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Do You Have Chicken Skin?
How to Treat Keratosis Pilaris Naturally

How to Treat Keratosis Pilaris Naturally

I get reader questions nearly every week looking for ways to treat keratosis pilaris naturally.

If you don’t have keratosis pilaris (KP), then chances are good that someone you know does: apparently, this skin condition affects about 50% of the world population.

KP usually manifests as red, brown or flesh-colored goose flesh bumps usually on the upper arms but it can also appear on the back, face or legs. Here’s what it looks like on someone’s arm with lighter skin, and on the thigh of a darker skinned person.

What causes keratosis pilaris?

With KP the skin either makes an excess of keratin (a protein that helps provide structure to the skin) or the body is unable to turn-over old keratin – both leading to too much keratin which can then clogs pores and sometimes also trap hair inside follicles.

Some people say the KP is a genetic thing, but we know from epigenetics that just because you have a gene for something, environment and the decisions you make about food and lifestyle can affect whether or not that gene expresses. So, to heal your skin (or suppress the gene that will cause chicken skin to appear) you need to work from the inside out by choose the right foods and getting rid of what isn’t helping you.

How to Treat Keratosis Pilaris Naturally

While KP is generally not physically uncomfortable, many folks don’t appreciate bumpy appearance and texture of their skin. Luckily you can usually treat keratosis pilaris with a few simple changes and a bit of patience.

#1 – Ditch the junk

You’ve heard this so many times that it probably sounds more like “waa-waa-waa” in your head than the actual suggestion that junk food is bad for you. If you are still eating fast food; eating packaged, processed products; and ‘forgetting’ to read labels at the grocery store – it’s time to WAKE UP.

A reader commented recently that my Facebook page had “useful information, I suppose, but… it’s making me feel neurotic about food! Gah. We can’t just eat any more! What a shame!”

Well, somebody’s got to be the bearer of bad news, so it may as well be me.

Our food system is broken. If you are wondering why your body isn’t acting how you’d like (say, getting unsightly bumps all over your upper arms) you should probably consider what you’re eating (and putting on your body in the form of soaps, lotions, and detergents) may be contributing to the problem. If you’re still immersing yourself with junk, there is no real mystery as to why your health is junky too.

Specifically for KP, I would make extra certain that you are not eating foods with new-fangled vegetable oils such as corn, sunflower, vegetable a.k.a. soybean, grape seed, cottonseed AND canola oils. These non-traditional vegetable oils are packed with super unstable PUFAs (poly-unsaturated fatty acids). PUFAs are quite possibly the worst of the modern food offenders, creating extensive inflammation and disrupting hormones and metabolism. Learn more about PUFAs here.

#2 – Heal your digestion

Even if you don’t have obvious digestive problems, if you suffer from skin conditions, allergies, weakened immune system, or even psychological imbalance, it is very likely linked to a digestive weakness and/or gut flora imbalance.

This can be due to a chronically poor diet, a period of high stress, or even as little as a single course of antibiotics at some point in your life.

“Healing your gut” is usually not a quick and easy process, but something that you cultivate over time, just like a good farmer cultivates healthy soil for his crops.

In addition to restoring good gut flora with probiotic supplements and foods, you may also need to heal your metabolism. The Nourished Metabolism, a new ebook by Elizabeth Walling, is the perfect guide to get your started.

#3 – Eat vitamin C-rich foods every day

Vitamin C is essential for collagen formation, helps to maintain the integrity of skin tissue, and counteracts free radicals which elicit inflammation throughout the body.

Specifically with KP, adequate Vitamin C can reduce redness and inflammation and prevent common cork-screw ingrown hairs. While you could take a supplement, it makes far more sense to me that you’d simply eat some fresh, seasonal fruit daily.

#4 – Eat liver!

