What causes thickened or scaly skin and how to treat it?

Symptom Database

Thickened or scaly skin can be a bothersome skin condition that affects many individuals. It is important to understand the causes of this skin disorder and how to effectively treat it. Dermatology plays a crucial role in diagnosing and managing various skin problems, including thickened or scaly skin. In this article, we will explore the causes of thickened or scaly skin and provide valuable insights on how to treat this skin condition.

Understanding Thickened or Scaly Skin

Thickened or scaly skin refers to a condition where the skin becomes rough, dry, and develops a thickened texture. This can occur due to various factors, including:

  • Psoriasis: Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes the rapid buildup of skin cells, leading to thickened and scaly patches.
  • Eczema: Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition characterized by dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. In severe cases, the skin can become thickened and scaly.
  • Calluses and Corns: Continuous friction or pressure on certain areas of the skin can cause the skin to thicken and become scaly, resulting in the formation of calluses or corns.
  • Fungal Infections: Fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot or ringworm, can lead to thickened and scaly skin in the affected areas.
  • Genetic Factors: Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to developing thickened or scaly skin.

Treating Thickened or Scaly Skin

While thickened or scaly skin can be a persistent condition, there are several treatment options available to manage and improve the skin’s health. It is important to consult with a dermatologist to determine the most suitable treatment plan for your specific skin condition. Here are some common treatment approaches:

Topical Medications

Topical medications, such as corticosteroids or retinoids, are often prescribed to reduce inflammation, itching, and promote skin cell turnover. These medications can help soften and smooth the thickened or scaly skin.

Moisturizers and Emollients

Regularly applying moisturizers and emollients can help hydrate the skin and improve its texture. Look for products that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, or urea, as they can effectively moisturize and soften the skin.


Gentle exfoliation can help remove dead skin cells and promote the growth of new, healthier skin. However, it is important to avoid harsh exfoliants that can further irritate the skin. Opt for mild exfoliating scrubs or chemical exfoliants containing ingredients like salicylic acid or alpha-hydroxy acids.


Phototherapy, also known as light therapy, involves exposing the affected skin to specific wavelengths of light. This treatment can help reduce inflammation and promote healing in thickened or scaly skin. Phototherapy is often performed under the supervision of a dermatologist.

Oral Medications

In severe cases, oral medications may be prescribed to manage thickened or scaly skin. These medications may include immunosuppressants, retinoids, or biologic agents. It is important to follow the prescribed dosage and consult with a healthcare professional for potential side effects.

Skin Care Tips for Thickened or Scaly Skin

In addition to medical treatments, adopting a proper skin care routine can significantly improve the condition of thickened or scaly skin. Here are some essential tips:

  • Keep the skin well-moisturized by applying a suitable moisturizer at least twice a day.
  • Avoid harsh soaps or cleansers that can strip the skin of its natural oils. Opt for gentle, fragrance-free products.
  • Protect the skin from excessive sun exposure by using sunscreen with a high SPF.
  • Avoid scratching or picking at the affected areas, as it can worsen the condition and lead to infections.
  • Wear comfortable, breathable clothing to prevent further irritation.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and managing stress levels.

It is important to note that while these tips can help manage the symptoms of thickened or scaly skin, some conditions may require long-term management and cannot be completely cured. Regular follow-ups with a dermatologist are essential to monitor the progress and adjust the treatment plan accordingly.

In conclusion, thickened or scaly skin can be caused by various factors, including psoriasis, eczema, calluses, fungal infections, or genetic predisposition. Dermatology plays a crucial role in diagnosing and treating these skin conditions. Treatment options include topical medications, moisturizers, exfoliation, phototherapy, and oral medications. Additionally, adopting a proper skin care routine can significantly improve the condition of thickened or scaly skin. Remember to consult with a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
Add a comment