Dry Skin

Unveiling Ichthyosis Vulgaris: Causes, symptoms and treatments

Do you suffer from dry skin?

Are you at a loss to know how to treat it?

Fortunately, good news could be on the horizon.

The latest research may have the answer, with a little-known missing gene called filaggrin.

Ichthyosis Vulgaris

This is pronounced Ik-thee-O-sis Vul-GAY-ris.

It’s a genetic skin condition in which dead skin cells accumulate in thick, dry layers on the surface of the skin. Think fish scales, and you’re on the right track.

The name derives from Greece and quite literally means fish scale disease.

But we digress often; very mild cases of this condition can go undiagnosed and mistaken for extremely dry skin.

Ichthyosis vulgaris slows down the skin’s natural shedding process, which can lead to a severe buildup of excessive protein in the skin’s upper layers.

Understanding Ichthyosis Vulgaris

This dermatological condition is characterised by dry, scaly skin is typically inherited and results from a genetic mutation that affects the skin’s ability to shed dead cells properly, leading to a buildup of thick, dry scales.

The condition often presents early in childhood and persists throughout life, causing discomfort and self-consciousness. Symptoms may worsen in dry or cold weather and improve with regular moisturising.

While there is no cure for ichthyosis vulgaris, treatment focuses on managing symptoms and preventing complications such as infections. This may include using moisturisers, keratolytic agents, and gentle exfoliation to help remove scales and maintain skin hydration.

Additionally, avoiding harsh soaps and extreme temperatures can help alleviate symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals with this condition.

What are the Symptoms?

  • dryness
  • flaky scalp
  • painful cracks
  • scales on elbows and knees
  • scaly skin coloured white or grey
  • on darker-coloured skin, darker scales accumulate

People with ichthyosis vulgaris often have atopic eczema due to an inability to repair the barrier function.

Although there is no treatment, this research (1) found that it could be due to the filaggrin gene.

The Filaggrin Connection

Filaggrin is a highly abundant protein found in the outermost part of your skin.

This protein is vital for forming and hydrating the outer layer of your skin, which is also responsible for your barrier function.

A deficiency in the filaggrin gene causes an impaired barrier, leading to water loss, as this study demonstrated (2)

Allergens are also more likely to penetrate your skin, triggering inflammatory and allergic immune responses, including atopic eczema.

In a normal skin cell, there are usually two copies of the filaggrin gene; research has discovered that people susceptible to eczema typically have only one copy of this gene.

Whilst one gene is enough to form the skin barrier, the skin requires two genes for a healthy barrier function.

Once the barrier is out of balance, problems can occur:

  • the texture becomes rough
  • skin becomes dry
  • water escapes from the tissues, leading to dehydration
  • fine lines and wrinkles may appear prematurely
  • allergens can enter the skin, which disrupts the immune system, causing inflammation

To conclude. The naked truth

This discovery is important because it brings us closer to understanding why some people suffer from dry skin and conditions like eczema.

Armed with this information, dermatologists and aestheticians are now in a much better position to focus on repairing and enhancing the skin barrier’s function.

If you want further reading, this controlled study (3) found a link between dry skin, allergens, and the protein filaggrin.


1. Filaggrin failure – from ichthyosis vulgaris to atopic eczema and beyond.

2. Hereditary And Acquired Ichthyosis Vulgaris

3. The allergy gene: how a mutation in skin protein reveals a link between eczema and asthma

6 replies on “Unveiling Ichthyosis Vulgaris: Causes, symptoms and treatments”

Hi Natasha. No you can’t just replace the missing filagrin, what you can do is use skin care products that contain skin identical ingredients – which is what my skin care range is based on – please do reach out if you would like further information. Warm regards Samantha

Samantha dear,
THANK YOU for – well for everything! Stumbled into The Naked Chemist via a urea Google & it linked to your site. Am amazed at the wealth of information.
Thank you for your contribution to humanity!
Keep up the great work.

Hi Gregory
Thank you for your lovely comments and I am so glad you liked the article and I really hope it will help you in some way and it would be nice to have a legacy such as this thank you Gregory I am very touched. Samantha

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