If you suffer from keratosis pilaris, it is quite probable that you are not getting enough vitamin A. Without adequate amounts of this fat-soluble vitamin, over time the skin cells begin to excrete an excess of keratin creating dry, rough, scaly bumps. (source)

While many folks think that they can get vitamin A from eating foods like carrots, spinach, and sweet potatoes, it’s essential to understand that carotene in plant foods will probably not provide adequate daily vitamin A. It’s true that beta carotene can be converted to vitamin A in your body once they make it into your blood, but what you may not know is that carotene is not always absorbed efficiently. (source)

Taking true vitamin A as a supplement, however, can also be dangerous since vitamin A toxicity is also a risk.

SO… that brings us to liver. Liver is far and away the best source of naturally occurring vitamin A. If you are in the small minority that like liver, great!  Eat it at least 1-2 times per week. If not, you can find some suggestions to feed liver to even the pickiest eater here.

If you simply can’t fathom the taste you can try of these ways of getting Vitamin A naturally:

  • Cod liver oil capsules – Cod liver oil is good idea for everyone even if you are eating liver and especially for those with keratosis pilaris. (learn what’s the best cod liver oil here)
  • Dessicated liver capsules (like these)
  • Homemade liver ‘pills‘ – check back next week for my post on how to make your own!

 

There you have it.  Ditch the junk, heal your metabolism, eat oranges and liver… Chicken skin begone!

Do you have keratosis pilaris?

Have you found anything that worked for you yet?

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Comments

  1. Megan Alton says:

    I have KP. I’m ready for the long journey to healing. I’m looking forward to the following comments. Thanks for this post!

    • Cyndi says:

      Had kp for 35 years. Daniel fast cleared it up while I was on it. Ulactin lotion made it feel better if you cant change your diet. Next step is Nondairy to see if it works.

  2. Jill says:

    I noticed you mentioned grape seed oil & sunflower oil. So, you do NOT recommend using those oils in any way – from food preparation, to skin care products like lotions? I thought those oils were ok???

    What about refined coconut oil, (instead of virgin coconut oil, when the flavor of the coconut oil would not taste good in the particular food)?

    • Emily says:

      Hi Jill, thanks for your question. I would avoid grape seed and sunflower oil as much as possible though refined coconut oil is fine.

  3. Purelytwins says:

    We have it and have been healing our gut and eating really clean for months and still suffering. We have been scrubbing our skin with a product and it seems to be helping. We have done everything diet related – we take fermented cod liver oil and eat livers 2x a week and still suffering. But we are determined to get rid of it – hopefully soon!

    • Karen says:

      I’ve had KP for about fifteen years and never thought that a poor diet could be the root cause although, in my case, it certainly makes sense. I don’t know what’s in it that could have made a difference but, ONSEN Crystal Clear Scrub make my arms more smooth than I can ever remember them being. I want to approach my KP as a medical issue and heal myself, as I think all the crap food I’ve eaten (including conventional beef which is chock full of antibiotics) has done a number on the good bacteria in my gut. If you want a quick fix, I’d definitely recommend ONSEN’s scrub. Good luck!

    • victoria says:

      I have had KP for as long as I can remember. Reluctantly I gave up gluten and my arms cleared within weeks. Over a year with no recurrence except i get a slight flare up if I consume gluten. Now friends and family have also had theirs clear up within weeks.

      I was so reluctant to give up gluten… and it became the best improvement for my health I have ever made. It is difficult to give up at first but becomes a breeze with time – don’t give up : this will change your health forever!

      • angela says:

        Two of my children had KP and when I removed gluten, they both improved a lot. They get gluten occasionally at Grandma’s otherwise I think their skin would be normal.

      • Laura says:

        After doing an elimination diet and going through the reintroduction phase my body quickly told me it didn’t like gluten or dairy. I listened and continued with a gluten free lifestyle and my whole world changed from there with feeling so much better. Then several months later after a long winter I put on a tank top and noticed the bumps I had always had on my arms were literally gone! Looked it up on the internet and found out it had a name KP. Still Gluten and KP free today :)

      • Ruben says:

        victoria, I am glad you were able to get rid of your KP. I am 34 and had KP since I was a small kid, some say it will go away, but it seems to be worst now. I will try giving up gluten, besides that did you also try any other product or supplement?

