protein that protects the skin from harmful substances and infection. This buildup clogs the hair follicles, resulting in the characteristic bumps and rough texture associated with the condition.


KP, like any other sensitive skin, can get worse in conditions that dry your skin. As athletes, we are in constant contact with humidity from our sweat, sun, cold, and many other factors that make this sensitive skin condition worse.


How is Keratosis Pilaris Diagnosed

Keratosis pilaris is usually diagnosed through a visual skin inspection by a healthcare provider or dermatologist. The unique appearance of the bumps and rough patches helps in identifying the condition.


What Does Keratosis Pilaris Look Like?

Keratosis pilaris presents as rough, bumpy patches on the skin. The bumps are usually small and may have a red or flesh-colored appearance. Common locations for these bumps include the arms, thighs, cheeks, and buttocks. 



What is the difference between Sweat Pimples and KP?


Sweat pimples are caused by the inflammation of pores secondary to bacteria or build-up that blocks your pores, whereas keratosis pilaris is caused by the buildup of only keratin and it isn’t an inflammation (unless you pick the bump). These are distinct conditions with different underlying causes.


For more information be sure to check out our blog post on Does Sweat Cause Acne and Sweat Pimples where we explain prevention and treatment options for active people that are in constant contact with sweat.


What is the difference between Regular Acne and KP?


Regular acne is a multifactorial cause of inflammation (excess sebum production, bacteria overgrowth to mention a few) that clogs your pores, while KP is unrelated to sebum and primarily results from keratin buildup in genetically predisposed individuals.



What is the difference between Heat Rash bumps and KP?


Heat rash bumps and keratosis pilaris (KP) are two distinct skin conditions with different causes and characteristics. Here are the differences between the two:


Heat Rash Bumps:


- Heat rash, also known as prickly heat or miliaria, occurs when sweat ducts become blocked, leading to the trapping of sweat beneath the skin. This blockage can result from factors such as hot and humid weather, excessive sweating, or wearing tight clothing.


- Heat rash is characteristically itchy small, red bumps or tiny blisters that may cause a prickling sensation. It commonly occurs in areas where sweat is trapped, such as the neck, underarms, groin, or areas covered by clothing.

- It is usually temporary and tends to resolve on its own once the skin cools down and sweat ducts (eccrine glands) become unblocked.


Keratosis Pilaris (KP):

- KP is a common, chronic skin condition characterized by the buildup of keratin, a hard protein that protects the skin.
- This buildup forms plugs that block hair follicles, resulting in rough, small bumps on the skin's surface. Keratosis Pilaris is often referred to as chicken skin due to its appearance. It commonly affects areas such as the upper arms, thighs, cheeks in kids, and buttocks

- Unlike heat rash, KP is not related to sweating or heat exposure but rather to the abnormal accumulation of keratin in sensitive skin.


What is the difference between Ingrown hairs and KP? 


Ingrown hairs and keratosis pilaris (KP) are distinct skin conditions with different causes and characteristics. 

-Ingrown hairs occur when hair grows back into the skin, causing redness, inflammation, and sometimes infection. They typically result from shaving against the direction of your hair, less frequently waxing, or anything that blocks the opening of the hair follicle and makes the hair grow under the skin.


-Ingrown hairs appear as raised, red bumps that may be painful or itchy, often with visible hair trapped beneath the skin's surface.

-On the other hand, KP is a condition characterized by the buildup of keratin within hair follicles, leading to rough, small bumps on the skin's surface.

-It is not related to hair growth but rather the accumulation of keratin. Another difference is that KP appears in characteristic areas mentioned previously. 

Different Forms of Keratosis Pilaris 


Keratosis pilaris can present in different forms. The most common forms include:


  • - Keratosis pilaris rubra: This type is characterized by red, inflamed bumps on the skin.
  • - Keratosis pilaris alba: This form appears as rough, bumpy skin with no redness or irritation.
  • - Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii: It specifically affects the face, causing redness and irritation, particularly on the cheeks in children.

These various forms of keratosis pilaris may have slightly different appearances and can occur in different areas of the body. Treatment approaches are the same except for kids. As urea, 20% isn’t advised on the face.



