Ichthyosis is a relatively rare skin condition, but, despite the similarity in appearance, it isn’t caused by the same problem as causes eczema or psoriasis.
Instead, ichthyosis is caused by a genetic mutation which causes the mechanism of skin repair and renewal to malfunction. Instead of regenerating skin cells at the same rate as they are shed, allowing skin to repair itself constantly, the skin of those with ichthyosis doesn’t shed quickly enough for the rate at which new cells are generated. This results in a build of hard, scaly skin, which can be very dry and tight.
The genes which determine whether your skin has this problem are inherited from your parents, and passed down the generations. Although not everyone who inherits these genes will suffer from ichthyosis, if both parents hand down the genes, it can result in a more severe case of the condition.
The gene mutation responsible for ichthyosis seems to have something to do with the production of filaggrin, a protein that is responsible for elasticity in the skin, and which also tends to be deficient in eczema sufferers.
The most common form of the condition - ichthyosis vulgaris - affects about 1 in 250 people, but is usually fairly mild, with skin being dry and having a tendency to look shiny or tight. The skin also has a characteristic scaliness, like fish scales, after which the condition is named.
There are a few rare variants of ichthyosis which are not genetic, but which develop later in life. It tends to be associated with other conditions, such as some types of cancer, HIV, kidney disease or thyroid problems. The reason these conditions can cause ichthyosis as well is not well understood, unfortunately.
What products do we recommend for people with ichthyosis?
Although the condition can’t be cured, mild symptoms can generally be managed with a careful skincare routine. Check with your doctor if you need more intensive treatment, but because ichthyosis is a condition characterised by dry skin, sufferers are usually encouraged to use rich emollients to soften any scaliness and keep skin supple and well-hydrated. Our moisturisers are made to be as gentle and natural as possible, so that skin is cared for rather than irritated.
For really dry, rough or cracked skin:
Skin Salvation balm with hemp, beeswax & calendula (from £7.99 for 30ml)
For general daily maintenance:
Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream with shea butter, hemp & olive (from £13.99 for 100ml)
Balmonds Bath & Body Oil with hemp, lavender & chamomile (£12.99 for 200ml)
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.