        Ruben

  4. Ciara says:

    My husband, my 2 year old son and myself all have KP. My son almost never eats junk food, only real food and is on a gluten and casine sensitive diet. We take probiotics, FCLO, eat organic, no soy, and take a food based multi vitamin. We also use natural hygiene products and we use “All” free and clear laundry detergent. Despite all this we still have have KP and my son has it the worst and he eats the healthiest out of all of us. My husband has it the least and he eats the worst i.e. when he’s at work. :(

  5. Carry says:

    I have suffered from this condition for years and recently found out that it can be aggravated by food allergies. I have just started the process of trying to detoxify and heal my digestive system, but in the meantime I have noticed that dairy products cause me to have flare ups. I am hoping that in the future I will be able to repair things enough to the point where dairy doesn’t bother me. I had not heard about liver though and will have to try that and see if it helps.

    • Nina says:

      I also had KP for some 30+yrs. Three weeks of Gluten Free and a drastic cut in dairy has just about cleared it all up, I am ecstatic… I have found with cooking most of the dairy free sour creams, cream cheeses and selected other products are great and I can hardly tell a difference with the exception of the after effects.

      Good Luck to All…

  6. KJ says:

    I have KP and acne on my face and Green Pasture cod liver oil/butter oil has been nothing short of miraculous on making my skin smooth and clear! I’ve tried the capsules but I think the dose is too small. I have tried cheaper cod liver oil and it didn’t work. I have also recently started doing frozen liver “pills” so maybe I will be able to take less CLO (because it is NOT CHEAP!)

  7. Brittany says:

    What is frustrating is I do all the things you mention, and I have yet to see any relief from my healthy eating :-( I have seen amazing improvement in my health over all, energy and have healed my gut from gluten damage, healed my body from infertility and adrenal fatigue but I can’t seem to get rid of this horrid skin issue :-(

    • Andrea says:

      I had the same problem!! I’ve tried everything. Last week I ordered a bottle of magnesium oil to help with some other issues and happened to see one amazon review mention using it for KP. So I figured, why not? Gotta rub it on my skin anyway! So for three days I’ve been spraying and rubbing it on my KP areas- back of my arms and thighs. It’s only been three days and I can tell a HUGE difference. I am completely shocked. It’s great! I just leave it on. Ancient Minerals is the brand I got.

  8. KJ says:

    I should add that it took me about a month of daily FCLO/BO doses (at least a tsp of the gel NOT the capsules) for my skin to get smooth. I have tried stopping taking it and the rough skin on my face comes back. I am lucky though in that my KP seems pretty localized to my face and arms. My husband has it bad, but he won’t take the FCLO regularily.

  9. Isabel says:

    Love liver! It’s been too long. So going to buy some next grocery run :)

  10. jami says:

    What do you recommend for gut healing? Do you have a pervious post I missed? Or could you point me in the right direction? Thanks!

  11. Kathy says:

    I had read someplace else that it was caused due to vitamin A deficiency.

  12. Chance says:

    I have had KP since I was a child and both of my children also have it. There are three things that really help our KP.
    1. sunlight
    2. gentle exfoliation (I like a soft loofa)
    3. moisturizing (I’ve tried it all and coconut works for me – BEFORE bathing, not after)
    When we do these three things regularly, it basically disappears.

    • erin w says:

      I have had KP since childhood as well. I never noticed it changing no matter what I eat, when I was in college and ate poorly, or when i was a small child and now when I eat very healthfully.
      Sunlight helps quite a bit, moisturizing with oil (we like to use olive oil or coconut),and dry brushing. I agree that when i do those things, my KP virtually disappears.

