Hyperkeratosis

Hyperkeratosis

Hyperkeratosis is a thickening of the outermost part of the epidermis…

Doctor's opinion

Questions / Answers
  • This description can fit several diagnoses, but the first hypothesis would be keratosis pilaris. This condition causes punctiform hyperkeratosis on the orifice of the hair. Keratosis pilaris is quite common, and affects up to one third of the population. The only negative effect is its appearance; as a result, several patients seek treatment. Besides hydration, the keratolytic products described earlier can improve the condition.

  • You should consult a dermatologist. Scalp conditions are sometimes difficult to diagnose, even for specialists. The two most common disorders that fit this description are psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis. In both cases, topical application of skin care products containing urea and/or salicylic acid will improve symptoms. These diseases develop chronically, requiring several applications: a dermatologist's opinion is therefore important.

  • Products made for hyperkeratosis on the feet have different levels of urea content: the effect of a skin care product with 5% urea is clearly not the same as one with a 30% urea concentration. If the thickness isn't reduced after a trying one product, you can try another with a higher concentration.

Hyperkeratosis

How can hyperkeratosis be defined?

Hyperkeratosis is a thickening of the outermost part of the epidermis, which is called the corneal layer. In this skin layer, cells have high levels of keratin, a protein that makes them dry and very hard. In some cases, there is an abnormal accumulation of keratin that creates patches of dry, crusty skin.

What kinds of circumstances give rise to hyperteratosis?

Hyperkeratosis is mainly an adaptive physiological process that aims to reinforce epidermal resistance through the accelerated production of highly keratinized cells.  Because of this, walking barefoot or doing intense manual labor causes the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands to thicken in a "reflex" response. This occurrence has a beneficial protective effect, but it creates discomfort on the skin's surface, which becomes coarse, rough and prone to cracks.

When the physical stress is localized (repeated friction, constant pressure on a very confined area), hyperkeratosis appears in the form of a callus.  The most common example is the appearance of plantar calluses, linked to excessive pressure on a very small area of skin. The consequences of this are similar to those caused by the foot coming into contact with a foreign body.

Of all the dermatological disorders, psoriasis is the one that almost constantly induces hyperkeratotic areas. Typical hyperkeratotic patches are initially red, then become covered with thick, very dense scales, creating an overall scaly effect on the skin.  This "crust" formed over the skin is usually considered quite unsightly and not only causes discomfort, but prevents anti-psoriasis medicines from being absorbed into the skin.

How should hyperkeratosis be treated?

When the condition is linked to a physical cause (friction, abnormal pressure), the first thing to do is to eliminate this pressure if possible.
Getting rid of hyperkeratosis requires the use of hydrating and emollient products enriched in actives that break up the blocks of keratin. These keratolytic actives are essentially urea and salicylic acid. According to the thickness, location and cause of the hyperkeratosis, substances with various concentrations can be used by incorporating them into very rich textures.
For psoriasis treatment, using these keratolytic agents helps strip the skin of lesions. Once the hyperkeratosis has been eliminated, follow-up treatment can be started using dermo-corticosteroids or vitamin D analogs.
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