Monday, December 13, 2010


Get Rid of Back-of-the-Arm Bumps

Apropos of nothing, a health/beauty tip: Do you have infuriating little bumps on the back of your arms for no apparent reason, and do they get worse in winter? (Magazines, revoltingly, sometimes call this “chicken flesh,” although the scientific name is keratosis pilaris.) I do/did! And I did everything the magazines told me to do to make them go away — moisturizing, moisturizing right after I got out of the shower, exfoliating in the shower and then moisturizing right after I got out of the shower, etc. — with no change, so I figured it was a not-tremendously-devastating lost cause. But then!

Some other magazine made a throwaway comment in a beauty- or health-tips Q&A thing about back-of-the-arm bumps, and the advice was to “try a moisturizer with lactic acid for a few weeks.” Hmm, OK, why not. So I bought AmLactin Moisturizing Body Lotion (sort of expensive at $15 from CVS), used it for a few weeks, and my back-of-the-arm bumps disappeared. That’s it! The end.

I realize we all have different skins, so this won’t necessarily work for everyone, obviously, and the “for a few weeks” thing is key, because it doesn’t happen overnight. But yeah. I generally believe most products are garbage, so it’s nice to find things that work. And I sort of think of The Hairpin as like … a campfire, or something, and we’re all sitting around telling one another things.

29 Comments / Post A Comment


Oh, so that's what the stuff on my arms is called? And that's how to fix it? Hmm. I'm going to have to try this stuff. I just always accepted it since I didn't think there was anything I could do to get rid of it.

Jolie Kerr

Can we call it Black Swan Skin from now on???

Maura Johnston

i also find that mine go down when i don't eat wheat. and since i found out i'm allergic to the stuff...

Jenn K.

I second the AmLactin, especially in combination with scrubbing the areas with a BufPuf (do they still call them that?) in the shower beforehand. You literally cannot miss a day though, those bastards are persistent. (Ugh. Skincare is so gross sometimes.)

Edith Zimmerman

Truth. It is a regimen.

Bonnie Downing

Same, same.
But once it got spectacularly worse and I found out through science and a chance encounter, that it was because I was taking calcium supplements. So I had to choose between a future of weak breakable bones or a present of ugly skin. Duh, I chose to have pretty skin.

patchy the squirrel

I registered just to say that, sadly, what with my different and special skin and all, this did not work for me. After years of distress (and interestingly this feature being brought up every single time I hooked up with a guy for the first time)I was excited to hear about it. I used it religiously for months with no effect. I did hear that this stuff does fade with time, though, disappearing for most people around age 30. My mom's went away when she got pregnant.


patchy, you might want to try getting rid of any shower product that has detergent. I literally stopped using ANYTHING that foams/suds up, and have had awesome skin ever since. I clean my hair with only conditioner, wash my face with Noxema cream, and shave my legs with that Neutrogena sesame body oil instead of soap, and have lost all the itchy bumps. And better yet, my skin is great now, my hair and skin are no longer oily AT ALL. I took the advice of some Haitian friends (with great skepticism) and what do you know, it worked even for my non-island girl skin.

patchy the squirrel

Oh, that's going to be hard, because I do love my Bath & Body works, but I guess I can try it out. I did try the conditioner-only thing, and while I can't go for too many days in a row like that, it does work for a couple.


Deva makes something called No-Poo that is lighter than a lot of conditioners and might work for you, and it's sold at Trade Secret (though going to the mall anytime before mid-January isn't something I highly recommend...)

patchy the squirrel

That might work because it's designed for curly hair, which is also another problem of mine...


Devachan's No-Poo (or Low-Poo)/One Condition/AnGELL combo, stupid names and all, is the BOMB for curly-haired people. I know more than one person who has considered it a life-changing experience.


Add me to that list! Hate the product names, not so happy about the prices, love the results. Cheaper, I guess, than going to the salon every three months to have the flattening iron damage cut off.


@MoonBat: I do the "wash hair with conditioner only" and it works fantastic! I have fine hair and I thought it would make my hair greasy but it didn't. I'll have to try that Neutrogena sesame body oil for shaving.

Bonnie Downing

I'm into neutrogena "sesame" oil this year and to my surprise it is also good for the dreaded arm disease. A lot of people say baby oil works. No idea why but try it if the acid route is not for you.

Edith: mine were always cruelly worse in the summer.

Fig. 1 (formerly myfanwy)

@MoonBat: What conditioner do you use? Genuinely curious since all of my conditioner has mostly the same detergents as shampoo, just in different proportions (and more cocamidopropyl betaine). (I am that nerd who read Paula Begoun's book and checks Skin Deep often.)


I do use the Deva "No-Poo", and no conditioner afterwards. It sort of IS a conditioner, after all. If I run out and don't care to make a mall trip for more, I just hit the drugstore for any conditioner that doesn't have silicon in it. I think it's supposed to be the sodium laurel sulfate that causes the damage and makes your scalp produce more oil to compensate. Good luck!


So is this just for bumps or also for rhino elbows like I have? I am terrorized by them and cannot get them to go away.

Diana Vilibert

Ahh, I have this on one elbow. The only thing that worked for me, many years ago, was a prescription cream that I can't remember the name of. But a quick visit to the derm and a couple of weeks of applying the cream got rid of the problem on the other elbow. Not sure why this one has stuck around.


A product called Tend Skin also works. I believe it has salicylic acid. Products with lactic acid, salicylic acid and urea are frequently prescribed for this condition.

It's common to have it on the legs as well, or instead of the arms.


So I just bought a Salux wash cloth (it is quite large!) and it's made the arm-bumps fade significantly in a few weeks or so, and my skin has never been so soft. I have ridiculously sensitive skin, so anything with acid in it is not going to please my poor epidermis, but this super-scrubby cloth is helping a lot! Amazon has them for like $6.00!


I hear saythatscool and a dull knife works wonders.


Yeah, but for arm bumps?


For me, nothing worked except turning about 27. Sometimes it goes away as you approach 30.


YES!! I do this and also alpha-hydrox, which is usually cheaper, but stinkier in a sour milk sort of way. If you can't bear slathering your arms down with lotion when it is hot and humid, splashing some Neutrogena acne stress control triple action toner on the back of your upper arms seems to work well too. NOTHING I have tried helps the bumps on my upper thighs though.:(


Oh my god, I have this problem and I just gave up trying different things and added it to my "this is happening because you are getting old" list. I need to try that AmLactin stuff, stat!


Just saw this, a few months late....

I've had this my whole life, and what worked for me was a sugar scrub to moisturize and exfoliate simultaneously. Plain old granulated sugar mixed with a blend of oils to make a paste (I used coconut, olive, and sweet almond oil to make a blend that was soft at room temperature), scrub the affected area, then partially wash off the oil--just a quick swoosh with a bit of sudsed-up body wash to take off the surface oil but leave enough to moisturize. I seriously did this *once* and had no more little bumps for several months. I need to do it again, though.


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