    • Jo says:

      All of the above and milk baths as well the lactic acid works as a gentle exfoliation.

  13. Liz says:

    I have also had KP since childhood. I live on the west coast of Canada where it rains a LOT! But every summer when the sun hangs around for more than a few weeks at a time, my KP lessens quite a bit. Not long ago there was the health summit and I listened to one of the speakers, I wish I could remember her name and her book’s name. It was all about skin conditions. Anyway, she had said KP is from a vitamin A and D deficiency. Do you agree?

    • Ciara says:

      We have been taking fermented cod liver oil for months and it’s loaded with the best kind of vitamin A and D and we still have bad KP. But I have noticed other wonderful benefits taking the FCLO. Hate not knowing what to do about it.

      • Meeka says:

        Ciara, I am pretty sure that this article was directed to the masses who only deal with slight manifestations of KP. It doesn’t sound like the writer has actually dealt with serious-from-birth KP of the kind which might not be directly related to only nutritional deficiencies. I love a lot of things on this site, but generally the suggested courses of actions seem to indicate you could re grow a missing arm if you just ate the right foods and supplements…. My sister has been dealing with severe KP for 30 years and I feel that this article indicates an oversimplification of the condition and doesn’t adequately address the genetic component.

    • Emily says:

      Hi Liz, hanks for your comment. I do agree. I discuss vitamin A above when I’m talking about liver. While i don’t mention vitamin D here, I do think it plays a big role in our overall health. Hope this helps.

  14. kyung says:

    Magnesium topically and orally definitely helped our family. Since magnesium is so important for enzymatic activity I think it helps with Vitamin A absorption.

  15. Susan W says:

    KP can be a sign of hypothyroidism so if you have KP and other symptoms of an underactive thyroid you might want to have your thyroid check.

  16. Sarah says:

    I’ve had this condition for years and have tried everything…then we started eating coconut milk daily and it has disappeared! It’s the only thing that has changed in my diet. Maybe the balance of fats…?

    • noelle says:

      In the book Cure Your Child with Food the author states that it’s exactly that – not enough of the right fats. We added way more fats into our diets and my daughter’s KP has vanished.

  17. Sharolyn says:

    I have had it since I was a child. Going Primal (I include raw dairy/butter) made it completely go away. If I had to guess why I would say it was the increased coconut oil and no grains, specifically corn. I do still eat wheat and rice occassionally but I totally cut corn out because I can’t digest it. Like Sarah mentioned, it could be the increased fat in my diet as well because I was always low-fat, whole grains before. It was gone within a month though!

    • Sharolyn says:

      Also, I do take FCLO/butter oil but i didn’t start till after my KP was gone. And I get very little sun (pollen allergies I’m still working on) but was supplementing vitamin D when I dropped the grains.

  18. [...] had stiches three times as a child because I liked to whack my head on things. I just read about ‘chicken skin’ and yes I believe I had this to some degree, and may still have it to some degree on my [...]

  19. Kelly says:

    An ND told me that it is strictly from not having enough Essential Fatty Acid stores and that it could be healed by removing food intolerance and by adding pure cod liver oil. Notably, it happens to children whose mothers do not have enough EFAs during a pregnancy, and that it worsens with each birth.

  20. Athena K. says:

    Is it possible that because it is genetic no matter what I do my skin will never be clear? Everyone in my dad’s family have this, and now my toddler just started showing some, despite our diet–real food, mostly WAPF. Thank you.

    • Emily says:

      Hi Athena, thanks for your question. It’s hard to say for sure. Certainly some genetic expressions will be stronger in certain people or lineages than others. I would look to see that you are getting enough vitamin A (liver, FCLO) as this one is often low even in WAPFers. I hope this helps!

      • Ciara says:

        I’ve noticed now since it’s hot and sunny that the sunshine really reduces it a LOT!! And we all have bad KP in our house. Go outside and let your KP cook in the sun. It really works!