Popping Keratosis Pilaris Pimples - Avoid!


It is important to avoid popping keratosis pilaris bumps. Popping the bumps can lead to further irritation, inflammation, and potential scarring

Additionally, KP is a chronic condition that cannot be cured by popping the bumps. It requires a comprehensive approach that includes preventive measures, proper skincare, and suitable treatment to manage and improve the condition over time. 

If you use a cream for bumpy skin your bumps will disappear and you will not need to pop them. 

How to prevent Keratosis Pilaris?


To prevent keratosis pilaris or minimize its severity, consider the following measures:


  • 1) Keep the skin moisturized and well-hydrated. We recommend a cream for bumpy skin that contains Urea 20%, an active ingredient used to soften skin and treat KP. It acts by smoothing and removing the extra superficial layers of your skin including keratin, the cause of this condition. It also contains shea butter, a natural moisturizer that deeply hydrates your skin.
  • 2) Use gentle cleansers and avoid harsh soaps or skincare products. an after workout body wash is a syndet body wash that is perfect for athletes with sensitive skin.
  • 3) Exfoliants tend to irritate sensitive skin, a cream for bumpy skin contains urea which is a natural exfoliant that doesn’t irritate sensitive skin. 
  • 4) Avoid excessive heat or hot water during showers. Hot water damages the integrity of your skin barrier and allows irritants in. For more information be sure to check out our blog post on Showering After Workout, where we explain the topic in greater detail. 
  • 5) Protect the skin from excessive friction by wearing loose-fitting clothing.
  • 6) Consider dietary changes, such as increasing the intake of vegetables and fruits that contain vitamins A and E.
  • 7) Avoid picking or scratching the affected areas that only makes the condition worse and can lead to bacteria entering the skin.
  • 8) Consult with a healthcare professional or dermatologist for personalized advice and treatment options.


Keratosis pilaris treatment 


Treatment options for keratosis pilaris include:


  • Avanza Skin’s a cream for bumpy skin uses shea butter to deeply penetrate the skin to moisturize, soften, and reduce bumps and the appearance of KP across the arms and elsewhere on the body. Urea and sea buckthorn oil naturally exfoliates the superficial layers of the skin and remove the keratin plug that causes this skin condition. 
  • Chemical peels help by removing the superficial layers of the skin, as topical creams, so I wouldn’t say they are superior.
  • If a cream for bumpy skin doesn’t help your KP visit your preferred dermatologist to determine the most suitable treatment for you.
  • If you need guidance on how to choose the best cream to treat Keratosis Pilaris, our post on How to Select the Best Cream for Keratosis Pilaris can give you a guide (Link to the more detailed blog post on How to Select the Best Cream for Keratosis Pilaris?)




How long does it take to get rid of keratosis pilaris?


The normal skin cell cycle takes around 5-7 weeks (it depends on your age, stress level, and creams that you use daily). This cycle is the natural process where a new skin cell is formed at the deepest layer of the epidermis and works its way up to the surface of the skin where it flakes off. a cream for bumpy skin will help these new skin cells be moisturized and it will remove all the dead skin cells and keratin plugs that make your skin look duller, bumpier and even saggier. 

For you to notice the full change you need to wait for the new skin cycle and see the difference. Improvement may be seen within weeks (used twice a day) or months with consistent treatment and proper skincare routine. 

However, it is important to note that keratosis pilaris is a chronic condition, and complete eradication may not be possible. With ongoing care and maintenance, individuals can expect to see a gradual improvement in the appearance and texture of their skin over time.



Keratosis pilaris, a skin condition often called chicken skin due to its appearance, typically affects individuals during their younger years and adulthood. While there is no cure for it, the condition tends to improve and may resolve naturally as one ages. In the meantime, working closely with a dermatologist can help in identifying the most effective treatment methods to manage the symptoms and minimize their impact on the skin.

Avanza Skin has products designed for athletes that prevent and treat keratosis pilaris. Find the right products that meet your skin and hair needs - in less than a minute. Take our quiz to find out