What causes thickening of the skin and how to treat it?

Symptom Database

Thickening of the skin is a common skin condition that can affect individuals of all ages. It is characterized by the abnormal growth and accumulation of skin cells, leading to a thickened and rough texture. This condition can be caused by various factors, including genetics, environmental factors, and certain skin disorders. Understanding the causes of thickening skin and knowing how to treat it is essential for maintaining optimal skin health. In this article, we will explore the different causes of thickening skin and discuss effective skincare treatments.

Causes of Thickening Skin


Genetics play a significant role in determining an individual’s skin type and condition. Some people may have a genetic predisposition to develop thickened skin. This can be due to an overproduction of keratin, a protein that forms the outer layer of the skin. When there is an excess of keratin, it can lead to the thickening of the skin.

Environmental Factors

Exposure to certain environmental factors can contribute to the thickening of the skin. Prolonged sun exposure without adequate protection can cause the skin to thicken as a defense mechanism against harmful UV rays. Additionally, frequent exposure to harsh chemicals or irritants can lead to skin thickening as a protective response.

Skin Disorders

Several skin disorders can cause thickening of the skin. One such condition is psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune disease that speeds up the skin cell turnover process. This rapid turnover leads to the accumulation of thickened skin cells, resulting in thick patches on the skin. Another skin disorder that can cause thickening is lichen simplex chronicus, which is characterized by persistent itching and scratching that leads to thickened, leathery skin.

Treating Thickening Skin

Skincare Treatment

When it comes to treating thickening skin, a comprehensive skincare routine is essential. Here are some effective skincare treatments that can help improve the condition:

  • Exfoliation: Regular exfoliation can help remove dead skin cells and promote cell turnover, reducing the thickness of the skin. Use a gentle exfoliating scrub or a chemical exfoliant containing alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs).
  • Moisturization: Keeping the skin well-hydrated is crucial in managing thickening skin. Look for moisturizers that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid or ceramides, which help retain moisture and improve the skin’s barrier function.
  • Topical Treatments: Depending on the underlying cause of the thickening skin, dermatologists may prescribe topical treatments such as corticosteroids or retinoids. These medications can help reduce inflammation, promote cell turnover, and soften the skin.

Dermatology Procedures

In some cases, dermatology procedures may be necessary to effectively treat thickening skin. These procedures are typically performed by a dermatologist and may include:

  • Cryotherapy: This procedure involves freezing the thickened skin cells using liquid nitrogen. Cryotherapy helps remove the excess skin cells and promotes the growth of healthier skin.
  • Laser Therapy: Laser treatments can be used to target and remove thickened skin cells. This procedure helps stimulate collagen production and promotes the growth of new, healthier skin.
  • Chemical Peels: Chemical peels involve the application of a chemical solution to the skin, which helps exfoliate and remove the thickened skin cells. This procedure promotes cell turnover and reveals smoother, healthier skin.


Thickening of the skin can be caused by various factors, including genetics, environmental factors, and certain skin disorders. Understanding the underlying cause is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment approach. By following a comprehensive skincare routine and seeking dermatological interventions when necessary, individuals can effectively manage and improve the condition of thickening skin. Remember to consult with a dermatologist for a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

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