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Ugh, I Got the Dreaded 'Chicken Skin' After Having Kids

Photograph by Twenty20

My pre-kid skin care ritual was pretty basic: moisturizer under my makeup and a cheap over-the-counter lotion for dry skin in the winter. But when I had kids, my relatively easy-to-care-for skin decided to throw a mutiny. I started noticing something new: hard little bumps on my arms and legs. No matter how I tried to exfoliate, I couldn’t get rid of them. In fact, exfoliating too enthusiastically made my skin hurt and itch.

Turns out, I’m among the 40 percent of adults who experience keratosis pilaris (also known by the not-at-all-funny nickname "chicken skin"), which comes from a buildup of keratin, the hard protein that protects the skin. The rough bumps look like goose bumps or the skin of a plucked chicken, but are actually plugs of dead skin cells (ew, I know) that can worsen in dry conditions. KP often occurs in young children but it can show up at any time, and many women (like me) experience the bumps during and after pregnancy, likely because of hormone fluctuations.

At this point, I'm pretty sure that I've tried every cream, lotion and treatment known to woman.

KP is a harmless genetic skin condition that has no cure, and can come and go throughout your life. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, medications that include alpha hydroxy acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, retinoids, salicylic acid or urea can help treat KP. There are also over-the-counter products specifically designed to treat KP that contain similar ingredients.

At this point, I'm pretty sure that I've tried every cream, lotion and treatment known to woman with varying degrees of effectiveness. Everyone's skin responds differently, so it can take some experimentation to find the right products for your skin. With that in mind, here are the exfoliating or hydrating products that are in my rotation pretty consistently:

I gently exfoliate in a lukewarm (hot water is bad for KP) shower using a mild soap like Dove Body Wash (about $9 on Amazon) and an exfoliating cloth. I like the Body Polisher ($5) from The Body Shop and Earth Therapeutics’ Exfoliating Hydro Towel (about $5). I exfoliate only every two to three days so my skin doesn't get irritated.

Out of the shower, I pat my skin with a towel rather than rubbing it dry. Then I apply my current favorite lotion, usually Curél Rough Skin Rescue Lotion (about $9 on Amazon) or CeraVe SA Lotion for Rough & Bumpy Skin (about $15 on Amazon; "SA" stands for salicylic acid). Both of these lotions have very mild scents and are reasonably priced for regular use.

My hair stylist introduced me to Moroccanoil (which contains argan oil) and mentioned that she also uses it on her skin. After using it on my hair, I started rubbing the excess over my arms, and within a few days my skin was noticeably softer. Moroccanoil (at about $44 for 3.4 fluid ounces) is pricier than skin lotions, but I don't need to use a lot to notice a difference. I also recently discovered they have a Pure Argan Oil ($52 for 1.7 fluid ounces) intended for full body use!

There are a lot of KP-specific lotions on the market, like DERMAdoctor's KP Duty ($38 for about 4 fluid ounces). It works on stubborn KP spots when everything else fails me.

For KP flare-ups in the winter months, I like pure coconut oil (about $17 on Amazon) or Nivea Crème (about $8 on Amazon). While neither has done much for my KP bumps, they're both very soothing to my itchy, irritated skin.

Fingers crossed that you, too, can find a skin care regimen that works!

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