  21. Alicia says:

    I noticed a significant improvement in my KP when I did a candida cleanse and have maintained an anti-candida diet along with eliminating foods that I’m allergice to (dairy and gluten). I notice a flare up on my arms when I have too much sugar or different foods that feed candida… like caffeine or white starchy carbs.
    During my cleanse, I drank A LOT of lemon juice in water with no sweeteners and my skin felt the softest it had felt in my entire life. It also helped that I wasn’t consuming any sugars.
    When I have flare ups, I use coconut oil mixed with doTERRA’s lavender and melaleuca essential oils and it calms them down right away. I also use their vitamin supplements that are completely whole food based and it’s amazing how much they have helped my overall health and improved all the digestive issues that I used to have. I feel like a completely different person. :)

  22. Melissa Robertson says:

    I began to supplement my diet with high doses of Vit D and A to help with my psoriasis and my skin totally smoothed out. I had KP since I was 12 and finally got rid of it at 33!

  23. michele says:

    This lil asian man told me to take liver pills. Has anyone tried that?? I have tried nearly everything for months and months, vitamins a & d, çod liver oil, different oils, scrubs, nothing works except the sun. The roughness goes away but the red dots /spots are still visible and that’s what I want to get rid of. Any other info would be greatly appreciated.

  24. Crystal Yeates says:

    I totally have noticed that if I get low on Vitamin C, take too much vitamin d compared to liver my skin flares. In 95% paleo with the exception of sesame butter and brown rice

    • Crystal says:

      this totally happens to me too! I need more Vitamin A than D, but need Vitamin d obviously, and I think magnesium may have something to do with it. The more Vitamin D the more magnesium we need.

  25. Jess says:

    My 5 month old has this any helpful ideas for helping an infant

  26. nira says:

    Hello,

    I recently found your site.

    I think i suffer from KP but my condition only occurs at its worst when I wax, and after three days when the hair starts to grow back a little I get these really bad bumps. Also on some spots there is NO HAIR but a the marks?!?!?! Why?!?! :(

    I have put mixed coconut oil with my cream and put it on…it made it swell even more…Do I wash the coconut off?

    I did not approve of my wax esthetician, I think she did an ok job, but do you know if they are related?

    • Stacy says:

      Just found your question. Waxing exacerbated my KP as well. I suspect it’s one of two things. 1) The waxing irritates the skin more and opens the hair follicle more vs shaving alone. 2) I think this is most likely: the buildup of keratin makes it even more difficult for the regrown hair to push through the plug to the surface.

      I love getting my brows threaded, but I do tend to notice bumps forming before there is any obvious hair growth. So no hair visible doesn’t mean no hair at all.

  27. Jessica says:

    I am 25 years old, and have had KP for as long as I can remember. I have tried all kinds of soaps and lotions, including prescriptions, and nothing seemed to work. I also suffer from IBS, acid reflux, and am overweight. About 1 month ago, I cut wheat out of my diet and reduced my dairy intake. I cut out wheat after reading the book “Wheat Belly,” in order to lose weight and help with my GI problems. Surprisingly, cutting out wheat has also cleared up my KP drastically. My skin is still reddish, but is almost completely smooth! I was not expecting it to help with KP, but one day it hit me, that my skin was much better. And it is usually much worse in the winter!

  28. Sarah says:

    I have found that my KP and sebitious cysts have improved since I took care of my gut and candida! Though being pregnant has flared it up a bit. I plan on starting a frankincense/ helicrisysm doterra Oil Blend that I’ve heard helps a lot. But I fior sure think it starts in the gut! Candida, biofilm and parasites prevent your body from being able to absorb nutrients properly and cause allergies from inflammation in your intestines! My skin is 1000 thousand times better after my candida cleanse. I also take cod liver oil and probiotics and avoid gluten.

