What Is Ichthyosis?

Ichthyosis is a group of skin conditions that results in dry, scaly or thick skin. It’s called ‘ichthyosis’ from the Greek word for fish, because the skin can look scaly.

The skin of people with ichthyosis doesn’t maintain itself as usual, and instead it makes too many new skin cells and/or sheds the old ones too slowly, leading to the skin becoming thickened, dry, rough and scaly.

Sadly, there’s no cure for ichthyosis, but there are ways to manage the symptoms. Some types of ichthyosis are inherited at birth and other types are acquired later in life.

Inherited Ichthyosis

Symptoms of inherited ichthyosis appear at birth or within the first year of life.

The most common form of ichthyosis (Ichthyosis Vulgaris) is inherited, and affects about 1 in 250 people. Even if skin appears normal at birth, it can become rough and dry during the first year, leading to a diagnosis of ichthyosis. Symptoms are often worse (and more noticeable) in winter when it's cold and dry and better in the summer with warmer, more humid weather.

Congenital ichthyosiform erythroderma is a rare and serious form of ichthyosis that develops when a baby is born with a shiny yellow membrane (collodion membrane) over its skin, that then sheds within the first week of life.

Acquired Ichthyosis

Acquired ichthyosis develops in adulthood and is often associated with a medical condition (such as thyroid problems, kidney disease, sarcoidosis, Hodgkin lymphoma or HIV) or medications (ie those used in targeted cancer therapy, such as vemurafenib and protein kinase inhibitors).

Sadly, there’s no cure for ichthyosis but there are ways to manage the symptoms.

Risks and Complications of Ichthyosis

Without a robust, healthy and effective skin barrier, the skin of people with ichthyosis loses moisture and is open to infection, damage and invaders, such as allergens. This leads to problems such as:

  • skin infection
  • severely dry/dehydrated skin
  • blocked sweat glands, which can lead to overheating
  • slow hair growth or hair loss if the scalp is affected
  • weariness and weight-loss, as the skin burns more calories in its cycle of skin cell regeneration
  • pain in moving or limited movement if the skin is very tight/cracked
  • problems with eyesight or hearing if skin builds up around eyes and ears

Ichthyosis can cause mental health and emotional problems too, as it can be a visible and distressing condition, which affects self-confidence and mood.

What products do we recommend for people with ichthyosis?

Although the condition can’t be cured, mild cases 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)


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