Keratosis pilaris, also known as KP or chicken skin, is a genetic condition that causes bumpy, roughly textured skin on areas like your arms, legs, thighs, and butt. It's very common, but somewhat difficult to treat, and usually gets worse in the winter, when your skin is more prone to becoming dry. One way to deal with keratosis pilaris at home is by swapping out your usual shower gel for something more targeted. To be precise, the best body washes for keratosis pilaris are typically mild exfoliating cleansers that don't contain overly harsh ingredients, like strong peeling agents or benzoyl peroxide. As board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jennifer L. MacGregor tells Bustle, treating KP is tough because, “We want to thin out the dead cells at the surface (keratin layer) and smooth the bumps, but it’s also a dry skin condition, so we also need to hydrate, calm and restore the skin barrier function.” In particular, she says urea is a "magic" ingredient for KP, since it's both an exfoliant and a skin hydrator.
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ted Lain, M.D., also advises his clients to exfoliate, but he prefers an exfoliating lotion as a first line treatment for KP. “Lotions tend to be more gentle, giving an exfoliation that occurs over days to weeks.” However, he says if you do prefer to exfoliate with a body wash, pick a gentle formula that contains salicylic acid (a beta-hydroxy acid), or an alpha-hydroxy acid.
Both doctors advise not to scrub with your skin rough pastes or loofahs. And finally, since many patients with KP are prone to sensitive skin and/or eczema, sticking with a gentle, fragrance-free body wash is always a safe bet. (If, however, you don’t have particularly sensitive skin, Dr. Lain says choosing a body wash is mostly a matter of personal preference.)
Scroll on to shop five of the best keratosis pilaris treatments that you can use in the shower, including a few picks from our experts.
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1. The Best Body Wash For KP: Dr. MacGregor's Pick
Dr. MacGregor says this fragrance-free CeraVe cleanser is great for KP because it contains urea, the "magic" exfoliant that's also a skin hydrator; salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid known for its pore-unclogging properties; ceramides to strengthen and restore the skin's natural protective barrier; and niacinamide, an anti-inflammatory with skin-calming properties. As a whole, the formula can help relieve the itching and dryness associated with conditions like KP, psoriasis, and generally dry skin. And you can use this safely anywhere on your body, including on your hairline and face.
Relevant review: "I have combination, comedonal-acne-prone skin w/ Keratosis Pilaris (rough & bumpy texture) on my cheeks. [...] This wash has definitely helped smooth out my face. Unlike typical salicylic acid washes, this is very gentle & won’t strip the skin. I recommend for anyone w/ acne or textured skin."
2.The Best Body Wash For KP: Dr. Lain's Pick
Dr. Lain likes this classic Neutrogena Body Clear body wash; "It does not overdo the exfoliation," he says. Formulated to help treat body acne, it uses 2% salicylic acid to exfoliate skin, while ingredients like glycerin and aloe juice help counteract the drying effects of the SA. Plus, since this is sold in a three-pack, you'll be stocked for ages.
Relevant review: "I have a form of eczema called keratosis pilaris and this really helps. I also have sensitive skin but I haven't had any problems with it."
3. The Best Body Wash For KP: Editor's Pick
Beauty editor Adeline Duff swears by CeraVe's SA line for keeping her KP under control. Both the body lotion and the body wash are great — since they're enriched with skin-strengthening ceramides (in addition to exfoliating salicylic acid), they won't exacerbate skin dryness or do damage to your acid mantle over time. Plus, the fragrance-free formula is truly scentless, unlike so many other products that only claim to be.
Relevant review: "I’ve tried SO many washes, creams, etc for my KP (both rx and OTC) and this is the FIRST thing that has actually worked. I’ve used it for about 2 months now and will continue to use it. Zero scent, which I love. I noticed results within the first week of using it."
4. Best For Sensitive Skin
If you have very sensitive skin, and don't feel comfortable using an exfoliating body wash, go with a super basic body wash, like this one from Cetaphil. Hypoallergenic and fragrance-free, this creamy cleanser will leave your skin feeling moisturized and soft, instead of tight and dry.
Note that this is another product that's sold in a three-pack, so you can have a bottle for every bathroom in the house.
Relevant review: "Love this soap! It’s gentle on my sensitive skin, but at the same time it lathers and makes me feel fresh. I’d recommend to anyone!"
5. Best Budget Buy
If you're not looking to spend $15+ on a value pack, pick up this single bottle from Aveeno. Another excellent, mild choice for people with sensitive skin, it helps relieve dryness, irritation, and itching using Aveeno's signature ingredient, oats. For less than $6, you get a massive, 33-ounce bottle, so it's an incredible value.
Relevant review: "I have a skin condition called keratosis pilaris, very dry and bumpy skin. I've tried numerous products. This works the best. It's not a cure all but it has been the one non-prescription product that has given me the most relief from the dryness and itching."
Also Consider: These Body Lotions For KP
The Best Body Lotion For Keratosis Pilaris
Dr. Lain is a big fan of this Glytone Body Lotion, which he says is a great exfoliant with a high concentration of glycolic acid to smooth skin and reduce the appearance of bumps. He also likes the brand's body wash, too, if you've got a bit more room in your budget.
Relevant review: "I never write reviews but I feel compelled to for this product because I am so impressed! I have had KP on the backs of my legs and arms for as long as I can remember. [...] Nothing has ever helped until this lotion. I use it once a day after showering and my skin is smoother than it has ever been. [...] It goes on nice and surprisingly doesn't have any scent at all. At first I was leery of the price, but now I think it is worth it since it actually works. I'm hooked."
A More Affordable Alternative
“This is my favorite Cerave product for dry and stressed health care hands, ragged cuticles, dry feet and limbs ... and also for KP,” says Dr. MacGregor. “Ceramides and urea in a gentle, hydrating cream that also happens to soften bumps.” And with its reasonable price tag, what more could you want?
Relevant review: "Works great and really does make my dry skin go away. Now I am not a diabetic, my dermatologist actually recommended this to me because I get small bumps on my arms. It’s taken them away and left my arms smooth."
Dr. Jennifer L. MacGregor, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology.
Dr. Ted Lain, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and Chief Medical Officer at Sanova Dermatology.