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Bumpy, Rough Body Skin? We Asked the Experts How to Get Rid of it

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Main image – Sonjalekovic/Stocksy

When it comes to your skin, there are certain things you might experience that are far more common than you think. Acne breakouts at a certain time of the month. In-grown hairs after a rushed de-fuzz job. And little spots and bumps on your body.

Yes, if you experience these tiny red or skin-coloured bumps that make your skin feel rough to the touch, you are definitely in the majority. You may have heard it being referred to as strawberry skin, chicken skin or even keratosis pilaris. To me though, the (un)official name is ‘annoying bumpy skin that just won’t quit’.

But thankfully, Dr Mariano Busso, Dr Tina Meder, Nevada Norris and Dr Jeanette Graf are here  to advise how to treat bumpy skin, what causes it and whether it can be banished completely. And I share the product that works wonders on making my bumpy arms noticeably smoother every single time. 


What are the different causes of bumpy body skin?

According to the experts, the most common cause for bumpy body skin is a skin condition called keratosis pilaris which I will be going into more detail about in another section. 


Image – Annatabakova/Stocksy


But even though this is the most common answer, there are other things that can be causing bumpy skin too. Your dermatologist, pharmacist or GP can help identify which one is causing yours (and how to treat it), but here is a list of potential other triggers.

  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Sun damage
  • Acne
  • Folliculitis 
  • Dry or dehydrated skin
  • Allergies
  • Ingrown hair follicles
  • Irritation from clothing or products


What is keratosis pilaris?

It’s a skin condition that shows tiny, painless bumps on the skin caused by the clogging of the hair follicles. “The skin feels like sandpaper, and it is mainly seen in posterior arms, anterior thighs, buttocks and cheeks,” explains Dr Busso

“Technically a skin accumulates a protein called keratin and as it builds up, the keratin particles block hair follicles, creating small bumps,” explains Dr Meder. “It is a harmless condition with a tendency to improve with age (a rare benefit of aging!) but still causes discomfort, cosmetic concerns, and fashion limitations.”


How can you treat it?

Image – Ohlamourstudio/Stocksy

  • Exfoliate

Dr Busso says first and foremost, exfoliation. “It can be chemical or physical,” he explains. “The gold standard of chemical exfoliation are creams or gels based on urea at 40-50% concentration. Creams containing alpha-hydroxy or beta-hydroxy acids can also be used whereas physical exfoliation can be obtained with a pumice stone, loofah pad or soft brush.”

I like to use a physical exfoliator on my bumpy arms and absolutely swear by sugar and coconut oil-baed Ouai Scalp and Body Scrub. It isn’t the cheapest but it really, really works. No other product makes my arms feel so smooth or hydrated and it removes that sandpaper feeling for a good week or so after use.

If you’d rather use a chemical exfoliator on bumpy skin, Dr Graf says acids like glycolic, lactic or salicylic are the best ingredients to look out.  “Use glycolic acid or lactic acid 2-3 times a week depending on how your skin reacts to them. And if your skin tolerates salicylic acid well, it can be used daily, but begin with just 2-3 times a week as well, adjusting accordingly,” she advises.

  • Use a moisturiser

Dr Busso says there are other ways to treat bumpy skin at home. “A heavy body moisturiser keeps the bumps soft,” he explains.

  • Change clothes

There are changes you can make to your lifestyle too. “Clothing that does not rub against the bumps decreases irritation of them.”

  • Avoid hot showers

Avoiding long hot showers can help too as well as upping your vitamin A. “Vitamin A deficiency worsens keratosis pilaris,” he adds. And in rare cases, medical treatment.

  • Dermatologist treatments

“Laser treatment can be indicated if bumps are or turn red. Oral isotretinoin (accutane) can improve this condition, but the side effects do not justify this approach.” Anything else? “Topical tretinoin (retin A) can help but irritation and the need for long term use, limits its use.” 


Can you get rid of it permanently?

Whilst there are plenty of products that can help bumpy skin look and feel better, Dr Busso says it can’t be removed permanently. “Patients need to be aware that there is no cure for this condition and that treatments will not completely eliminate the bumps,” he says. 

Dr Graf agrees. “It can be minimised and made much smoother with the right skincare however since it is anatomically a genetic condition it won’t go away completely,” she says. “However, with the use of topical treatments as well as changing habits like hydration levels a consistent skincare routine and shower habits we can minimise their appearance and symptoms.”


The takeaway

Whilst there are lots of potential triggers for those pesky body bumps, the most popular cause is keratosis pilaris. This is when keratin particles on the skin block hair follicles and cause little red or colourless bumps.

Whilst this condition cannot be cured let’s focus on the positives. Regular exfoliation can massively help the problem along with hydration, more vitamin A, a few lifestyle tweaks and, if all else fails, medical treatment.

But the main win I’m taking from this article is that bumpy skin actually improves with age. Finally, giving us all a reason to embrace the ageing process!


Meet the experts

Mariano Busso M.D is a board-certified dermatologist who operates one of Miami, Florida’s busiest practices for the better part of three decades.  He has recently opened a West Coast counterpart in the heart of Beverly Hills, California.


Dr Tiina Meder began her medical career in 1995 as a cardiologist specialising in treating pregnant women with heart conditions. Later on she switched to dermatology and in 2009 she launched her own brand, Meder Beauty, from her clinic in Antibes, France. 


Nevada Norris is a NCCPA Certified Physician Assistant at Aventura Dermatology in Aventura, FL. Nevada received her Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences from the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL. After receiving her bachelor’s, she proceeded to continue her studies at University of South Carolina where she earned her Master’s Degree in Physician Assistant Studies.


Dr. Jeannette Graf is board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mt Sinai School of Medicine.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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