How to Treat Keratosis Pilaris?

What can be done about Keratosis Pilaris, also known as KP or Chicken Bumps? As our previous Keratosis Pilaris article discussed, KP can’t be cured and is easily made worse with the wrong treatment. But Keratosis Pilaris does respond to the right treatment. We researched dermatology journals for how to treat Keratosis Pilaris or the dreaded “Chicken bumps”.

How to Treat “Chicken Bump Skin “?

There are many Keratosis Pilaris treatment products on the market, and most of them are fairly pricey.

The important thing in treating KP is to choose a product that contains a keratolytic, also known as a chemical exfoliator. Some effective keratolytic ingredients are:

We find Retinol particularly effective.

Why Retinol is a Great Keratosis Pilaris Treatment Option

Keratosis Pilaris (Chicken bump skin or Strawberry Skin) will respond to prescription strength Retinol. Retinol gently exfoliates off the dead skin cells entrapping the hardened keratin and replaces that skin with chicken bump-free skin, for the time being at least. It takes a good four to six weeks, but it clears it up pretty well. Further, with regular long-term use, retinol helps prevent the hardened keratin bumps from forming in the first place, which reduces KP bump formation.

Prescription-strength retinol is generally 2-5%. If prescription retinol is too strong for your skin, there are several over-the-counter retinol products available at various price points and strengths.

Supporting Medical Research for KP treatment

Clinical studies have supported retinol for Keratosis Pilaris treatment for some time. A study back in 2002 found KP treatment success with retinol use. [1]

Another study suggests using a “sonic skincare brush with a brush head designed for body cleansing, a body polish, and a body serum of 5% lactic acid to provide a gentle and consistent method of cleansing to improve the sandpaper-like texture of KP affected skin.” [2]

We like the softest brush head we can find on our sonic brushes when treating KP. In this way, it is much less irritating and can be done daily or every other day, depending on how well you tolerate treatment. It is especially important to switch out brush heads regularly to not introduce bacteria to KP.

How to Choose the Best Retinol for Treating Keratosis Pilaris?

When selecting the proper retinol for treating KP, some moisturizer is needed to buffer the retinol to combat excessive dryness. Natural ingredients such as aloe vera, jojoba, and sunflower oil are all good options.

The goal of choosing a specific retinol product to treat Keratosis Pilaris is different than the typical usage of retinol, such as for treating acne, discoloration, or signs of aging. These retinol uses generally benefit from pairing the retinol with other aggressive ingredients, such as topical Vitamin C.  Aggressive ingredients are too strong or Keratosis Pilaris and should be avoided.

How long does it take to treat Keratosis Pilaris?

Generally, the best results can be seen in six weeks to three months, but the redness and dull appearance improve much faster. If you are treating during the warmer months, remember to use a gentle sunscreen on any exposed areas of skin, as retinol makes already sensitive KP skin even more sensitive to excess skin exposure.


  1. Treating keratosis pilaris. Gerbig, Andreas W. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 47, Issue 3, 457
  2. Efficacy and safety of a sonic skin care brush on keratosis pilaris,
    Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 68, Issue 4, AB49


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