Q: Even though I use a mild soap and moisturizer, the chicken skin on my upper arms is getting worse. What causes those bumps, and how can I get rid of them?

A: Good work with the mild soap and the moisturizer; both should help alleviate your chicken skin (formally called keratosis pilaris). But don't you hate it when a problem persists even though you do the right thing to treat it? Cold, dry winter air or dry heat indoors may be partly to blame for your worsening condition. Be sure you moisturize damp skin immediately after showering or bathing, says Howard Sobel, MD, director of the New York Institute of Aesthetic Dermatology and Laser Surgery. You might also try using moisturizer on a polyester sponge (like a Buf-Puf; a loofah might be too abrasive) to remove the bumps, which are plugged hair follicles. An exfoliating treatment—a lotion or cream containing salicylic, lactic, or glycolic acid—can also help smooth the skin. (Sobel recommends Lac-Hydrin lotion—with 12 percent lactic acid—and his own brand, DDF Glycolic 10% Exfoliating Moisturizer.)

Keep in mind: If there's no improvement in three to four weeks, see your dermatologist; a low-dose prescription retinoid cream may be in order.

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