  29. Chris says:

    I had KP on the back of my upper arms, but the bumps disappeared once I started thyroid hormone for Hashimoto’s. I’m nailed down some food sensitivities and am eating very well. The bumps are still gone, but I have red spots still. Are these scars from picking at the bumps (which I used to do incessantly)? Any tips on lessening the appearance of these spots? Thanks!

  30. Rosy says:

    I get the bumps when I eat gluten. When I’m off gluten for several weeks, the bumps start to go away. I can tell when I’ve been “glutened” by mistake by these bumps on my arms.

  31. Nev says:

    It’s still a Vitamin A issue in my opinion, even for those who’ve tried fermented cod liver oil, this doesn’t mean because its failed for them that its not Vitamin A. It means their body is not utilising / absorbing the A in my opinion. May be worth trying the Fermented Oil with the butter combined which includes Vitamin K a necessary nutrient in the whole process.

  32. Ana Monterroso says:

    Being gluten/dairy free has helped me!

  33. Bonnie says:

    I would just like to add that this is an internal/external issue and can absolutely be treated from the inside & external both and by both I mean naturally!
    I graduated from St. Louis Skin Institute of St. Louis Mo as an Asthetician and currently practice within a Stl Spa.
    Keratosis Pilarias is due to a Uric Acid build up within the body and can in fact be depleted within the body by means of internal diet and external treatment.
    Drinking ample ammounts of water rids the body of toxins. Dry brushing in the direction of the heart flow increases circulation throughout the body and helps along blood flow and is also a form of exfoliation. A # 1 key point top resolving this issue. Exfoliation.

  34. Betty says:

    I have recently cleared up my KP with a clean traditional diet and apple cider vinegar (ACV). I take about 1 tbsp internally and use a diluted ACV solution as a toner on my problem areas. Also, the only “lotion” I use on my skin is coconut oil. It’s so nice to have smooth skin! I feel so much more confident.

  35. Rachel says:

    Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! Daily exercise along with a clean low calorie diet has almost completely erased my kp. And I don’t mean once or twice a week I mean daily running or walking or some cardio that really works up a sweat. I tried all the stuff I’ve been reading but never saw a big diff until I started running two miles a day and the occasional sauna trip.it took about two months but its totally worth it! I also started buying organic whenever possible, also drinking lots of water is important, hope this helps:-)

  36. Cindy Ray says:

    Although I didn’t like it, I hadn’t thought too much about it until I heard diet-related chicken skin mentioned in a video.. I actually just now realized that it’s gone, after 7-8 weeks high fat, low carb, no gluten. Pretty cool!

  37. Benitta says:

    The only time I haven’t had Kp was when I was vegan. It disappeared. Not vegan anyone, but do all of the above and have it again.

  38. Wendy says:

    The KP on my cheeks showed up a few months AFTER I had ditched the gluten and ate much healthier (low carb, lots of veggies, eating real food etc.) :s What a reward for clean eating, huh? I tried coconut oil, most exfoliating creams, peelings, masks and nothing helps. I’ve read about all the things that work for you all, and I’ve tried most of them to no avail.

    Any suggestions would be very very welcome!

  39. kmentz says:

    Ditch the gluten!!!!!

  40. Leah says:

    Thanks for all the great suggestions.

  41. Lidea says:

    I am so thankful that I found this site. I feel like I have trying to find out what is wrong with me forever. I went to several dermatologist in my area and none of them had a clue. It was only through research that I decided to do a colon, liver and candida cleanse and cut out all sugar, dairy, gluten and carbs. My KP bumps have started to get smaller and I think I will do another round of a candida cleanse and stay off the gluten and sugar. I am going to use some of the advice others have given on this sight and see if it helps as well.

  42. l says:

    I exfoliate it with a pumice stone and soap about once a month. Works perfect. Smooths it all out.

  43. Lina says:

    Hi Emily, any recommendations to treat KP on a toddler?
    Thanks!

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